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Satyam and the ‘Shadow Board'

Zafar Anjum | March 14, 2011
Beleaguered Indian IT Services giant Satyam recently announced it is making a comeback towards greater stability and success, but acknowledges that its leaders and employees have their work cut out.

“These are four key issues we have been looking at: growth, profitability, customer delight and employee delight. These are the mantras of our turn-around strategy.”

Satyam, in Gandhi’s words, embarked on a number of good strategies to maneuver the company to profitability. “Our CEO started a shadow board,” Gandhi said. He explained the rationale. “IT services companies are typically very young companies. The average age in such companies ranges between the 20s and early 30s. On the other hand, the average age of the board is 60. They are very wise people but the thought leaders in the organization are younger people. So, the CEO picked up 10 most promising young people. The cut off age was 35. In this new arrangement, the CEO reports the quarterly results to both the main board and the shadow board. And the shadow board comes out with its own set of suggestions.”

Gandhi gave some examples of the ideas that originated from Mahindra Satyam’s shadow board. “The idea of our using social media tools for marketing, both within and outside the organization, came from the shadow board,” says Gandhi. “They actually drove it. They come up with many other interesting ideas. For example, we are configuring a service in Australia which is basically a business process outsourcing service called ‘social media listening’. This service can give daily reports to a company about the chatter on its social media activities, that is, what its customers and stakeholders are saying about it. The payment is on a per transaction basis. Our logic behind this is that when the social media monitoring volume grows, companies don’t need to deploy a separate department to do this.

“The shadow board at Satyam works on an annual basis. The first board has now retired and the second one is on now.”

Branding: FIFA and the cloud

For branding purposes, Satyam hitched its wagon to Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). The tech company handled the IT for the FIFA world cup last year. “For FIFA we did two things,” says Gandhi. “One, we did the entire IT for FIFA. We deployed it using the cloud. It was the world’s biggest sporting event with three million eyeballs watching the matches everyday. The entire application was built using agile methodologies. Because of cloud deployment and agile methodologies, the overall cost of ownership or running the system was pretty low. Two, we also set up a call centre in South Africa supporting seven different languages.”


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