The Big Question (without the spin): “Why?”

October 20, 2016 Chris Barbin

“Why did you decide to sell?”

It’s the question I’ve been getting constantly these days, and I’ll likely get it for years to come.  There’s no easy answer…. because it wasn’t an easy decision (just ask my wife, family and the few trusted advisors I leaned on during this rather isolating time).

It can be tempting for those outside of the decision-making team to listen to the inevitable rumor mill and lean on the “easy” excuses: The board forced it. Investors needed their return. The CEO was tired.

I can say with all honesty that my decision to sell had nothing to do with those three reasons.  

Coming to the “right” decision meant weighing input from multiple and often conflicting constituents: team members, partners, co-founders, investors, customers — the list goes on and on.  I even went so far as to create a decision-making matrix that weighed the long-term upside with the initial excitement for each group of constituents.

Ultimately, I boiled it down to what I feel are the four most important considerations: “The Four C’s” – Customers, Careers, Competition and Culture.  

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Culture is what drives me, what I’m probably most proud of helping create at Appirio, and what I believe sets us apart from others as we compete for business.

barbins

Customers

We are incredibly fortunate to have worked with 1,200 customers over the last decade,  hundreds of whom we have formed long-term, strategic relationships, and a dozen of whom have become beloved members of our trusted advisory board.  Many of these customers have not only been a huge part of Appirio’s DNA and success, but have also become close personal friends of mine.

The last thing I want to do is to disappoint them professionally or personally.  

Over the last few years, customers have been pushing us for deeper digital capabilities, transformational skills, enhanced account management capabilities, more verticals, and to be in 60 global locations rather than the six we are in now.  They’ve also been clamoring for additional technologies: Microsoft, Amazon, Adobe and Netsuite to name a few.  While we’ve been making strides in some areas, we simply couldn’t scale all of these fast enough to meet customer demand. In the end, teaming with Wipro allows us to meet all of our current and prospective customer needs from day one, while retaining our amazing team that customers have come to know and love.

Relationships matter to Appirio, to me personally, and to Wipro. I’m excited to see these incredible relationships transcend this new phase of our journey.

Careers:

We’ve been lucky enough to onboard a team of dynamic Appirians who thrive on opportunity — and our strong talent needs, wants and deserves equally strong career, training, learning, personal and professional development opportunities. Certainly we’ve grown these offerings nicely, in fact frequently landing Appirio on Best Places to Work lists and maintaining an impressive Glassdoor rating,  but we needed to do better faster.

Wipro provides our team with more than 50 office locations around the world, six deep industry vertical talent pools to learn from, and sophisticated global learning and development offerings, including an extensive online university; learning paths; thousands of technical, business and functional courses; next generation self-serve platforms; and formalized career and succession planning programs.  

Growing the skills of our people and enabling a fantastic worker experience is the only way we’re able to serve our customers.  I personally look forward to growing my own skills and capabilities under Wipro’s strong leadership team, a group of admirable people who have scaled their businesses gracefully and want to win big in this evolving services world.

Competition:

While we strive to beat them whenever we can — and we do — I have huge respect for what Accenture and Deloitte have been able to accomplish in the cloud market over the last five years. They made early big bets, changed their selling and delivery models to adapt to cloud, on-boarded some incredible leadership and delivery talent, and have been a part of a disproportionate share of the largest transformational deals done along side of Salesforce.com and Workday.  

We at Appirio have made in-roads in competing against them over the years. We’ve won some hard fought battles by appealing to many customers who have been less than thrilled with the “Big Four” type partners and appreciate our nimble model and free-thinking consultants – but in the end, Accenture and Deloitte have garnered disproportionate market share.  

With that competitive dynamic in place, joining forces with Wipro became a natural next step for us. We’ve found great alignment in their willingness to reverse integrate their existing Cloud Applications Services business under Appirio, their stellar list of more than 300 strategic accounts, and their recent investments in digital and artificial intelligence (Holmes).

By combining our strengths, we’ll have a direct and realistic shot at returning to the number one market and mindshare position, and will immediately become the biggest of the TWITCH crew (TCS, Wipro, INFY, Tech Mahindra, Cognizant and HCL).  

Watch out Accenture and Deloitte – we’re coming.

Culture

Our alignment with Wipro isn’t just “good on paper;” it feels right.

For those who know me well — or at all — you know the answer to “What keeps you up at night, Chris?” is always culture. Culture is what drives me, what I’m probably most proud of helping create at Appirio, and what I believe sets us apart from others as we compete for business.  

As the markets heated up, we were pursued by a few dozen firms interested in acquiring us. Most of these inquiries were single conversations, a handful moved to a few meetings, and one or two became serious deep dives. What became immediately obvious in these meetings was the tone, style, values and quality of the people. Strategic interest and alignment are the easy variables to understand and quantify, but assessing the true fit comes by perceiving how agile, honest, and collaborative people are in a process that can be highly combative and inevitably emotional.

In late summer,  I met Hiral Chandrana, Senior Vice President of Business Application Services at Wipro, for the first time over lunch in Chicago. Immediately we had a great chemistry, connection and like-mindedness on what matters most: values, vision and team.  Less than a week later I connected with Rishad Premji, Chief Strategy Officer and Wipro board member, over a lengthy dinner in New York. He struck me as humble and direct, and once again I felt our values clearly aligned.

A few days later, every single senior executive from Wipro descended on our Indianapolis headquarters all the way from India. With only two qualifying meetings to justify such a huge devotion of their time and resource, this proved to me that they cared about getting this right — not just on a business level, but personally as well. We had an incredible set of discussions,  but most importantly they took the time to get to know the team’s personalities, strengths, and career interests.  Finally, I spent a week in Bangalore, India touring the Wipro innovation center. After a lunch at the Premji Foundation where I was honored to meet Wipro founder and chairman Azim Premji – who knew our team by name, was fully engaged, incredibly humble and fully transparent – I knew Appirio had found a true partner in Wipro.

They checked all of the boxes I was personally concerned with: they demonstrated agile decision making, the team was sharp and collaborative,  they valued philanthropy – and they were fun, too! Going into our initial meetings, I was skeptical of Wipro’s team and corporate culture; I unfairly and wrongly lumped them in with “outsourcers.” But today, after having the privilege of getting to know their teams, I am extremely impressed and excited about our future together.  

I could not be more proud of what we’ve accomplished as a team at Appirio. We’ve changed the game alongside our incredible customers and partners, and it’s been nothing short of thrilling to help shape the cloud industry from its early days. I want to personally extend a huge and heartfelt thank you to everyone who helped get us here – our customers, partners, team, investors and family members. While I’m sure there still may be head scratchers on the deal, I can promise you one thing: We’re not going anywhere but up — and back to number one. Imagine the possibilities…

Onward!

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