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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.

What do you look for in new technologies? If things aren't simple, you're not going to have people using them. User interface is so important.

Do you still see benefits in on-premises systems? There are reasons to stay with on-premises solutions. I'd say, however, that a lot of those are fast disappearing. If I can get it done with the proper security faster and cheaper with cloud, I'd go for cloud because it has the value I look for. How much value I provide to my organization is based on how fast I can deliver. If I'm doing this on-premises and have to have a different set of resources to support it, but it's not adding the same value, then my organization doesn't win.

The other part of this, when you look at technology, three years is probably the amount of time you'll run it, and then you figure there will be something better. So I'm making things modular enough so I can swap out components. And you can do that easier with the cloud, because with SaaS you don't have all that hardware and software on the books. I've changed about 80% of my technology stack in the past two years, and a lot of this has moved to the cloud. But I've also brought some on-premises. For example, we use Magento for our e-commerce. We elected not to move this to the cloud at this time because it's so central, it touches so many systems. But at some point, would we consider moving to the cloud? Absolutely.

What is your biggest IT project now? We're doing things around data and reporting, and there are some exciting initiatives there. As for challenges, one that we've had is with the multitude of videoconferencing systems out there. There's Polycom in the conference rooms, people are using FaceTime and Skype and Google Hangout. We just signed with Blue Jeans. They're in the cloud as well. They allow you to do high-definition audio and videoconferencing.

How do you help lead transformation? It's really being part of that core team, being part of defining where we go as a culture. You can say, "I want to change it," but your actions dictate what happens. I try to listen and understand but also drive us to where I think we need to be. There are disciplines I use, but a lot of it comes down to listening and communicating and driving some of those uncomfortable conversations we sometimes need to have, challenging ourselves about what really needs to happen to help us have better outcomes.


Pradeep Mannakkara
Family: Married with two children, ages 2 and 6.
Career path: Previous jobs include senior IT positions at AOL, Visa and CNET.
What's your favorite tech toy? "My iPhone, because I control a lot of things in my household with it."
How do you spend your downtime? "When I'm not working, I'm spending time with the kids. We love to travel. I've got a pilot's license, so I love to fly. I snowboard when I have the time, and I sail and motorcycle."
What's on your iPod? Rock and pop music, and iTunes radio.
What languages do you speak? English, French and Sinhalese, with some Italian, Cantonese and Mandarin.


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