This is Manish from Udaipur

This is about life and life in Udaipur. About me and about me in Udaipur.

Category: Advaiya

From Efficiency to Advantage

From efficiency to advantage. This is the story of technology, and with some lag, story of IT services industry. Doing the same thing cheaper, faster or better is no longer sufficient.

Information Technology has been a great driver of speed and efficiency. Technology ROI has traditionally been seen as a function of efficiencies and the costs. This equation drove adoption of technology by industry globally, squeezing more efficiencies as technologies improved, and reducing costs by outsourcing, consolidating, and standardizing.

The twin vectors of efficiency and costs–building and feeding on themselves–have, since a few years, landed into a new territory. The quest to squeeze more efficiencies has paled against allure of creating sustained and unique advantage for the business made possible by digital innovation. Similarly, functional cost reductions via optimizing on how activities are performed have reached limits and the specter of wholesale outsourcing via cloud, for example, disrupts the traditional cost calculus. These have become universally available and easily accessible, thus no longer are source of advantage.

This is new, and strikes at the basis of the traditional IT industry business models. Interest has waned for IT services’ pitches of providing the commoditized capabilities at a reduced cost or a more optimized setup. Businesses have a reached a point where such efficiencies have become a norm and do not provide sustained competitive advantage. They surmise that the daunting task of transforming themselves cannot be helped by mechanistic, efficiency-minded tech services companies.

There are two key frictions at play here. One is past v present, and another is present v future. And their domain is bigger than the IT services or tech outsourcing. It is impacting all areas of tech industry.

Firstly, what is valuable today is different from what was yesterday. While there is some value in getting something done in a particular way, again and again, it does not confer ‘advantage’. As technology forces a rethink of their businesses, companies try to find “advantage”, even in the supposedly mundane tasks where, till some time ago, it was all about just getting those done. That means, it is no longer relevant to assess value in terms of effort. The worth of a job must be thought in terms of “advantage” that it can garner. That’s more complicated than costs per hour, much more intimate and ephemeral. Impact of innovative technology adoption–let’s say of cloud or machine learning–cannot be assessed with frameworks of current practices. So, management techniques and business models based on selling (or saving) effort at some sort of time rate are breaking down.

Secondly, the impact of the new capabilities of technology on technology industry itself is more pronounced and profound than it has ever been. While not there yet, the asymptotic nature of technology work is starting to become visible. Algorithms are not just replacing non-tech workers, but also techies. Today’s good programmers are taking away jobs from tomorrow’s. The power shift is multi-directional with the middle getting squeezed away. This poses an existential imperative for the industry and its constituents. As it gets automated or becomes available in smart user accessible chunks, merely delivering technology would cease to be a business or a job. Instead, those who deliver ‘advantage’, via technology or otherwise, would thrive.

Enabling Platform

The complex set of technologies enabling today’s business need not be complicated. (See for a perspective on complex v complicated.)

Our observations of enterprise technology implementations reveal a preference for a rather simplistic approach of finding the best available technology solution for any specific problem area. Somehow these blinkered views of the problem space are expected to aggregate into a superior and enabling infrastructure for running a business. But mostly, this is a recipe for a fragmented and fractured collection of technology knick-knacks barely supporting the business processes at quite a cost.

For a business, there’s rarely one primary technology piece, but the technology initiatives are often run as if the current is the killer one. Case in point is ERP. ERP as an infrastructure for handling the business transactions is, of course, a key and a critical element for business enablement – but we have always asked more from technology and to achieve the competitive advantages or higher business efficiencies many more elements need to be orchestrated. Also, it is convenient (and misguided) to think of information systems as one other piece in the business’ jig-saw, a view that completely ignores the all-permeating nature of IT and end-less dependencies that information systems have.

This is complicated, nay, complex. This quagmire is compounded by presence of immense and ever-evolving technology options and the fact that parts of business may not fathom technology impact on business as a whole. Information technology is increasingly business critical and, of course, technology is a business decision. That, business process architecture is a key success factor, cannot be ignored.

Embracing complexity is the first step leading to emergence of simple solutions. One needs to step back (and, not dive deeper) and and take an overall view. The Platform Vision model allows us to do that being a method to discern, comprehensively, the business and technology architecture components. The knowledge about various industry verticals, major technology and services vendors and the value parameters for business impact can be, thus, used to ascertainment of best mix of business process and technology components.

This can lead to a roadmap for an enabling technology platform for business as the considerations of best fit and value along with technical and business dependencies, interoperability concerns and technology futures can be adequately addressed.

These Eventful Five Years

We recently completed (on July 1) five years of operations as Advaiya. As we celebrated this milestone for the organization and for the team members who have travelled along this journey, we did look back through these years with nostalgia and pride. During these years, the organization has indeed seen growth, and successes and failures, but most importantly we have matured into a community of passionate professionals, working with whom is rewarding, stimulating, and fun.

Platform Vision

At Advaiya, we have enormous opportunities to observe,  analyze and influence how businesses use technology. These experiences, coupled with our unifying thought approach, have lead to crystallization of many ‘patterns’ allowing us to view enterprise information technology in a uniquely harmonious manner. Platform Vision attempts to surface some such insights.

The Platform Vision is also a framework enabling a very practical way to classify, assess and plan technology and knowledge assets. As such, this facilitates a seamless enterprise architecture approach for business value. The trick here has been to build a perspective which is not based on typical application silos (horizontal or vertical or any of their specific combination) but on specific business benefits that any piece of bundle of technology has potential to bring.

