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As a technology company, ThoughtWorks has been one of the leading proponents in the movement for agile software development and has developed a range of open source products used by thousands of companies — including Selenium, GoCD, CruiseControl, Gauge, Talisman, Bahmni, FreedomBox, QuickFix and others. The company’s expertise since its inception has been the creation of custom software applications and consulting services related to software development, design, architecture for hundreds of clients across the globe.
To understand the company’s latest innovation strategy, Analytics India Magazine connected with Sudhir Tiwari, Managing Director of ThoughtWorks India, who has had years extensive experience in a variety of development methodologies. Sudhir currently manages ThoughtWorks’ operations in India, including its software delivery excellence, development of new software capabilities and building high-performance teams. Here are the edited excerpts from the interaction —
AIM: With so much focus on customer experience today, what role does software play for businesses in India?
Sudhir: Core technology is for every business right now, and I think the role is related to the business strategy in terms of what you are building and how you are managing software. We’ve seen that trend only in India only so far, in recent years. Earlier, India was just a market where people used to buy products off the shelf. No one would build custom software at all earlier as they never believed in its value. So it was a market where everyone bought products, whether they worked or not, is a separate question. The role of software has changed in the last decade to now become a business differentiator. If that hadn’t happened, the digital natives that India has been witnessing, such as Ola and Flipkart wouldn’t have survived.
AIM: Can you share with us a few examples of ThoughtWorks’ technology implementations for its clients, for technologies like AI or Blockchain?
Sudhir: We have teams in ThoughtWorks which treat every project as a data project to move to this whole movement of analytics. Using AI, we are helping clients create better staffing teams and get the best-ranked teams for specific projects. So we are looking at moving beyond regular analytics and making predictions using AI models with a lot of our clients for different use cases. For example, we are doing some work on the translations for an Indian client right now. It is very tough to translate Indian languages. Let’s say if there is a judgment in English, how to do it in a legal Indian language. Everyone relies on Google, but we need our own right now.
For Blockchain, we recently won an award jointly in the UK for a joint blockchain project we did with one of our clients — VAKT, which is a consortium of leading energy companies and banks. The organisations in the consortium are: BP, Equinor, Shell, Gunvor, Koch, Mercuria, ABN Amro, ING, Société Générale, Chevron, Reliance and Total. Traditionally, the post-trade process would involve both parties checking paperwork and changing records on separate, manual systems, which is time-consuming and error-prone. ThoughtWorks leveraged blockchain technology to build a digital platform, allowing all parties to manage that process in the same place for the very first time.
AIM: What do you think about the democratisation of technology through open-source? What value does an open-source strategy create for ThoughtWorks?
Sudhir: I think we have primarily created open-source tools for developers and that has been our forte. For example, Selenium which is a portable open-source framework for testing web applications, or CruiseControl, our open-source Java-based framework for a continuous build process. Recently, we put out an open-source product called Bahmni- an OpenMRS (Medical Record System) specifically for healthcare providers. Bahmni is doing extremely well right now and has got more than 100 implementations worldwide where ThoughtWorks has not contributed. We have also seen Bahmni conferences, where people look up to us in terms of the direction of what needs to happen on the product.
So, open-source is just in the DNA of the company and that will continue. We are in the top ten in open source contributors across all firms. I think the biggest value of open source strategy is to attract the right developers for software projects. And it also helps the clients as they know the software they are using not closed source, and so they can pick and tweak it specific to needs.
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AIM: What technology opportunities do you see specific to India for 2020?
Sudhir: Our local market is the fastest-growing market, with 300% growth last year. So the enterprises here are changing rapidly. For example, a lot of banks have understood that they need to compete with the Fintechs which have risen with the power of UPI and India Stack. So, that’s a massive change which is happening.
A lot of GICs are opening in India. India has almost 1500 Global In-House Centres (GICs). We expect a lot more to come. The GIC movement is moving from cost to value to innovation. So the ability to build business intelligence in India for clients who are anywhere in the world, so that’s a massive opportunity for us.
AIM: Do you think that CIOs and other technology executives in India are catching up to the latest innovation in software?
Sudhir: The role of CIOs in India is moving from an executive who just worked to get the best deal or bargain on a technology product to new roles where they are now forced to understand technology. So a lot of executives, who have worked in Amazon or Flipkart, are now moving into tech leadership roles like CIOs and CTOs. At the same time, technology decision-makers are grappling with the whole operational structure.
When you move onto the whole digital bandwagon, almost everything needs to change in the new world. But, people are just hanging on to the old structures to their detriment. For ThoughtWorks, we have identified common characteristics of companies that are doing well in tech leadership. We call it the Digital Fluency Model and this will be a piece of software asset that we are going to release it in the market as thought leadership for CIOs, CTOs and other technology leaders.
AIM: There are so many legacy systems that still exist in India. With all the technical debt there is, how do companies then adopt the innovative software coming out?
Sudhir: That’s a real challenge, I think. A great amount of volume is locked in those systems and depending on the type of client, and you can replace such systems, remove the technical debt in the systems or take them apart from one by one. And that’s where a lot of investment is going. You have legacy banking products which are just totally closed, and all the valuable data exists in many closed proprietary databases. In some cases, people know the system is running, but they don’t know how it is running. But, slowly, investments are changing them or companies are building custom software. There is also a big movement towards custom and open source because you can’t have closed systems anymore. A lot of our focus is to build these systems which are secure from day one across different systems using Open APIs, which even legacy clients can access and create innovative products.
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Vishal Chawla is a senior tech journalist at Analytics India Magazine and writes about AI, data analytics, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and blockchain. Vishal also hosts AIM's video podcast called Simulated Reality- featuring tech leaders, AI experts, and innovative startups of India.