Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Value-Chain – Perspectives from a Co-Founder of a Technology Startup

In this post , I interview Mr Neelesh Marik (Sr VP and Business Head of EMEA–Value Chain) with a hope to understand the business model , the value proposition and people issues that Value Chain faces in building up a solution which could radically change the use of information in managing businesses .

Business Background - Value Chain is in the business of providing IP based “Productized Solutions” wherein they hope to deliver the following:

a) Ability to handle and manage Information of multiple types and disparate sources
b) Ability to provide business process optimization across multiple units, and outside the enterprise, across the value chain
c) Ability to bring in people collaboration in exception and decision points seamlessly and in guaranteed manner

…..thereby enabling the client organization to get relevant information about its businesses and act on that information rapidly.

Value Chain works on a Intellectual Property (IP) centric model and unlike Indian IT service providers is not a labor intensive operation. It would be safe to assume that the issues of managing talent and performance are radically different from normal enterprises

Hi Neelesh –Thanks for participating in this interview, I have a few questions to ask of you on the business model and the related challenges of Performance and Talent , here they go:

Q1: Would like to know about your value proposition and how does the data-information aggregation lead to creation of business value for your clients. Probably you could explain it with an example from the publishing industry

Publishers can benefit in 2 ways by working with us:

a) Leveraging our data transformation and content monetization solutions to create, manage and distribute their intellectual property in a rapidly digitizing environment

b) Leveraging our business performance improvement solutions to improve KPIs in volatile and complex challenges such as production process synchronization, distribution channel management and sales process effectiveness

Q-2 : Your services do make a lot of sense on paper , but I would presume that it requires a lot of product evangelization amongst clients for them to understand the value proposition , how do you create traction for the solutions of Value-Chain (assuming that the sale is largely different than an IT services selling process)

We try to relate our solutions to real life problems in a specific industry value chain. Our solutions are about finding out the underlying drivers to business performance, how real time visibility to those root cause correlations can empower business users, and helping them model, automate, monitor and control the business processes to continuously improve operational performance. The principles are the same: but the trick is to find the relevant industry reference models that help client executives relate to those principles to their day-to-day lives.

So for a Production Controller in a publishing company the challenge is schedule adherence of the finished product and ancillary products through a complex network of internal and external stakeholders, each with their dependencies, constraints, and service levels.

For a hedge fund manager a key issue in quick testing of his proprietary investment hypothesis against historical market data, and real time deployment of that model in the marketplace through timely trades.

For an insurance underwriter the cornerstone of effectiveness is real time risk analysis based on the very latest ‘significant event’ and inputting that into rating and pricing strategies in a marketplace where regulatory and competitive rules are highly dynamic.

The three examples above may sound like completely different problems, but at the core is the ability (or inability) to track real time transactional information, sense ‘opportunity or threat’ patterns from the information flows, and respond quickly through automated workflows or manual interventions.

Q:3 – Your company is based on your ability to leverage the xml based IPR, that being the context how critical is innovation as a competency amongst your employees ?

That statement is not true. Xml transformation is just a means to an end – today largely leveraged for content digitization in the publishing industry.

Our core IP is as answered in the previous questions.

Q-4 – How do you reward innovation at an individual level, what are some of the metrics ? , Is your performance management system designed to identify innovators across your company – if so how ?

We have to yet evolve and formalize the above as we move forward– at this early stage we simply rely on more informal means of public and private acknowledgement.

Q-5 ; You have operations in India and how easy or difficult is it to hire the right talent from the Indian market , considering the fact that there might be very few people who have the skills sets that you could leverage

This is always a problem for any knowledge business. But it is less of a problem for us since our model is more IP centric. For the people intensive parts of our business, our tools/ IP help us in relative deskilling of the tasks and deliverables.

Q-6 : You don’t have an HR Head as of now , so how highly are your line managers engaged in HR processes and what has been your experience of running a people intensive industry without a full time HR Head

Since we are a small company we do not have the luxuries of too many elaborate support functions. Managing people, their aspirations, support needs, drive and productivity is something every line manager treats as one of their core responsibilities.

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