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'Go to fewer conferences and start doing something'

'Go to fewer conferences and start doing something'

It is a strange time when I get to meet Adam Warby, Avanade's Global CEO, at Raffles Convention Centre in Singapore's business district. It is only a week since a devastating earthquake and tsunami has destroyed a major chunk of Japan's eastern coastal areas, killing thousands of people (on 11 March). There is also the scare of nuclear radiation from the damaged nuclear reactors in Fukushima. Many IT companies are worried about their staff in Japan. Some are evacuating staff from affected areas and even from cities as far away as Tokyo.

Avanade, which provides business technology services and has expertise in Microsoft technologies, has a delivery centre in Japan. When I meet Adam, it is natural for me to ask him what impact the earthquake had on his Tokyo-based delivery centre.

Looking dapper in a business suit and speaking in a voice that reminds me of British novelist Hanif Kureishi, Adam tells me how sad and concerned he is about everyone in Japan. "From our perspective, all our employees are safe and well," he says. "Interestingly, business is carrying on and it is a credit to the Japanese character-keeping focused and trying to keep things going."

I nod, silently praising the resilience of the Japanese people.

Adams tells me why he is in Singapore. "Singapore being a global hub, it provides connection between East and West," he says. "It is always exciting to be back here."

Minutes before I had arrived, Adam had addressed the employees of Avanade in Singapore. "It is a fast-growing part of the world and we have a lot of things to do here," he says. "We are here for the long term."

Ten years completed

"We have been in business 10 years now and I started with the business back in 2001 when we were founded," Adam gives me a brief backgrounder. He comes from the Microsoft side of the business and became CEO in 2008-about the same time when Lehman Brothers fell.

"This whole idea of Avanade was to create this fusion, this best-of-breed company between the passion for technology from Microsoft and the focus on delivery from Accenture," he says. "We have been on this journey for the last 10 years."

In a decade, the technology integrator has done very well for itself. Avanade has 12,000 employees around the world at the moment. "We have over a billion dollars (US) in revenue which is a big milestone for us to get past," he says. Roughly, 15 per cent of this revenue comes from Asia. Since its inception, Avanade has served over 3,000 customers around the world. It has global delivery centres in Japan, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and China.

"We are focused on growth -helping our customers and grow our capability," Adam talks of his plan for the company. Apart from growth, his other focus is to maintain Avanade's market leadership position (with Microsoft as the company's core mission), he affirms.

Technologies that will fuel growth

What kind of technologies will fuel Avanade's growth, I ask him. "It is an exciting time in terms of technology," Adam says. He mentions cloud services and software-as-a-service (SaaS) as the technologies that are driving enterprise IT today. "People are adopting new cloud models. They are doing it in more straightforward areas like e-mail, collaboration or customer relationship management (CRM) and we are in all of those businesses." Going forward, he says, the expectation is that infrastructure will move to the cloud. Other pressure points, forcing the companies to move to the cloud are globalisation, and the ever present need to tighten costs.

Apart from the cloud and SaaS, the third technology that is pushing Avanade's growth is applications. Applications help companies edge past their competition through innovation.

Yet another major area of Avanade's involvement is managing big data. "If you are making bad decisions because you can't get to the right data then it is an important issue." And it really is. Avanade conducted a global survey on the business impact of data last year. The study found that the data deluge is real-overwhelming employees, especially the C-Level executives. In Singapore, for example, 93 per cent of C-level executives, IT decision-makers and business leaders reported that they were overwhelmed by the amount of data their companies managed. The global average was 56 per cent.

Cloud: Less talk, more action needed

Enterprises have been talking about cloud computing for the last two to three years. But have they taken concrete steps in terms of adoption? Adam laughs, agreeing to my point that there has been more talk than action when it comes to cloud adoption. "My advice to our customers is: go to fewer conferences and start doing something," he says. "We are helping people implement Microsoft's cloud Office 365. We have our own SaaS offering that complements Microsoft's Dynamic CRM and the last one is Microsoft's Azure capability. We have a development centre that specialises in that. "

Should enterprises go for public or private clouds, I further ask him. "It depends on the type of business," he says. "There are important questions about security and data management. How good is your network? At the end of the day, most people will have some form of hybrid environment."

He provides the example of testing that can be taken to the cloud. "People can use cloud for testing as an extension of development, with dummy data," he says.

Adam argues that the cloud will prevail because it helps reduce cost which is an important factor for businesses.

Social media is a funny phrase

Given the ubiquity of social media, I had to ask Adam a question on this aspect of CRM. Does he see any demand for social media integration in CRM projects? His answer is affirmative. "Social media is a funny phrase," he says. "What does it really mean? You are trying to understand your customers. For consumer focused companies, that is good opportunity there."

He cites the example of the Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia. "They have 800,000 Facebook friends," he says. "They want to connect to them, promoting their business to their friends."

War for talent

My final question to Adam is about the war for talent in the IT talent landscape. "Talent is a critical issue," he says. "We are a talent company at our heart. We provide world class training to our staff. I think it is particularly important in the Asia Pacific that we help develop and build the capability that is here. I think there is an opportunity to leapfrog in some way ...you know from the history...from legacy of systems in the West, whether it is cloud computing or other methods. But at the same time, you know, there is a lot of experience that we can share in delivering technology and delivering capability. So, I think there is lot of raw talent and potential. We need to polish that into a finished article. That's one of our goals in helping people develop their careers and talent."

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