Vishal Sikka and Infosys

Story trending yesterday was that Indian IT industry’s poster boy, Infosys (Infy), is going to appoint Vishal Sikka, former Chief Technologist of SAP AG, as new CEO. After a spate of negative news on senior executive exodus over last few months, this should create a somewhat positive mood about the company – one among the top 4 IT behemoths in India.

There is no doubt that Vishal is a big brand in technology industry. He has impeccable past credentials as a product innovator giving birth to the latest flagship product of SAP – HANA (High-Performance Analytic Appliance). With Syracuse and Stanford adorning his academic bio, he is often hailed as visionary in the domain.

All these underline the fact that Vishal is out and out a product guy with a long stint in one of the world’s top business software company. No one knows if he has never done services business. The fact that everyone is failing to understand is how Vishal and Infy would complement each other. Under the pressure of bringing someone from outside as fresh blood, triggered by the market and shareholders, hopefully another inefficient decision is not being made like few other glaring ones in the past.

Common knowledge says that relevant experience be given importance for a leadership position. History has seen quite a few turnaround stories by capable leaders. It is not that uncommon that leaders from a different domain have taken the reign of other beleaguered companies and driven them to success. These have happened more so, when the strategic decisions are taken around consumers rather enterprises. All these changes, done with a fair bit of risk involved, have yielded a mixed bag of failure and success.

After Mr. Murthy’s return for his 2nd stint, he has tried to bring back focus on day to day, brick and mortar business, in the form of support, maintenance and testing contracts for boosting revenue. Cost cutting and operational excellence are also other factors that he has stressed on. The focus is to do that more what Infosys does best. Innovation and operational efficiency seldom work hand in hand as they are highly related to the DNA of the organization. It is better to keep the entities separate and Infy has already taken a step towards that by hiving off the product and platform group to a new entity. TCS and Cognizant-current India IT leaders and their other worldwide peers from services industry have different set of parameters to deal with when compared to a Google driverless car innovation or a high performance computing platform like SAP-HANA.

While Vishal will surely bring fresh perspectives of technology, there are many questions that come to mind are how he would be relevant in these schemes of things. As Infosys is readying itself to take this coupe or gamble or whatever strategic decision management has thought about, will it also not create a fair bit of confusion amongst the customers, vendors and other stakeholders about future direction the company is going to take? Is Infosys going to transform itself as an innovation led product company or will there be forced marriage between the two different business approaches which generally do not work that well? Assuming Vishal will lead the services arm, let’s wait for further clarifications on the thoughts and vision for this appointment. I am equally curious to know the contours of discussion Vishal had with the board during the process.

Is Infosys only interested in brand Vishal?