Ideas are like adventure sport. Some like the thrill of bungee jumping outrageous, ridiculous and bewildering while others would rather trek their way down the tried, tested, and safe option. This is what makes selling ideas an interesting challenge. They have to be tailor-made.
An outrageous idea may poke someone's curiosity, while it may put off another. When Rajeev Batra, CIO, MTS, took a seemingly ridiculous option to his CEO, it caught the CEO'S attention. Not an approach likely to work with the Head-IT & CISO of Orbis Financial Ramkumar Mohan's boss, a hardliner for pragmatism.
There are bosses who believe in following your gut, taking impulsive decisions and there are other more analytical ones who rely only on hard facts and proven solutions. You have as much luck selling Dale Carnegie books to a bunch of new-age yuppies as you have selling the latest iPhone to Mamata Banerjee. Even though the goal is same.
Journalists, writers, analysts, councilors, and experts, can all tell you how to sell your idea. But no one can tell you better than the person you're selling it to. No one can tell you better than your boss.
We asked four CEOs and CFOs of some of India's most prestigious organizations to share what seals the deal for them in their own words.
President & CEO, MTS
He constantly stressed on bringing new customers, creating and developing new products, and generating revenue.
When Rajeev came up to me two years ago with a proposal to build a datacenter, I was skeptical. Given that most people were moving towards cloud solutions, I wasn't exactly thrilled at the prospect of spending millions to build a datacenter from scratch.
But it's not for us, Rajeev told me, We'll be selling it to our customers.
I was perplexed and surprised at the same time. Rajeev has a way of arresting your attention. He's lead some great business projects in the past, but this idea still had me bewildered.
Rajeev was proposing we build our own datacenter and offer cloud services to small and medium businesses. At the outset, the idea seemed outrageous. Simply because we had always maintained our strategic focus on the pre-paid mass market and he was suggesting we open ourselves up to an entirely new market with a new line of services.
Yet, keeping his track record in mind, I decided to give him a chance to present his case.
Understandably, it wasn't well received by the marketing guys. You could notice them turning their faces away, raising hurried concerns and trying to shoot the idea down. But I knew Rajeev was a man with a plan. I let him proceed.
And he didn't disappoint me. Rajeev's plan didn't stop at the creation of a datacenter. He was talking about bringing new customers, creating and developing new products, and generating revenue. That's music to the ears of a CEO.
But because it was an idea that was unheard of, many arguments were raised and many issues were pointed out. Rajeev didn't dismiss them, he listened. He paid heed to the arguments raised by the marketing and products departments. As a result, instead of getting into a duel, their thoughts were coalescing into a positive business synergy.
He wasn't there to fight and win approval; he was there to form a partnership and make it happen.
Of course, the buy-in didn't happen overnight. It took one long year where business plans were drawn out and discarded, strategies designed and rejected, till finally everyone knew and agreed that we had a winner on our hands.
And a winner it was. Today, our cloud datacenter that opened earlier this year has grown to be a serious source of revenue for MTS. And it wouldn't have been possible had Rajeev not provided the much needed guidance to the marketing and products team, who were entering a new segment.
CFO, iGATE Patni
CIO, iGATE Patni
He didn't take the easy route because he knew how adversely it would impact business.
In late 2009, we had decided to undertake the mother-of-all-projects: To migrate our ERP from one platform to another. It was a tough year for our CIO, who had been toiling the whole year to ensure a smooth transition.
And then just three months before we were to go live with the ERP, iGATE acquired Patni. In no time we discovered, to our CIO's dismay, that Patni was running on a different ERP platform.
The acquisition and its after shocks threw Shivam's plans into complete turmoil. It was a nightmarish situation for him.
Now he had three options ahead of him: Go live with the ERP and run two disparate systems, or stop the ERP migration and forego the investment, or integrate the two the toughest option.
The first option was the easiest, and if he had come to me with that I would've probably cleared it. But he didn't take the easy route, because he knew how aversely it would've impacted business.
For instance, we were briefly considering sticking to the first option of running two disparate systems and building a BI layer on top that connects the two. But Shivam pointed out the dangers associated with such a move, What about the people and processes? If we aren't able to integrate the people and processes then the whole merger would be a failure, he said.
