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Towards strategic partnerships

business Updated: May 07, 2007 17:16 IST

There was a time when a meeting with a Fortune 500 chief information officer (CIO) would take months of effort and umpteen requests before it finally came about, and even when it did happen, the worthy at the other side of the table would never let us forget that we were just a small low cost supplier from an unknown country scrounging for crumbs at the table of the lord of the manor.

The times are changing as two recent meetings in India with two of our CIO partners visiting our campus demonstrated. The willingness to share their key concerns, talk business rather than technology and make us a part of their ideation process for the future – all these were sure signals of the transformation that Indian IT has achieved in this decade, moving from "order takers" to truly strategic partners for our global clients.

This change in mindsets has not been an accident – it has a lot to do with the maturing of India as a nation; the proven ability of most of the larger knowledge firms to demonstrate business speak rather than technology prowess and the progress of Information Technology itself, from being an enabler of business processes to a true transformation catalyst for the business. This is the prediction that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) had made two decades ago in its path breaking "Management in the nineties" research programme about the change in IT's role from evolution to revolution – from localised exploitation with a few pockets of excellence being automated to internal integration with cross functional processes computerized, which would set the stage for the three revolution phases of business process reengineering, business network redesign and finally business scope redefinition.

One of our Fortune 500 visitors, presenting his company's theme of "Enabling everything through IT", mentioned the troika of simplification, scalability and innovation that fits into the original MIT hypothesis. Many aspects of IT demonstrate how much has changed in the scope and capabilities of technology. In the Enterprise Resource Planning space, what started off as simple internal material requirements planning and then evolved to distribution planning and supply chain management soon embraced the capabilities of the internet and business to business e-commerce and was rechristened as Enterprise Resource Planning. The two majors in ERP have now pushed the envelope further with Oracle buying every possible collaborator to provide a true "fusion" set of capabilities in demand planning, business intelligence and vertical solution areas while SAP has pushed deeper into multiple domains with product lifecycle management solutions embracing every aspect of enterprise planning and e-commerce for manufacturing companies.

In this collaborative industry, the major software vendors have taken a leaf out of their manufacturing counterparts' books and effectively used a partner strategy to build niche solutions in myriad areas. A small company called OBT in Hyderabad has been a pioneer in multiple templates for SAP solutions in India – in Manufacturing, Pharma, Textiles, Retail and even the niche Dairy area and they are not alone as every country has seen entrepreneurs aligning their product strategy and their destinies with the technology directions of the major software players. The wisdom of customers and the sagacity of providers – this is the potent combination that is building a great partnership.

Dr Ganesh Natarajan is Deputy Chairman & MD of Zensar Technologies and Vice Chairman of NASSCOM