[YS Exclusive] Digital transformation is based on design thinking: Ranjit Tinaikar, Ness Global CEO
An American-based IT services provider, Ness Digital Engineering is a digital solutions company. It provides engineering services across the globe. It operates in technology, integration, and software engineering sectors.
Ness’ top clients include Tibco, Twilio, and Alfresco to name a few. In an exclusive interaction with YourStory, Ranjit Tinaikar, Global CEO of Ness, spoke about the company's plans and how the space is evolving.
Ranjit has over 20 years of experience in the technology services sector, with a track record of driving growth in the global businesses that he has managed.
Prior to Ness, he served as the President of Fitch Solutions, a data and analytical services business, where he repositioned the business for growth through strategic investments and acquisitions in differentiated analytical offerings.
He was previously the Managing Director of Advisory and Investment Management, a data analytics business unit of Thomson Reuters.
Ranjit was a partner at McKinsey, and one of the earliest leaders in forming their digital practice. He also founded the Lean Software Development and IT strategy practices. He joined Ness in 2020.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
YourStory (YS):Tell us about your journey and early days of your career? What brought you to Ness?
Ranjit Tinaikar (RT): I have been fortunate enough to have found opportunities that made my professional journey a series of s-curves of learning. Each s-curve began with a bit of risk-taking with something new and unfamiliar, then rapid learning with eventual plateauing as one figures it out – which is usually the time for the next s-curve. The risk-taking and consequent learning and growth is something that I have always found exciting.
Some of these s-curves involved changes in career paths as I moved from being a software engineer at Citibank, to becoming a professor doing research in social networks at Carnegie Mellon University, to becoming a business consultant at McKinsey, to operating businesses in data and analytics at Thomson Reuters, and Fitch more recently.
I found the next s-curve when I moved from being a newly elected partner at McKinsey in the US to work in Asia – very different markets and client needs.
My new role at Ness does feel like going back to my roots in software engineering, but it is definitely a new s-curve for me and just as thrilling as my first job. Ness has always been known for its prowess in product engineering; it is but now poised for growth as technology disruption in cloud, data, and ML/AI increases.
The pandemic has only accelerated the digital transformation of our customers. Joining Ness is especially thrilling as we aim to take the company on its next s-curve.
YS: How are industries changing? What type of digital transformation efforts are companies focusing on?
Over the last 10 years, artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), blockchain, cloud platforms, and data and analytics have been disrupting the way businesses engage customers, manage supply chains, and operate their internal processes. The pandemic has only accelerated this trend.
I think that we have accelerated the digital transformation of existing businesses by nearly five to seven years, as the time has never been better for rethinking the way we work in a digital ecosystem – for once the customers, suppliers, employees, and investors are working differently. It is the perfect confluence to drive change.
I think digital transformation is based on design thinking. But is design thinking necessary for innovation?
Design thinking and innovation are two sides of the same coin, but all too often, design thinking is boiled down to the user interface or user experience teams, and their ability to design a website or application. At Ness, we believe that design thinking is about building solutions that start with the end customer’s need.
Innovation comes from serving the needs of customers in ways that you have not before. To do this properly, it is critical for a digital engineering firm to ask the following questions to keep design thinking top of mind:
Do I understand the domain of the customer? The needs of a customer walking into an auto dealership to buy a car are very different from those of someone walking into a hospital for medical treatment. Engineers developing products for these organisations are going to need to understand the business needs, services, markets, and regulatory challenges of the kind of domain they are working in.
Do I understand what the customer needs, as opposed to what they say they want? The only way you can bring innovation is by viewing the path forward from the customer’s perspective to understand what they really want. Skilled engineers are able to use a variety of skills, services, and techniques that enable innovative design in a way that simple UX or UI design does not allow for.
YS: Tell us about Ness' growth and future global plans, business strategy, and roadmap for 2021 .
RT: For Ness, the 2021 roadmap begins first and foremost with an effort to double down on what we are really good at: building customer-facing platforms and software products. Over time, we have evolved from bringing software to software companies to enabling enterprises to thrive in the digital economy.
Many organisations are not fully satisfied by standard services. Businesses are increasingly looking for their own unique platforms to maximise their competitive advantage, which is where we come in.
We have had the privilege of having long-running and deep-standing relationships with our customers. Innovation is a never-ending process, so we are committed to improving our understanding of these partners to provide ongoing value. To make this actionable, our key priorities are investing and building out our focus in engineering, doubling down on our relationships, over-investing in our skills in data, cloud, machine learning, and engaging our customers in a verticalised way.
As a result of this plan, Ness has already seen tremendous success in the last year, and is well positioned for growth in 2021. We have already seen 2x the growth from last year for Q4, and expect to see 3x the growth in 2021.
Ness has product engineering in its DNA – an integrated discipline that focuses on solving problems for the modern business and enabling success in a virtual economy. Digital acceleration is not just a theory; I see it playing out in our performance at Ness.
YS: How did Ness react to the COVID-19 situation? Any plans to normalise the workplace in 2021?
RT: At Ness, we continue to take many proactive steps to protect the people who make up our company - our employees and their families, and our customers and their families. Safety is, of course, our top priority, but we are also committed to maintaining the high-quality customer service that clients have come to expect from Ness.
Because of the nature of our business, we had many procedures in place already to ensure that creativity and collaboration continued in the virtual world. As a provider of digital engineering services from locations in North America, Europe, and India, we have been perfecting a form of globally distributed agile development we call Flexshoring for the last 20 years.
Our team’s digital interactions are so frequent that the channels through which we work have become instinctual, and working hours across multiple time zones is part of the company’s DNA.
Additionally, our customers continue to face their own challenges during the pandemic. To meet the technological needs of clients, Ness’s rapid response team members actively contribute creative ideas and reach out at a senior level to offer additional support where needed. This is conducted in the spirit of friendly and essential cooperation because we value our long-standing customer relationships.
Looking ahead, in 2021, the health and safety of our employees remains a top priority. Ness will continue to monitor guidance from our respective regional governments and health authorities with respect to returning to the workplace. However, with a strong, productive virtual environment and constant client communication, we’re confident that Ness can continue growing, innovating and collaborating with customers as the pandemic continues.
YS: What are Ness India’s plans and your views on startups?
RT: India has always been a global hub for talent. Our recruitment in the last quarter has gone up by 20 percent in the country. At Ness, we want to continue building a very distinctive brand for talent acquisition in India.
There is a whole new generation of Indians who want to be on the cutting edge of solving problems and designing innovative solutions. They also want to have access to training and learning environments where they can gain new skills – not just in new technologies, but new domains. Finally, they want to get back to high mobility and growth.
We are focusing on serving these growing needs in India. In the services industry, we see a significant opportunity to expand our network with more diversity. We are launching more programmes that encourage female participation and are specifically interested in creating programmes to allow mothers to re-enter the workforce.
Edited by Anju Narayanan