Company as a Platform
We have been observing that the typical company structure has not kept pace with the changing times. In fact, it is still similar to what it was a century ago! The structure does not allow for agility and flexibility, and is akin to the Waterfall method of software development – very structured, inflexible, not much freedom for any of the stakeholders, and too late before course corrections are attempted.
Decisions are focused on short-term goals, at the expense of clients and employees. Guidances rule the roost. The structure does not allow employees the freedom to make decisions in the best interest of clients. Multiple reporting confuses and constrains them further. Employees are typically one cog in the entire services wheel; they neither have the overall picture, nor do they see (or get appreciated for) the end impact of their work.
The articulation of the Platform
We believe ValueLabs is more of a platform than a company. It is a platform where various stakeholders can come together and fulfill their individual aspirations, all the while helping others fulfill theirs.
It is a platform that captures the true spirit of who we are. We are all about creating opportunities and fulfilling them, by bringing together the right team members from across the organization, of their own free will, in a dynamic and fluid manner. We are all about doing everything possible to delight clients, without being unduly concerned by short-term gains or internal role definitions.
It is difficult to explain something so ethereal, despite the fact that it is a core part of our DNA, in just a few words. Socrates, towards his end, had shed some light on this very topic. The father of Western philosophy was about to be poisoned, after being sentenced to death by the Greek society he lived in, for his radical thoughts. His distraught followers were amazed to see him calm and happy even towards the end. Socrates’ student Crito asked: “But how should we bury you?” “However you want to,” Socrates responded, “If you can actually catch me, the real me, and I don’t escape you.”
By ‘the real me,’ Socrates meant the spirit and not the physical body. The spirit is very different from the physical being. It is what defines us. ValueLabs is far more than the infrastructure, the certifications and the number of people it has. Its spirit is captured by the Platform. Without it, we are just an ordinary company.
Most of the senior people that we have brought on board in the last few months from marquee companies around the globe were sold on this CaaP concept when they interviewed with us. We gave them a few weeks to experience CaaP, and then asked them a few questions about their experience in ValueLabs. Their answers are captured in the video below, and gives a glimpse of some aspects of the Platform.
In the CEO’s words …
We have been attracting top talent on to our ‘Platform,’ giving wings to their dreams, while creating value for prospects and clients in the marketplace, and helping ValueLabs grow in the process. We have transformed ourselves from a services company to a solutions-led company. The value proposition we offer is so strong that even the selling process becomes one of partnership, where the prospect would like to engage with us as much as we want to engage with them.
All these points came alive in a recent site by a NYSE-listed company. Our Insurance Group worked seamlessly with the Site Visits Group to create a high-touch and seamless experience for the visitor. The Digital and Insurance Groups collaborated closely, almost like a well-choreographed tango, to create this aura of a high-end, consulting-led partner that the prospect could not have ignored.
Added to this was the magic of the flexibility, mindshare and high touch that we bring as a company. Eight members from the senior team, including myself, were present for the visit, which was on a Saturday.
The prospect has been outsourcing to multiple tier 1 companies for the last two decades. Despite this, they were comfortable enough to open up and share with us certain high-end opportunities.
I am sure there will be many more such stories in the days, weeks and months to come. The capabilities we have built, combined with the collaborative magic that our platform offers, is certain to have a magical effect on all the prospects and clients we touch.
Right from inception, ValueLabs has been built differently. The focus has always been on being very agile and flexible. Decisions are made instantly where clients’ interests are concerned. People always go out of their way to get the job done.
Right from inception, we have empowered people to make decisions. The person that leads an Extended Team is the de-facto CEO of the client engagement, reporting into the client organization. Every manager is expected to wear the hat of an HR manager, and take care of his or her team. Every team member understands the big picture, gets to interact directly with the client team members, is responsible for end-to-end work that has a business impact, and is directly recognized by the client for his or her contribution.
The elements that define the Platform
We have distilled below some of the key ingredients that go into transforming a Company into a Platform:
Collaboration: Collaboration is essential. No turf, no politics, just collaboration. Every team member is a Lego block; each comes with a different capability, location and profile. They are the building blocks for whatever team and structure is required to consummate an opportunity and delight the client.
Agility: Agility is required at all times. We are driven by our philosophy (How can we help the other person without expecting anything in return), and we go out of our way to help the other person.
Trust: Trust is both an input to, and the output of, the Platform. Trust is essential for working in such a dynamic and unstructured environment. Trust grows as we work together in the true spirit of the Platform.
The ‘CEO’ mindset: The buck stops with each person. Delegation and Empowerment are aspects that are sincerely practised. The entrepreneurial spirit is a key ingredient. People have to get the job done, whatever it takes.
Patient capital: We are backed by patient capital. Being privately owned gives us the luxury of building for the long term on an unshakeable foundation of values. We are neither burdened nor shaped by quarterly guidance.
Values: Any success is sustainable only if it is built upon a core set of values. In our case, these values are Perfection, Love, Unselfishness and Strength.
Culture of learning: Learning is more important than knowledge. Today’s knowledge may be irrelevant tomorrow, but the culture of learning will always keep us relevant.
Merit: Everything is driven by merit. Respect has to be earned by performance, not designation. Detailed KRAs must be specified to set direction, and metrics captured for course correction.
Instinct: Going with the instinct is encouraged. We should use not just our minds (to think) and hands (to execute), but also our hearts (to feel). In this context, it is perfectly fine to fail, so long as we learn from that failure and never make the same mistakes.
Some manifestations of the Platform
We see different aspects of CaaP being played out every day. Some of the manifestations are mentioned below:
- Clients are engaged through the ETM (Extended Team Model); about 90% of our overall business). The leader of this team is designated as the CEO of that engagement. They report directly into the client organization, and are driven by the client’s best interest alone.
- We always do the right thing. We are not driven by expediency, optimization or personal gain. We are driven by the philosophy ‘How can we help others without expecting anything in return.’
- The world is changing. Every day, it changes that much more fast. A rigid organization will go the same way the Waterfall method of software development is going. Our Platform is extremely agile; it can bring diverse team members together to address the task at hand, without the rules of a hierarchy or the controls of a bureaucracy. The Platform is like the bloodstream, carrying resources where and when they are required, and such freedom of involvement inspires our team members. Every day, we get to see the triumph of the human spirit in some form or the other.
The Platform is an experiment in the making for the last 19 years. It will be tested over the next 3 years, as we scale rapidly, completely transform the company, and bring on board a large number of senior personnel.
We believe that the Platform will triumph …