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Chapter 17 Starts

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WOW. What a ride!

I write this as I complete Chapter 16; namely, my time at CSC comes to a close.

Infochimps, a CSC Company

I think back to the day I called Mike Lawrie, CEO of CSC, back in June 2013. I was the CEO of Infochimps, a Big Data Cloud company.

Me: “Mike, I’m looking to expand my board as we prepare to close our Series B financing.”

Mike: “Jim, I can’t take any board positions myself. I’m busy with CSC. What is it you guys do?”

As I explained my fledgeling startup business, it became clear to me that Mike and his senior team were investing into Big Data, the space I was disrupting.

Mike: “Jim, you need to talk to Dan Hushon, our CTO. It sounds like what you’re doing in building out a network of datacenters with Big Data analytic services is exactly what we need to do with our 50 CSC datacenters.”

Me: “Sorry Mike, you’re too big. Talk  to me in two years.”

Having done this several times, I knew that big companies don’t always partner well with small companies. Fast forward to my discussion with Dan Hushon. He and I aligned around the use of SUPERNAPS (datacenters that are certified Tier IV in both design and facility categories) to deploy data analytics services to Global 3000 customers who had already begun their journey in datacenter modernization, consolidation and datacenter outsourcing. The idea of co-locating our analytics services with the data already housed in CSC’s datacenters made sense. But…

Dan: “You guys are doing exactly what we need to do. How can we work together?”

Me: “Forget it. I told Mike the same thing. Talk to us in two years. We’re closing a round of financing. Let us ramp a bit and we’ll reengage later.”

Dan: “We should just buy you.”

After that comment, the CSC chapter began. I had realized quickly that we had positioned ourselves perfectly in the market and that it aligned 100% with CSC. We were acquired by CSC August 5th, 2013, in order to begin disrupting the CSC client base with a new Big Data Platform as a Service offering.

I had created a carefully architected 6-month integration plan that started with partnering with CSC for one quarter, followed carefully with the integration into their Big Data & Analytics business unit in the second quarter.

Big Data & Analytics

After a successful integration of Infochimps, I was ready to leave. I had finished my job establishing Infochimps as the engine for the BD&A business unit growth (over 50% YoY), adding the Big Data Platform as a Service to its offering mix. The various business functions of Infochimps were carefully assimilated into their corresponding BU business functions – marketing, sales, consulting, delivery, offering/product management, etc. Then it came time for my next conversation with Mike at a CSC sales conference in May 2014.

Mike: “I understand you’re ready to leave.”

Me: “Yeah. I’ve completed my integration.”

Mike: “I have another idea. How about you run the Big Data & Analytics BU for me?”

Me: “Why me Mike? My profile is more aligned to being the CEO of an emerging company. I’ve finished my job here.”

Mike: “Our biggest challenge at CSC, moving forward, will be it’s culture. I need leadership that understands how to energize the workforce with vision and execution that helps us shift from ‘optimizing’ to ‘growth’.”

Me: “Shifting from the ‘old CSC culture’ to the ‘new CSC culture’….from ‘optimizing’ to ‘growth’….hmmm. Ok, I’m in.”

I then spent the next 18 months leading the fastest growing segment of CSC. I was a part of Mike’s executive management system for the entire time. This turned out to be the most amazing experience an executive could have. People, in general, have inflection points in their careers, being influenced by an individual/mentor, a significant event in the business, something life-changing. Well, I’d put this experience in that category.

I’m still amazed with Lawrie’s management system which facilitated the most amazing turn-around one could witness first hand. Taking over a company that had many silos globally with virtually no visibility into their businesses, 15 layers of over 370 VPs, no money on the balance sheet, bad credit….a company that was, essentially, near bankruptcy. I can imagine the conversations with the Board when Mike first came in. If I had been a fly on the wall, I could imagine hearing:

“I give us a 25% probability of turning this around.”

The stock went from $27 at the time of his announcement to an all-time high of $70 just before the split of CSC and CSRA. Mike managed to reduce management layers to just 8, reduced some 370 VPs down to 70 with 50 of which who were new,  replaced the entire senior team, put $2B on the balance sheet, and then delivered 9.5% EBITA with renewed credit ratings. Every business function inside the company was reinvented. CSC’s market cap was around $4B just before he took over and it rose to over $9.8B by the time of the split. Creating almost $6B in shareholder value is not achieved by many.

Witnessing this transformation as part of his senior team is also not experienced by many – this was not only an opportunity…it was a privilege.

Digital Applications

As my contributions to the BD&A business within the Emerging Business Group (EBG) came to a close in August 2015, I was once again planning my departure….my second attempt to leave.

At this time, Mike and members of the senior team where planning the combination of two parts of the business that later became the Digital Applications business. I was approached by two of Mike’s EVPs – Jim Smith, EVP of Global Business Services, and Dave Zolet, EVP of the Americas Region. As I saw it, I could either leave to find a mid-size company to lead as the CEO, or accept an increase in responsibility at CSC and work for a couple dynamic EVPs. Long story short, both Jim and Dave convinced me to help them.

