Top 4 IT takeaways from Tata’s tech guy

TCS House, headquarters of Tata Consulting Services

TCS House, headquarters of Tata Consultancy Services

The debate is over when it comes to cloud deployment. That decision — to move — has been made and it’s time to talk about other things, according to Dr. Gautam Shroff, VP of Tata Consultancy Services and the head of the TCS Innovation Lab in Delhi.
In a recent interview with GigaOM, Shroff shared what he sees from his vantage point at Tata, the giant global IT services and consulting company.  And it is global: Mumbai-based TCS fields 214,000 IT consultants in 42 countries — including 17 U.S. offices — and 19 Innovation Labs.  TCS is the largest of the Indian IT services behemoths and the 16th largest in the world with just over $9 billion in revenue in 2011, according to Gartner(s it) research. That figure represents a near 30 percent growth rate over the previous year.

1. The “should we should go to the cloud” discussion is over — move on

“The cloud story is a little old now. People have figured out what they need to do and where they need to go with the whole private and public cloud discussion,” Shroff said. But remember, the motivator is not cost — it’s speed, agility and accessibility of locally distributed applications using the public cloud, he said.

2. Big data remains big

If you don’t think so, just look at what’s happened in the vendor community. Teradata(s tdc) bought Aster, EMC(s emc) bought Greenplum, IBM(s ibm) brought Netezza. There’s a reason for that: They’re all looking at the challenge big data poses to the traditional business intelligence stack, Shroff said. New tools are needed as companies realize they need to analyze data from the outside — from social networks etc. — along with their internal supply chain data. The challenge lies in the middle of those data types. Data mining has been used for 20 years or more but not optimally because before now the data wasn’t widely available, except maybe in retail. Now it is.

3. Social media needs to come in-house

Company employee portals are doing a little bit with social media but should be doing a lot more. Tata itself has a social media platform — a sort of internal Facebook/Twitter-like platform for community building and learning. “We want to marry this with our e-mail world seamlessly” so posts have all the connotations needed for people to understand the context, he said. Toward that end, Tata is building Knome which supports user Q&A, debates, shared media, and “Twitter-style” status messages.That enables ad hoc groups to form and disband as needed to get projects done.
Tata has deployed 100,000 people on the Knome framework in the past three or four years.

4. The commercial world needs to tap academic research better

Innovation is not coming from enterprise IT, it’s happening in the consumer realm and in academia. University research has a lot to offer and companies need to better exploit that resource, Shroff said. TCS, for example, works with Stanford University researchers on the analytics and database sides. “We need to bridge the gap between what’s written in the books and what’s happening in products,” he said.