Lancesoft: Conforming to Change
Date: Tuesday , December 27, 2005
For an entrepreneur to go after an idea; form a business plan; build a team and to establish an organization is a road usually taken to reach greater success and the final dream.
Many organizations have failed despite boasting a great idea, team or plan. But choosing a path that requires continuous self-discovery and redefining over time, is a road less traveled. While IT Services companies were going down in 2001, one small company with less than 40 people was gaining momentum.
It was not the money or business plan but the business principles and personal relationship that anchored Lancesoft Inc. a professional IT solutions company.
When Ram Karuppusamy, Chairman and CEO, Lancesoft Inc., founded the company in 2000, little did he think he would go through a path of discovery. His journey began when he was consulting at MCI Telecom, during the five-year stint he realized his inherent ability to manage teams, mentor people and bring about a synergy between the technical and the business aspects of the project. Thus was born the idea behind Lancesoft.
The company started with personal contacts, previous employers, vendors and social relationships. While the business picked up, the market was heading toward the bust.
Realizing the downturn, Karuppusamy quickly switched gears to flow with the market where there is momentum. The company until then focused heavily on professional services began going after the SMEs as a solution provider.
The SME telecom and insurance market was a stable bet for Lancesoft. It trageted companies with $50 million revenue and above. “Among the SMEs the decision-making is faster, the sales cycle was quicker and we could have direct access to the decision makers,” says the CEO.
By the end of 2002, the company had grown to 40 people and Karuppusamy was busy switching roles between CEO and sales. With ripe skepticism in the industry, organizations depended heavily on referrals. For Lancesoft, it was long past hurdle since by then 90 percent of business for Lancesoft was coming through referrals. “It was a key issue for most businesses at that time, but when a referral comes to us it means 90 percent of the hurdle is crossed,” adds Karuppusamy.
By 2003, this Virginia based IT solutions provider, was a well-oiled machine, a flat organization sans hierarchical charts, the company was getting more business than it could handle. Karuppusamy, once again steered a new path, redefined the company goals and expanded its service offerings. “With more business, we expanded our services, the support team and the infrastructure internally. We also brought in financing options to support and sustain the growth,” he adds.
It was during this time the company felt the need for a CFO, until then managed by Karuppusamy. “Until then we did not invest and plan ahead, we used credit cards, personal credit line and loans to finance the company.” But by August 2003, the company became a financially planned organization with reserves and investment, Karuppusamy says.
With the fluidity to adapt to market needs and having redefined itself at every pivotal moment in the industry, this year Lancesoft was ranked in the Delloite Technology Top 50 companies in Virginia, the company was also ranked thirty fifth in IT Solutions in the U.S. by Inc. 500. With this growth and recognition Karuppusamy lists empowerment and accountability; ethics, and execution as some of the key things his team fostered in the organization.
Empowerment and Accountability
The company from day one has invested in fostering leaders internally. Mentoring programs allows building trust and empowering the team leading to less stress and more productivity. “We build trust and empower our employees from day one, with trust people don’t have to worry about their career paths and salary,” points our Karuppusamy.
As a company with no concept of multi-layer management, Lancesoft does not like to micro manage projects. “When we assign task to someone we can be assured its done,” he says marking his words on accountability from his team.
A rather intriguing concept, ethics is always table stakes, its given that business will be conducted with utmost honesty. But Karuppusamy feels, “Putting it down in paper, brings the assurance and wipes out that slight hesitation buried deep down in one’s thought.” He says it was during the dotcom boom and bust, organizations were churning and burning employees the wrong way that led to widespread trust issues and he felt the need to have it etched.
As a growing organization we were clear about our standards and the way we conduct business and follow it religiously. “Today the very ethics is our highest selling point among our clients, something intriguing and open,” he adds.
The concept of fair play is so widespread in the organization that, the famous quote among employees in the organization goes, “Don’t do anything wrong today that will come back and haunt us in the future.”
While company fosters leadership, the CEO feels bringing synergy and cross working between teams is very important. There is constant interaction among the sales and the tech teams, which allows for a greater understanding of each other’s needs. Karuppusamy also says such an environment allows for a free flow of information.
Execution is a mainstay and one of LanceSoft’s core competencies. Lacking this integral part of the equation, the organization becomes a paper tiger. Instead, much emphasis is placed on shouldering the responsibility and delivering. Given the CEO’s vision for flexible cross-functional teams, combined with a very flat leadership, the result is an interoperable stand-alone organization designed for clarity of purpose and determination to successfully overcome any challenge.
Today Lancesoft employs around 1200 people with 700 spread across 12 centers in the U.S. and 500 in Chennai, Hyderabad and Trichy in India. Here again, the Chief brings in the need to adapt, the company established the Indian arm only four years after inception in the U.S. In an environment were an Indian office is considered to be advantageous, Lancesoft waited until September 2004, to add the delivery center as a strategic partner to deliver state of the art Offshore Technology Services for all software development projects at the ISO 9001:2000 offshore center in Chennai, India. “We understand every client’s requirement for enhancing product and service quality by improving their Software Product Development and Quality Assurance Process,” adds Karuppusamy.
“Our past experience in handling the Product Development and Testing requirements should make us an automatic choice for Offshore Technology Services for our prospect Clients,’ he adds.
A well-documented Application Development and SQA methodologies executed by Lancesoft guarantee improved Development and SQA service levels for clients. Moreover, Lancesoft OTS model of operations provides the opportunity to realize substantial cost-savings during their product development and support offshore. There is an anticipated savings between 45-60 percent that help our customers launch more competitive products in the market.
When it comes to providing solutions Lancesoft maintains well-documented IT Solutions portfolio in the form of case studies. With about 2000 case studies on different technologies and verticals where the company has executed work, Karuppusamy feels they always have something very close to what the customer needs. “Keeping in mind every customer is unique with specifics needs and approach, we use these case studies only as a base to get started,” he says.
To document customer solutions, the company has setup a knowledge management team, which carefully captures every details and solutions of every project for future reference. “These case studies serve as selling point among our clients,” he adds. Just as product companies invest in R&D the company invests in knowledge management.
The company today focuses on telecom and insurance industries and execute work based on Java and .Net platforms, Lancesoft solutions can be nailed on application development, document management and building solutions.
Talking about competition, Karuppusamy says, “so far our area of concentration has been in niche areas, and have faced minimal competition from the biggies like the Infosys or Wipro’s of the world.” But, that may soon change. LanceSoft Federal Solutions is poised to enter the U.S. markets in the early quarter of ’06. The federal business sector is simply too large to ignore and provides and opportunity to again diversify the LanceSoft portfolio. To this end, Karuppusamy began investing; developing network and recruiting talent; and gained knowledge about the defense landscape and envisions new horizons. Ideally, LanceSoft will garner a niche market while supporting industry giants. Regardless, this tireless CEO views the future on a grand scale, measuring success and relationships over the long haul.
Though Karuppusamy acknowledge that with growing opportunities, new ideas will germinate along with new companies, he feels, Lancesoft is agile to adapt to market needs and will continue to charter its course along with times.