Last week's announcement that SAP executive Vishal Sikka would be taking the top spot at Infosys may be an indication that the Indian outsourcing provider is capable of making fundamental changes in an attempt to regain its prominence in the offshore IT services industry. After all, Sikka will be the first non-founding CEO in the company's history.
"Something needed to change — and fast," says Phil Fersht, CEO of outsourcing analyst firm HfS Research. "He is new blood. He has youth on his side. He gives them the immediate facelift they were craving."(Disclosure: SAP is a client of Stephanie Overby.)
In recent days, the Bangalore-based company also announced a dozen new executive appointments.
But it will take more than a few new faces to transform Infosys. While these executive appointments are important, says Thomas Reuner, principal analyst within Ovum's IT services practice, what's required is a complex orchestration of changes in a very competitive environment.
Founded in 1981, Infosys became sthe face of India's booming post-Y2K IT outsourcing industry. New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman credited Infosys co-founder and former CEO Nandan Nilekani with inspiring his 2005 business best seller, The World is Flat.
But in recent years, Infosys has struggled to keep pace with its Indian and western rivals. "Despite a pretty decent financial performance in the market over the last 18 months — though lagging its major Indian counterparts — it was still abundantly clear that Infosys was struggling to break from its legacy past and make the changes necessary to rebuild company morale, reinforce strategic direction, and reinvigorate the whole company culture," says Phil Fersht, CEO of outsourcing analyst firm HfS Research.
"The firm was getting squeezed and executives continued to leave the firm at a frequent clip — some voluntarily, but most forced out," Fersht says. Infosys had come to be considered an old school offshore outsourcing provider by some.
New Infosys CEO, Vishal Sikka, Has His Work Cut Out For Him
Sikka is well-connected and well-liked by CIOs, say observers. But he will have his work cut out for him, most immediately in improving the deal pipeline at Infosys. "His first task is to fix the sales engine," says Reuner.
Infosys has been overly dependent on smaller projects rather than large outsourcing relationships. "If you depend on discretionary spending, you're in trouble when you encounter economic headwinds," Reuner says. "They need a healthy percentage of their income to be predictable. We haven't seen them win many large deals of late."
Infosys also needs to further strengthen its platforms strategy, according to observers. "You only need to look at the acquisitions made by the likes of Accenture and IBM over the last couple of years to realize that cloud-based platforms that underpin analytical, consultative value-add services are the long-term future of services." Infosys' recent investment in its end-to-end Edge platforms were a step in the right direction. But "they've been struggling to execute on that," says Reuner. Sikka's technology product background could help.
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