One of Wipro's first acts once it closed its acquisition of cloud startup Appirio last November was highly symbolic. The IT services giant adopted the smaller company's more casual dress code in place of its own formal standard. It was a sign that Wipro was serious about changing as a result of the acquisition, says Appirio's CEO Chris Barbin, who brought me up-to-date on how it's going by phone last week.
The prospect of having to don formal business attire every day except Friday had been one of the Appirio workforce's biggest gripes about the impending acquisition. On hearing this, Wipro's CEO Abid Neemuchwala decided it was time to update the policy, says Barbin:
As an example of willingness to change, the day the acquisition closed, he changed the Wipro dress code worldwide to the Appirio dress code.
More and more they're looking to adopt the agile way of working and a more startup-y, cloud way of working into the wider Wipro organization.
The more complex task of integrating the two company's operations is a longer process. Almost 700 Wipro employees are joining the Appirio cloud applications services business unit. Wipro's existing Salesforce practice has become part of the Appirio team and employees are being trained up on the 'Appirio Way' methodology and toolset. Appirio also retains its Workday, Google and AWS practices.
What to add?
Barbin says the team is still looking at which new applications to add from Wipro's cloud portfolio, which extends across Salesforce-native solutions including Apttus, CloudSense and ServiceMax, as well as financials and billing platforms such as NetSuite and Zuora.
While there's a "pretty bullish" feeling about bringing in Coupa and FinancialForce, there's more caution about some others. It's already been decided, for example, that the NetSuite practice will become part of the Oracle business unit, mirroring the cloud ERP vendor's own acquisition.
Rather than massively expanding Appirio's product reach, the immediate emphasis is on geographical expansion, says Barbin. Whereas only 10% of Appirio's business was outside the US, 45% of Wipro's is international. The cloud applications team is already doing particularly well in Australia, he says, and also gives Appirio the resources to expand more aggressively into central and northern Europe. That will be a priority this year.
The biggest change for Appirio is the access to Wipro's longstanding customer base, where previously most of its sales opportunities came through its partnerships with Salesforce and Workday. Says Barbin:
It's a much more proactive play into a named customer base. We were reacting to inbound from Salesforce and Workday for more than a decade, so this is a very different approach.
Who takes the lead?
In the 90 days since joining forces, the combined proposition has already won six new deals, four of them with existing customers of either Wipro or Appirio, and two that were new to both companies, says Barbin.
That's encouraging, but one new challenge that comes along with being part of a larger organization is working out who takes the lead on each of those projects:
Probably one of the more tricky parts of this is account ownership. [Appirio] has about a hundred upscale customers where we've done multiple projects. In other cases we're plugging into [Wipro's] client management and partnership processes.
But Barbin is still enthusiastic about the opportunity to help bring change to 170,000-strong, $8 billion-revenue business.
My role is helping the change. Not just bringing cloud into Wipro, but the broader way of doing business. That was very much something they wanted from us.
We want to continue to scale what we've been building as part of Appirio — this new way of doing business, rolling that out across other practice areas within Wipro.
We can help disrupt a multi-decade-old organization ... to be front and center as part of this broader digital transformation that's been happening.
That transformation includes a shift at customers towards using more of Salesforce's platform capabilities than merely seeing it as just another enterprise application. For larger transformation projects, it's useful to be able to tap into Wipro's digital and strategic consulting services.
It's good to hear that Barbin remains committed to bringing change to Wipro — and it's encouraging that Wipro's leadership is proving responsive. As I wrote at the time of the acquisition:
The cloud innovators may have lost their independence, but they’ve reached sufficient scale by the time they’re acquired to bring their cloud practices and mindsets along with them. As a result, the global SIs are being hollowed out from the inside as they absorb their acquisitions’ cloud DNA.
But as I also cautioned, "that transformation doesn’t happen without a struggle." Barbin's comments about account ownership give a flavor of some of the territorial disputes and mindset adjustments that have to be overcome along the way. And the decision to focus this year on geographic expansion emphasizes the importance of setting priorities. It's wise to focus on grabbing the low-hanging fruit first rather than trying to do everything at once.
So no overnight transformation (except maybe in employee wardrobes) but some encouraging signs. We'll check back later in the year to see what further progress has been made. Meanwhile, we'll look out for opportunities to hear how customers are receiving the newly combined proposition.