K. Ananth Krishnan has a hard enough job handling the technology requirements of a global IT consulting behemoth with 89,000 globally dispersed employees and 34 to 35 percent annual growth. But as an avid follower of Clayton Christensen, author of the classic business book "The Innovator’s Dilemma," he would never be content to merely stay on top of things. Innovation is part of his regular diet.
“An essential part of TCS’s [Tata Consultancy Services’] corporate strategy is to run one or two transformational projects every year,” says Krishnan. One of the most far reaching was Ultimatix, an intranet and transaction platform that digitized the entire organization from end to end, integrating everything from finance to human resources to sales to business development. Version one was completed in 2002, after which Krishnan decided it was time to replace the Internet-based, person-to-person contact typical of a small company with a collaboration infrastructure more suited to a huge global player with hundreds of locations.
Enter Project Infinity, a futuristic Internet voice and video collaboration environment tying together all of TCS’s global locations. “We ripped out our entire physical infrastructure and put in a new MPLS [multiprotocol label switching] backbone; unified our help desk, infrastructure support, security, and network access across the world; and ran a range of new collaborative applications on top, including a comprehensive knowledge management system based on Microsoft SharePoint Server, Avaya IP telephony, and Polycom IP videoconferencing.”
To sell the platform to internal users, Krishnan enlisted the help of several young Harvard MBAs, who ran an internal marketing campaign and branded the new system Buzz. “Today it’s common for a TCS staffer to collaborate with IP telephony, videoconferencing, instant messaging, blogs, and wikis.” The result: 5 percent increase in productivity, 40 percent savings in travel, and 60 percent savings in telephony expenses.
Project Infinity morphed into Krishnan’s current project, Co-Innovation Network (COIN), whose goal is to take TCS’s collaborative environment across the entire TCS ecosystem, including hundreds of globally dispersed strategic partners, customers, startups, research labs, academic institutions, and venture capital firms. Krishnan intends for them to use the platform to collaborate not only with TCS but with each other as well. One of the first COIN projects involves building the next-generation datacenter.