Jim Smith: “I want to work with you Jim. Help us with the largest square in the business.”

In September 2015, we were tasked with combining what was the Enterprise Consulting business with the Applications business – a combined $2B business globally and $1B in the Americas.

Bumping into Mike in the hallways at the corporate offices in Falls Church, Virginia, Mike catches me talking to the head of Digital Application HR talking about….yeap, my favorite topic: Cultural change.

I had just finished with my offsite with my senior team of over 20 people in the newly formed Digital Applications organization (later expanded to over 35 direct reports). I’m giving the head of HR my typical cordial hello….in this case a hug, talking about organizational changes which I was pondering for Q4 (the new business unit was only formed at the beginning of Q3 and I needed 3 months to get the “house in order”).

Mike approaches, seeing me and the head of HR, and he mimics the HR VP and me by putting his arms out. So why not, I turn and give Mike a hug as well, suddenly feeling awkward. If you have worked with Mike, you’ll appreciate it when I say, this was probably a first (at least publicly). In any case, Mike and I have a brief  exchange:

Mike: “We’re counting on you. You have a huge challenge on your hands.”

Me: “I know. I won’t let you down.”

Well, Mike wasn’t kidding. I had 7,000 challenges on my hands. That was the size of the team, and we needed to come together under a new suite of application services that aligned with our customer’s need to manage their portfolios holistically.

I was leading a business that was predominantly time & material (“staff aug”) across over a 100 of the fortune 500 in the Americas. Application portfolios varied in where they fell in their  life cycle and what platform they were deployed on.

Application platforms included legacy on IBM, SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft. We also began seeing some emerging next-gen enterprise SaaS applications using Workday, Salesforce, and ServiceNow.

The biggest opportunity in a business like this was to focus on what I described as “Talent Solutions”. This meant improving our ability to recruit, onboard, and place talent into our existing accounts. I figured that I could grow the staff aug business by 5% versus the consulting business by 20% and achieve the same business impact. However, as many in the business know, growing a headcount business by 5% differs quite a bit when compared to driving differentiating C-suite consulting services by 20%. In the end, the reality is that you need to do both.

Fast forward to the end of Q3, we managed to get line of sight to as much as 12% growth in the core business (not counting the typical terminations, or general one-timers). Everyone understands that customer happiness = protected base (no terminations, no completions without follow-on work, no price-downs, etc.). So, besides the typical operational hygiene improvements, we focused on the real jewel…a breakthrough opportunity.

If we inspired our workforce to embrace a culture of creativity, innovation, “glass-half full” thinking, we could inspire our customers. Our customers would begin thinking that the culture of CSC was becoming more aligned with their success. This meant moving from a position as a “vendor” to a position as a “strategic partner”. By the end of Q3, the Digital Applications team took this from concept to reality….and customers noticed, accounts began to see us differently. In fact, we began to see ourselves differently.

Why Chapter 17?

So why leave CSC now? The momentum sounds positive, and the experience great. Well, I come back to the culture thing – and in my case, the difference between managers and leaders.

I digress a little. The main difference is that leaders have people follow them while managers have people who work for them. The manager’s job is to plan, organize and coordinate. The leader’s job is to inspire and motivate. In his 1989 book “On Becoming a Leader,” Warren Bennis composed a list of the differences:

  • The manager administers; the leader innovates.
  • The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.
  • The manager maintains; the leader develops.
  • The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.
  • The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
  • The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.
  • The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
  • The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon.
  • The manager imitates; the leader originates.
  • The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.
  • The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.
  • The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.

In short, I aspire to lead. I’m off to Chapter 17, which will have much more leadership than management in it. The ride was great, but it’s time to get back to disruption and leadership ;-)

Also, for those interested. Here is a recap of my “chapters”:

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Jim Kaskade

Jim Kaskade currently leads Janrain, the category creator of Consumer Identity & Access Management (CIAM). We believe that your identity is the most important thing you own, and that your identity should not only be easy to use, but it should be safe to use when accessing your digital world. Janrain is an Identity Cloud servicing Global 3000 enterprises providing a consistent, seamless, and safe experience for end-users when they access their digital applications (web, mobile, or IoT).

Prior to Janrain, Jim was the VP & GM of Digital Applications at CSC. This line of business was over $1B in commercial revenue, including both consulting and delivery organizations and is focused on serving Fortune 1000 companies in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. Prior to this, Jim was the VP & GM of Big Data & Analytics at CSC. In his role, he led the fastest growing business at CSC, overseeing the development and implementation of innovative offerings that help clients convert data into revenue. Jim was also the CEO of Infochimps; Entrepreneur-in-Residence at PARC, a Xerox company; SVP, General Manager and Chief of Cloud at SIOS Technology; CEO at StackIQ; CEO of Eyespot; CEO of Integral Semi; and CEO of INCEP Technologies. Jim started his career at Teradata where he spent ten years in enterprise data warehousing, analytical applications, and business intelligence services designed to maximize the intrinsic value of data, servicing fortune 1000 companies in telecom, retail, and financial markets.

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