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The Grill: Rosetta Stone CIO Pradeep Mannakkara makes a rapid move to the cloud

Mary K. Pratt | Nov. 19, 2013
An IT reorganization and a move to cloud computing gave this CIO early wins.

When Pradeep Mannakkara took the CIO position at Rosetta Stone, he encountered an IT infrastructure that was nearly the same age as the 21-year-old language-learning company. So Mannakkara established a plan to not only update, but also transform Rosetta Stone's technology stack and its 70-person IT department. Since starting in 2011, he has shifted much of the aging infrastructure to cloud-based platforms and added more mobile applications and state-of-the-art technologies. He says the changes achieved his goals of enabling a more efficient workflow and fostering innovation, while also increasing the strategic value of the IT organization.

How did you change the company's outlook? We had to get some incremental wins. We had to look at what would help us grow our revenues. And I reorganized the team. We had a structure that was called Build or Run, and it was not very effective for articulating roles and responsibilities. So you now see what you'd expect in a technology-driven organization: [Elements such as] a data center services function, a Web engineer function. Our corporate systems function was spread out, so we separated our BI and enterprise architect functions. Then we said, "Who is each of your customers?" so there's a clear line and accountability. Once we got the trust and saw wins, we started moving one after another, pushing the next wave, which was into cloud.

What was your take on the technology infrastructure when you arrived? A lot of homegrown and early 2000s technology. The beauty was we were having to leapfrog, which worked out well. We moved to cloud in much more spaces than we would have if we were on other, newer technology. In this last 12 months, we've made a very rapid move to cloud.

What technology changes have you made so far? We did the Salesforce server cloud in April of last year. We moved away from Microsoft Outlook for email and went to Google for email as well as app storage. We've looked at other ways of obtaining cost efficiencies as well as driving more capabilities as we rolled out a slew of cloud-based technologies. We also looked at Dropbox and Box and other [file-sharing] services. We were finding out [workers in] remote locations as well as our marketing folks were setting up private Dropbox files to share material, and our engineering team was doing this, too. This could be corporate [intellectual property], and this is happening in companies all over the place, so we said, "We need a corporate solution." Now we're pushing Box as a standard. It's less to manage and it's all in the cloud, and they can work from anywhere.

And we went with Okta; it's a cloud-based single sign-on provider. Password resets were one of the biggest ticket items on our help desk, and with Okta they've dropped down to nothing. We also rolled out Concur for our employees who have to do expense reports. And for our commission system, we rolled out Xactly, which is built on the Salesforce platform.

 

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