Nurturing Value and Innovation with the Extended Team Model

Date:   Tuesday , December 10, 2013

Globalization has become a widespread and significant practice across a multitude of industries. In this flow, technology and software development companies have seen a prominent expansion globally, with a vast number of activities to manage in the midst of cut-through competition. There is a growing trend where software teams are distributed around the world, collaborating internally and externally with partner companies, subsidiaries and outsourcing service providers. Although outsourcing helps companies to focus on their core businesses, they are very cautious on trusting software development and outsourcing service providers on quality, time to market, costs and other factors. To gain the trust of clients and to help them remain ahead in the crowd, organizations are seeking new ways to work together by effectively connecting people, processes and technology. Having embodied this idea in its core is a unique company, ValueLabs. At the helm of this innovation is ArjunRao, CEO, ValueLabs, who has adopted a more collaborative approach, moving from typical offshore outsourcing towards a long-term partnership; going beyond client-vendor concepts with an Extended Team Model (ETM).

ValueLabs was started with just three employees operating from a dining table in a tiny apartment, in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad. However the trio had a clear philosophy. \"We believed that helping others achieve their goals would bring the organization closer to its own goal,\" reminisces Rao. This is how the company\'s vision to help clients unlock the true potential of global delivery by building world class extended teams was propounded. It is this thirst to aid clients in winning that has won ValueLabs over 150 satisfied customers.

With a 3000 strong workforce spread across 12 global offices, the company addresses the changing needs of clients in a highly diverse techno-centric world, and specializes in offering technology/process consulting, software product development, QA / testing, Remote Infrastructure Management (RIM) and Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) services to start-ups, mid-sized and multi-billion Dollar companies worldwide.

ETM: A Winning Model for Clients and Employees Alike
Outsourcing is no longer just about shifting the burden of finishing a task to the service provider. Clients are often inquisitive about the work progress and demand service deliveries within the stipulated time frame and quality standards. Their specifications come as a result of their concerns regarding the quality, time to market, competition, loss of opportunity, accurate decision making, rising costs, and reduced technology life cycle. To ease their angst it is important to harbor understanding, partnering and expanding the business effectively together with the service provider. This is where the ETM comes in. \"Through our extended team model of engagement, clients get the best of a captive center and an outsourced relationship. ETM helps clients to be allied to the outsourcing activity, where they influence the composition of the team, participate in the building of the team, set the operational agenda, play a part in attrition management, have complete visibility into the work progress and establish a personal rapport with every member of the team. This provides them a clear competitive advantage beyond traditional cost efficiencies\" explains Ram Manjeri, SVP Sales & Marketing. He has been with the company for a decade, and seen it grow over ten-fold in that time.

The ETM is not only beneficial for clients but also provides employees at ValueLabs the best of a \"small company environment\" and a \"large company stability\". When they are within their team, they have direct access to the senior members of the client and get visibility into the client\'s roadmap. They can build a personal rapport with the client who has full visibility into their work. An employee\'s individual work directly impacts the client\'s business, which brings them appreciation from the client and they have full scope for innovation. When they step outside the team, they are part of a large company (ValueLabs). They have the infrastructure, the growth opportunities, the facilities (including extensive training) and the branding associated with any established company. ValueLabs makes sure that there is minimal hierarchy in the company and employees are not reduced to an ID number. It provides the employees the best of both worlds. Recognized among the 50 \"Best Companies to Work for\" in India, by \'The Great Place to Work Institute\' in 2009, the company makes best efforts to make available the required infrastructure, growth opportunities, facilities, training, branding and so on to ensure continuous learning and development of the employees. Attrition at ValueLabs has been in the single digits (percentage) for 15 out of the 16 years that it has been in existence; far below industry averages.

ValueLabscontinuously aspires to add value to the services with quick ramp-up of teams, process maturity, quality of output, ability to innovate, retention of employees and proactive measures to solve customer problems. The organization has been successfully working with customers on \"extended team\" model since inception and today, over 90 percent of its business gets transacted in this manner. ValueLabs was also one of the first companies to identify QA as a separate practice.

ValueLabs believes in helping clients always stay ahead of the technology curve and thus constantly innovates to keep the organization abreast of the latest technological innovations. It was also recently recognized as one of the Top 100 Global Services Providers and a leader in the Specialty Application Development and Management (ADM) category. ValueLabs has a rich expertise across a broad spectrum of programming languages, platforms, databases, frameworks and tools, and strives hard to provide flexibility to accommodate clients\' way-of-working, in line with their unique business processes, requirements and goals.