Thus, we identified over-arching technology patterns and their various component patterns. We set out to develop required approaches which can result in unifying the component patterns, unlocking the business value. We analyze the relationships—the dependencies and synergies—between these patterns to bring about one unified view of IT, regardless of umpteen applications, vendors or departments.

The value in this is enormous. The framework can be applied with ease, progressively or directly, at any level, that is, for a specific implementation, applications, their bundle or entire enterprise. The inherent knowledge base allows assessment from the point of view of value to business. It helps in identifying cost-effective steps forward towards a definable technology future.

What’s in a name (again)

It was more than three years ago, I made a post about the name — Advaiya. I guess its time to talk about it again.

I hear the question about the meaning of the word ‘Advaiya‘ often. And, almost equally often, I hear well attempted but wrong answers. For one, the concept that this word embodies is difficult to comprehend and even more difficult to articulate. Also, its easier to derive the meaning: unique, without any second – as ‘-dvaiya’ is confused with more commonly used ‘-dwitiya’.

Advaiya is about the intrinsic oneness (or non-duality) in obvious dichotomies. This ‘oneness’ is not the commonality of elements in (that is, intersection of) disparate sets, nor is it about their union. This is about realizing them to be the same, as one — one core with varied manifestations.

Does it apply to our business? To our approach? To our services? Absolutely. We consciously attempt to see beyond the divisions — different technologies, various applications, many business processes and, ultimately, the division of technology and business — to uncover the underlying oneness. Its natural then to view technology as one integrated platform, to enunciate, build and leverage an encompassing enterprise architecture, and to frame governance structures which aligns IT to business’ strategy. This, in no way, implies ignoring the differences, what we have discovered is that the quest for oneness leads to a much more symbiotic view of the different parts.

The three threes and a four

This sums up nicely! Our value proposition is based on the triad of technology depth, business context knowledge and methodology alignment. We have recognized the three aspects of professionalism at Advaiya – being result oriented, excellence and effective communication. Capability, integrity and courtesy are the three important virtues we value. As a business, we have organized ourselves to deliver four, mutually augmenting, broad services. Strategic consulting, content to support the strategy, training and evangelization, and pre-sales and technology delivery support.

Capability, Integrity and Courtesy

In a recent offsite (at very scenic Eklingji) we dwelled on the virtues that we value as an organization. We could articulate and enumerate the most important as Capability, Integrity and Courtesy. We realized that these form the recipe for our continued growth and survival.

Capability is the obvious winner for us. Our capabilities in technology, marketing and business domains allow us to produce deliverables that are valuable to our customers. Integrity, we surmised is essential to build trust. Our commitment to ethical behavior and honest communication generates trust among our customers, team members, vendors and partners without which growth would be impossible. Courtesy, for us, encompasses the aspects of humility and respect. It reminds us that if we have been able look far, as Newton said, we did it by standing on the shoulders of giants. We are thankful to all so many contributors to whatever accomplishments that we make. While being respectful of our environment and capabilities, we have the humility to acknowledge that we have to be constantly working hard to make sure that we are valuable to our customers.

English and C (Again)

In a post, a few months ago, I drew a few parallels between programming skills and language communication abilities.

That these two are different is very obvious. But what strikes me is apparent lack of appreciation of the fact that programming is not about syntax, its about encapsulating complex concepts in an intelligible depiction. (Thats exactly what language — as in English language — is all about.) Also, language skills are vital not just for communication but for thinking also.

Bad communicators can be good programmers — I know and respect a lot of such people — and many good communicators would be scared of programming. What’s important to realize is that these skills are complimentary: one can reinforce other.


‘Professionalism’ is an oft-heard word here. This is mostly used as a catch-all term describing whatever is expected from any team member. But we do have a definition, a description of our culture.

We have identified three important tenets. We believe that these three aspects cover, at a high level, what our customers can expect from us, what Advaiya expects from its team members and the values that guide our day-to-day conduct.

The first is: being result oriented. Our efforts must lead to a tangible output. An honest failure after best efforts is a tangible output. We normally call this as a ‘deliverable’. We realize that for a deliverable to be produced, we need to go through the process of defining it, creating the same, validating it and presenting it in a usable manner. This simple process applies to every granule of output we work for. Commonsense, yes. But this explicit exposition helps us to deliver results.

Second: excellence. This means not just putting in best of our capabilities but also being aware of the quality in what we do. It requires us to be appreciative of whats good around us and understand the importance of standards and best practices. This also means that we have to strive for continual improvement and, at an individual level, learn continuously.

The third aspect is effective communication. We have learnt that success in what we do depends a lot on consistent and relevant communication with all concerned. We understand that honesty and integrity are key to effective communication. We also realize that for communication to be effective, it has to simultaneously inform and influence. In our daily practices, this means that we manage expectations, are open to feedback and maintain a trail.

Obviously, its this very professionalism that gives us the confidence to perform.

At Microsoft

Past few days, I have been at Microsoft. I attended the Office Developers’ Conference and have been co-ordinating work for certain O12 (MS Office system 2007) related assignments that our team is currently working on.

This is my first time at Redmond. I have worked with Microsoft India but ‘MS Corporate’ is, well, different. One learns a bit or two about capitalism here. The nature of our involvement here has also allowed me to gain some insight about Microsoft’s (famed) marketing. Its amazing to see a very large corporation with numerous independent teams and hudreds of often overlapping (and sometimes contradicting) products actually present a convincing unified personality (which one might choose to hate). That Microsoft is not a traditional command and control corporation, probably makes it even more admirable.

The highlight has been the new Office ’12’. It is exciting in its scope and possibilities. O12 does provide most of the missing pieces in the knowledge worker empowerment story that Advaiya has been standing for all along. I see times of great fun at Advaiya!

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