23 Jan 2018 15:28 IST

How a digital wave is sweeping Wipro

Wipro COO says digital adoption by customers has reached a tipping point

For Wipro, India’s third-largest software exporter, the quarter-ended December was a mixed bag. While it posted a decline in net profits, it believes that the efforts it has put in for the past few years, is starting to look good, notably in digital. Bhanumurthy BM, President and Chief Operating Officer, Wipro, spoke to BusinessLine on the approach the firm is taking to reorient its 1.6 lakh workforce, how digital is trickling across its old and new clients, and on the organisational changes within the company. Excerpts:

In the third quarter, Wipro had faced additional challenges, apart from holidays and furloughs in the US...

There were some headwinds in terms of furloughs and some business headwinds (an energy and utilities customer filed for bankruptcy). If you look at our guidance, it is good. Our bets are paying off. Cloud has grown 25 per cent on a yearly basis and digital contributes 25 per cent of revenues. Also, consumption of cognitive automation is increasing amongst customers. On the other side, our localisation efforts are paying off, with 55 per cent of the US workforce being American citizens. Even though we faced headwinds, our operational efficiencies, demand management, all came together to help us.

You had made some changes after your appointment as CFO. In this environment, is the company structure sacrosanct or will there be more changes?

We have to be nimble and agile. Firstly, we eliminated many procedures and processes, and looked at everything from a clients’ lens. For example, the method in which digital projects are executed are different from the ones in the past. Then, we asked ourselves: ‘How do we transform these people in terms of skills?’; 90,000 people have been skilled in digital areas. Even managers have been aligned to new ways of working. We have touched the organisation in terms of project management, skills management, governing these programmes, across all these levels.

So, will a project manager’s role die in the near future?

If you look at the manager role, it will not go away. There are different techniques and methods to manage those projects that will be relevant in the future. You need to be a scrum master, specialise in agile methodology, etc.

Does digital business trickle down to traditional business or, is it independent as of now?

It does trickle. Think of design and think of digital ways of working. Design is a niche and strong capability area with our acquisitions of Designit, Cooper. But the manner in which digital is executed, has to be aligned with design. That is the reason we are transforming the entire organisation into digital. The next piece is that in the run part of services, even that has become digital, with clients wanting it to be delivered that way. Consequently, the run teams have to be prepared for this. Today, it is very hard to be able to have a proposition for either run or change which does not have a digital component.

How margin accretive are digital deals?

It will be hard to quantify at this moment. Digital adoption in clients is reaching a tipping point in terms of size. As adoption increases, the size of the deal increases. It is varies with customers, geography, etc. What is happening is that no conversation is a non-digital conversation.

Are companies getting comfortable with digital deals?

Customers have seen success by being early adopters. They have understood the capabilities of Wipro, and of our service design through acquisitions and investments. Consequently, the confidence has increased.

The acquisitions that Wipro has made involves different cultures, mindsets...

Instead of looking at the differences, we look at the commonalities. One of the checks we do is whether there is a value match from both the entities. We have a style of working and the companies we have acquired or invested in have theirs. The rest of the organisation has to understand the workings from our partners. On the other hand, they (the acquired firms) can learn from Wipro on the ability to scale, capability of getting scale and managing it. We are well versed with that. There are learnings from both the sides.

Are people able to let go of baggages?

It is a work in progress, but Wipro is also changing. Because people work on common projects, people learn from each other.

(The article first appeared in The Hindu BusinessLine.)

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