A New Phase for Appirio, A New Challenge For Its CEO

February 28, 2018 Chris Barbin

Culture and cloud. Who knew such small, nebulous words could have such a big impact on a business?

When my co-founders and I started Appirio in 2006, we wanted to create a company where people couldn’t wait to come to work. We had been part of “the grind” and we wanted this company to be different. We wanted to change the way big companies implemented and used software. We had experienced the speed and innovation that cloud computing brought and we couldn’t wait to bring it to others. Finally, we wanted to disrupt the traditional systems integrator market. We had been part of enough multi-billion dollar, failed projects and wanted to prove that smaller, iterative projects delivered over shorter periods of time with more agile teams could yield better results. These were our goals. In that order.

After nearly 12 years leading Appirio as its CEO, I am proud to say that we met and exceeded these goals. To date, Appirio has won 10 Best Places to Work awards. We’ve been named a World Economic Forum Pioneer of the Year, and our culture is constantly called out in reviews on Glassdoor. We have grown our business to over 2,000 employees, and we operate in 10 countries, with more on the way. Cloud computing is now a mainstay in the enterprise, and our industry-leading customer NPS scores indicate that our cloud-first solutions, our unique way of working, and the results we deliver to our customers set us apart in a very crowded space.

As CEO of Appirio, which has been part of Wipro for nearly 16 months now, I am extremely proud of these accomplishments. I am also beyond excited for what Appirio, a Wipro company, will accomplish in the years ahead under the guidance of a new leader, Erik Duffield.

Earlier this week we announced to our global teams and Appirio customers that I would soon be stepping down as CEO to take on a new, broader role as Wipro’s Global Culture Officer, and that Erik would be taking the reins as of April 1. Erik is a 5-year Appirio veteran who has been leading our global CRM organization as General Manager. He is a proven industry leader, trusted by employees and customers alike, and embodies the same set of values and cultural philosophies that have been a direct contributor to Appirio’s success over the years.

I have said many times that the heart of Appirio -- and our main differentiator -- has always been our culture. We hear from analysts, customers, press, and even our competition that it is Appirio’s agile culture and relentless commitment to a great worker experience that makes us a true disrupter. It’s this personal and professional passion for culture that makes me so excited to take on this new role within Wipro.

As Wipro’s Global Culture Officer, I’ll be working with the company’s executive team, its Board of Directors, and a small, dedicated team of change agents to evolve and advance the worker experience at Wipro. Wipro is a 71-year old company that is constantly evolving. As an organization, it is already well respected by the 1,300+ customers it serves and the 180,000 employees who call Wipro home. However, a company will only remain respected if it remains relevant. Wipro has made the investment to make sure its technologies and offerings are some of the best in the industry, and our customers are constantly looking to our teams to keep them ahead of the curve. My job as GCO is to make sure our worker experience is just as ahead of the curve and a role model for our clients.

I want to be clear -- this isn’t another ‘digital transformation’ initiative and it’s not about modernizing technology or systems (although that will be a component). It’s not “just an HR thing” focused on what new incentives or training programs we can put in place. Wipro already has award-winning programs in place. It’s more about how do we empower our people and teams across the world to move faster. It’s about challenging belief systems and eliminating organization friction.

While culture may sound soft and squishy, this new role will be anything but that for me. What we recommend and put in place will be based on research (such as the recent culture work of Harvard Business Review), best practices from thought leaders like Netflix’s Patty McCord, as well as hard-earned insights from a couple decades in the fast-paced startup world. Wipro’s leadership is very clear about its desire to be a leader in the digital era, and the research is clear that leadership and culture are intertwined.

I believe this will be a journey, not unlike my 4,204 day journey as the CEO of Appirio with ups, downs and everything in between. But at the end I believe we can create a worker experience and strategic culture that could set Wipro as a benchmark for other large, established companies who are quietly wondering whether or not it’s possible to shift culture at scale. There are few companies that have proactively evolved their culture and ways of working to continue their leadership, and I can’t wait for Wipro to be on that list.

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