Staying True to its Culture of Innovation and Values
ValueLabs\' sterling success has come its way owing to the deeply ingrained values and culture that runs deep in the company\'s DNA. The founding team\'s belief that, \'Helping others achieve their goals would bring the organization closer to its own goal\' has helped the company stand out from the clutter of the IT services industry. The organization strongly believes that genuinely helping someone would bring good things to the organization as well and is committed to building true and enduring partnerships with clients and employees, growing with purpose, ethically approaching every aspect and being aware of its social responsibilities. ValueLabs\' core team nurtures a positive culture with rich principles and values of commitment, trust and engagement.
Along with this, the company is motivated by a value system comprising of fundamental human qualities like honesty, passion, responsiveness, flexibility, respect, strength, perfection and so on. Whether it\'s a customer, an employee or a supplier, the company approaches them with same philosophy. \"Our culture is the foundation of our success. A character energy that permeates across our company promotes excellence through trust, pride and teamwork. Our unique culture drives our ability to effectively harmonize the three cornerstones of success people, process and technology,\" explains Rao with a smile.

Well aware of its responsibilities towards society, ValueLabs undertakes various CSR activities to help the underprivileged. It works to help roadside destitutes, upgrade rural education, supporteducation of the girl child through programs like \'Nanhi Kali\' and many more. It also supports various schools for the under privileged through sponsorships and financial assistance to pursue further studies. Rao and his team have been working closely with organizations like \'Rural Development Foundation\' (RDF), Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation, Ramakrishna Mission, the Khan Academy and others to help the needy and neglected.

The Client Centric Approach
Staying true to its name, ValueLabs believes that it has only two stakeholders- the clients and the employees. The organization leaves no stones unturned to help them grow and achieve their goals. Initially the company aims to execute the work at the highest level of quality, on time and within budget. As the company gets to know the client, it starts looking at the threats and opportunities facing the client in its market place, and finds innovative solutions to address those proactively even before they arise. \"We put in our best efforts for customers to get teams that always go an extra mile to advance their businesses. As a company, we take a very long-term view to each and every relationship. We invest time and effort that we know is required for the relationship to mature,\" says Manjeri.

Bringing a fresh perspective to every engagement, the organization aims at delivering practical innovation and enhancing the value of services multi-fold. The ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 27001:2005 company has built strong and long lasting relations best evidenced by a high percentage of repeat business and the number of referrals received every year from satisfied clientele. Over 15 of its more than 150 clients consider ValueLabs a strategic partner and the average tenure of these engagements is more than seven year, which is a commendable achievement. The above average staff retention and longevity provides immense confidence to customers to make investments with ValueLabs earning excellent RoI. \"As long as we are true to our culture, which espouses (among other things) transparency, honesty, hard work, flexibility, responsiveness and perfection, we will retain the client and the employee,\" adds Rao.

With a strong presence in different verticals like telecom, healthcare, media and entertainment, travel & logistics and others,the company has a well-built clientele base that considers it a major growth partner. For instance, the company has a long standing relationship with a leading consumer e-commerce site that has over 100 million registered users . With a presence in over 20 countries, the client has a highly fluctuating business throughout the year and needs 4-5 times extra support during peak times which is entirely managed by ValueLabs. With a team of over 300 people present across all aspects of product delivery and support,ValueLabs has played a key part in initiating the mobility side of this client\'s business by proactively coming up with various recommendations / POCs and has been able to maintain a 14 year long relationship with the client. Other than this the company\'s customers include UK\'s largest merchant service provider, one of the biggest retailers in the world, one of the largest global market research companies, the top online photo services company, the number one human capital management solutions provider, one of the top global mobile handset manufacturers, one of the largest and oldest publishing companies in the world, a leading low cost airline in India and many others.

The Way Forward
Endeavoring to reach new heights, the organization is on a steep growth trajectory. Right from inception it has been cashflow positive,including during the most difficult periods of the industry,maintaining a CAGR of more than 50 percent. The company is a staunch believer of innovation and makes significant investments in new development facilities, including one designed specifically for agile development. ValueLabs is also extending its traditional suite of offerings to include social, mobility, analytics and cloud solutions and has launched products in this space,particularly for telecom, transport, logistics and telematics domains. Assessed at CMMI L3 (V1.3), as well as HIPAA / SSAE 16 (erstwhile SAS 70 Type II) compliant for its Healthcare practice, the organization has a good deal of management attention directed to building competency in domains like pharma, healthcare and media.

Recognizing opportunities in big data and in-memory computing, the company is building capability and making investments in these areas. It has also been investing in a Mobility Lab and a Social Listening / Intelligence Centre to address growing requirements of clients. Consideringits large 150 plus happy customer base as one of the key asset, Manjeri envisions ValueLabs to be their preferred business transformation partners and maintain long term valuable relations. Towards this objective, the company has built a consulting team with strong technology and domain knowledge to address specific industry pain areas with a vision to double the size of operationsin the near future.