Even though it was a pertinent point, it was a hard decision for both business and IT.
But it was one of the hardest decisions for Shivam because he would have to undo a lot of what he had already finished.
Shivam knew what he was doing. He based his decision on three simple factors: The risk factors involved, the ease and accuracy for fast decision making, and turn around time.
As the CFO, I was most concerned about the risks we were opening the business to. But Shivam isn't the kind to shove problems under the carpet. He's willing to own them because he sees the business as his own.
So we decided to stop the migration, take a stop loss on our investment and build a new system integrating the disparate platforms of the two companies. It's been six months since then, and not once have I regretted my decision of going with my CIO.
MD, Orbis Financial
Head-IT & CISO,
His logic was sound and inarguable against.
I'm not a techie; I posses just about adequate knowledge of technology to run the business. Hence, with technology, I follow a common sense approach; if it makes perfect rational sense, at that time and at that cost, I'd give it a go-ahead. Cost is a critical issue; if we can't afford it we don't waste time thinking about it.
A few months back, we encountered a situation when we had to put this rationale to use. The business was growing rapidly and our infrastructure had to keep pace with that exponential growth. We were squeezed for capacity. The simple solution ahead of us was to buy more capacity. But that additional measure came with a not-so-impressive price tag.
Ram had an idea of how to circumvent the problem. He suggested we went for de-duplication. Now, I had no idea what de-duplication meant. So here's how he explained it to me: It will help us get more capacity from our existing resources at a fraction of the cost of buying new capacity. He had my attention.
The next ten minutes Ram explained the intricacies of the de-duplication process and how it would clean up our mess. I had some concerns relating to data privacy and security. Because, in our business, customer confidentiality is of foremost importance. I was concerned if de-duplication would compromise our data integrity. But Ram put my concerns to rest. He also emphasized that the solution would help us scale and expedite our processes, something the business was looking to improve.
We spent a few more minutes talking about cost, and we had closed the deal.
The next two days Ram worked out all the nitty-gritty's relating to the vendor and the implementation process. We were ready to roll.
That's how Ram works. He isn't someone who'd come up to you with a 50 slide presentation to sell an idea. Frankly, we don't have the time for this. For a young company like us business growth is our sole focus. And Ram has constantly helped support business growth. It is Ram's ability to articulate infrastructural projects in business terms and appeal to the common business sense that has helped us so far.
Joint MD, Pantaloon Retail India & Director-Future Logistics Solutions, Future Group
CIO & CTO, Future Group
It was his domain knowledge and the ability to think out-of-the-box that impressed me.
We at Future Group are a unique retailer and we've gotten here by our ability to do things differently. Parakh has continued this trend by offering many creative out-of the-box solutions.
Take our point-of-sale service for example. Two years ago, we were on a proprietary solution and were thoroughly convinced that's the only way to be. But Parakh didn't think so. He brought to our notice that while the proprietary solution was giving us flexibility, it wasn't a secure or viable option for us. He suggested that we move from an off-the-shelf solution and build a custom one.
Our first reaction was that of skepticism. After all we had been using solutions available in the market all this while and it's been a smooth show. What he was suggesting would open up the business to new risks.
But Parakh strikes you as someone who knows what he's talking about. He's been associated with large global chains. Parakh's credibility was unquestionable. And that gave me confidence. The new customized solution would centralize all the controls and make life much easier for our customers. For example, Parakh explained how customers tend to make a mistake while picking up a product at a retail store and assuming that it comes with a different promotion, and are unpleasantly surprised at the counter. I have witnessed this myself, and when Parakh mentioned it, I could relate with it. The new solution would take care of that.
Not only did the solution ensure customer satisfaction, it also made sound business sense. We realized that when we sat together to work out the TCO. I was particularly impressed by the business impact Parakh envisioned.
But for the solution to really work, we needed to convince different department heads. Parakh got their buy-in by presenting the solution such that it addressed each deportment's pain points.
Also, I think it's important to note that the project was approved during the 2008-2009 downturn, when markets were dull. Parakh was able to use the economic condition to our advantage by extracting a good deal. After all it is in times as these that businesses have to extract maximum efficiencies.