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'We Are Building A Strong Ecosystem Of ISV Partners'

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Cloud is not the next big thing, it's already here and happening. Customers are looking for providers who understand all the nuances of cloud, who know precisely the demands of the business and offer it in models best suited to the customer. And it's here that Raman Sapra comes in. The 39-year-old Sapra is the Executive Director – Strategy for Dell’s Applications & BPO business and is responsible for driving Dell’s growth globally in the apps and BPO space. Mid-market is a big thrust area for Dell representing 55 per cent of the total global IT spend and apps and BPO is 45 per cent of mid-market. Sapra talks to BW Online's Poonam Kumar about how within Dell itself, the Apps and the BPO business is helping the company transform itself into an end-to-end IT solutions provider.

Excerpts:
Can you describe Dell's Applications and BPO business and its role in the growth of Dell Services?
We offer applications and BPO solutions to our customers globally. In effect we cater to the nearly $500-billion application and BPO services market as estimated by Gartner.

We are structured as verticals and horizontals. The industry verticals are responsible for domain, vertical solutions, customer engagement and overall programme management. The service lines build capabilities around horizontal practices that span across various industry verticals. The verticals of focus for us are healthcare and life sciences (HLS), BFSI and commercial which includes manufacturing, retail, CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) and transportation.

Supporting our verticals are the service lines of application development and maintenance, application support, information management and analytics, enterprise application services, testing, and BPO. Recently we have set up a new service line called Business Innovation Services focused on cloud, mobility, social media and business consulting.

In terms of the role we play within Dell services and overall Dell, which is transforming to an end-to-end IT solutions provider with a vision of providing next-generation, results oriented solutions that are scalable and efficient. The Apps and BPO business enables this transformation by providing business solutions to our customers.

One of your focus areas is supposed to be mid-market. What are mid-market customers? Who are your mid-market customers and how are they different from other customers?
Mid-market is a big area of thrust across Dell. For Dell, the mid-market businesses are defined as organisations with 500 to 5,000 employees. This segment represents 55 per cent of the total global IT spend and apps and BPO is 45 per cent of mid-market, hence a significant opportunity.

Mid-market customers are unique in terms of their buying behavior although they do have aspirations similar to the larger customers' growth of business, customer satisfaction, etc.

Our strategy for the mid-market involves three key elements:
  • A phased approach to the go-to-market based on market size, growth and our ability to address. We are currently piloting this in India and in the US.
  • Integrated and end-to-end services delivering business results leveraging the Cloud. Here we see a tremendous opportunity to offer vertical and horizontal applications and surrounding services on the Cloud which will make the services modular and standardised
  • Strong market specific ISV partnerships. We already have the initial set of partnerships in and are in the process of signing additional partnerships to deliver our offerings specific to the markets we address.

Who are your partners in evolving tools for mid-market customers?
We are building a strong ecosystem of ISV (Independent software vendors) partners. Partnerships with ISVs form a key strategy in our mid-market play. We are actively looking for ISV partners who provide cloud-based enterprise applications, both vertical and horizontal.

We have recently formed a partnership with Ramco systems for cloud-based ERP (Enterprise resource planning) in India to start with and are seeing good market traction in this area. The Ramco partnership to deliver ERP-as-a-service on Cloud has been an important step in our mid-market strategy and augments our existing capabilities to deliver a completely integrated enterprise-class solution to midmarket customers. We have begun to win new customers with this alliance.

What opportunities do you see in India?
India is extremely strategic to Dell, both as a delivery destination (25 per cent of Dell Services employees are in India) and also as a market to serve. India is home to the second largest workforce for Dell after the US. We have created a focused organisation to address the India market from an Apps & BPO standpoint.

We are addressing India on two fronts a) The larger enterprises where we are offering broad based set of services and b) The mid-market where we are taking a SaaS-based approach.

We are beginning to see strong traction in the India market now. Not just in the traditional services but there is considerable interest in exploring new areas like mobility and cloud.

What is Dell Services's three-year strategy and GTM for the Indian market?
We announced our three-year strategy in the second half of 2012. Our mission is to offer flexible, next-generation IT solutions enabling customers business outcomes.

The three objectives of the Dell Services strategy are:
  • Optimise existing services to run at benchmark financials by driving industrialisation of services and services reinvention
  • Invest in building transformational offerings that enable customers to adopt and migrate to next-generation IT and serve as the anchor for our global expansion
  • Develop offers that align to and enable Dell's broader business solutions

Our strategy for Apps and BPO business is an integral part of the Dell Services strategy and is designed to enable this vision of Dell Services.

We have also outlined six key strategic priorities for the apps and BPO line of business
Application Modernisation: for helping our customers be better prepared for tomorrow rather than managing their legacy better. We have made considerable investments here including the acquisitions of Make Technologies and Clerity Systems last year
Next Gen Vertical Solutions: We are creating futuristic vertical industry specific solutions that address customer challenges specific to the industry they operate in for driving business outcomes for them
Emerging Technologies: Cloud, Mobility, Social media and Analytics are our key focus areas. We are investing in creating strong capabilities in this area
Industrialised Services: These are a new class of services which are standardized, modularised and repeatable in nature. They simplify the process of buying and implementing IT solutions for our customers.
Mid-market: Mid-market continues to be our strategic focus market. It is considerably underserved and has tremendous potential.
India market: India has been outlined as a very important region for our Apps & BPO business.

What are the emerging technologies that will have impact on business according to you?
The key technologies that are pushing the frontier of the industry are cloud, mobility, analytics, and social media along with security and IT modernisation. Cloud is not the next big thing, it's already here and happening. Whether it is Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), customers are looking for providers who understand all the nuances of cloud, who know precisely the demands of the business and offer it in models best suited to the customer.

The advent of mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) is changing the way business is done today. Organisations across the world are adopting Mobility to drive organizational productivity, employee engagement and customer experience.

Social media is another huge trend that is fast catching up in business context. enterprises, both B2B and B2C, are now looking to engage with their customers, suppliers and employees to drive better collaboration, customer intimacy and innovative channels of communication.

The proliferation of data, along with varied formats, brings with it huge opportunities in analytics. IT players are now looking at combining data from unstructured sources such as social media, with the traditional structured data from the ERP or CRM (Customer relationship management) systems to derive business insights.

How do you think cloud technology is going to evolve further?
There is tremendous potential for cloud services as well as services for the cloud in the apps space. Among the various aspects of cloud application services, SaaS is already mainstream and has already been adopted by enterprises for key processes such as CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and we will see increased adoption for other processes/verticals in the coming years. We will see increased adoption by the software development community to develop brand new applications/ existing applications to the cloud thereby leading to adoption of PaaS.

Cloud-based Integration is becoming a must-have as more data needs to be integrated across on-premise/internet data sources. We believe that adoption of technologies like Dell Boomi is poised for growth.

How do you help customers adapt to shifting business environment using emerging technology elements?
We are looking to deliver business agility to our customers. We first look at modernising our customer's application portfolio away from legacy architectures to more contemporary technologies such as .Net for example. By modernising the apps, the underlying business processes can be made more agile and then customers can take advantage of mobility, social media and analytics. And we are taking a very consultative approach around these themes by offering technology and strategy consulting for our customers around these themes.