Interview Excerpts: Sri Manchala, CEO Today Magazine, May 2020


Sri Manchala is the Chairman & CEO of Trianz, a member of the Forbes Technology Council and author of Crossing the Digital Faultline- 10 Leadership Rules to Win in the Age of Digitalization & Uncertainty. Having led Trianz since its founding in 2001, Sri has overseen its growth to approximately 1,500 consultants worldwide and its positioning as a pioneer in using data-driven strategies to drive change, modernization, digital relevance and sustainable growth for clients.

Sri began championing a new vision for the firm in 2015 and has overseen a total migration of its portfolio to digital benchmarking, transformation strategy, business model and operations reengineering, deployment of digital solutions and experiences leveraging technology pillars such as the cloud, enterprise analytics, applications, infrastructure and cyber-security. In 2017 Sri launched the world’s largest study on digital transformations covering 18 industries worldwide, 5,000+ companies and all major roles in the enterprise. This has resulted in the creation of one of the world’s largest databases on transformations which has begun to power the firm’s vision, strategy and transformation as well as that of its clients.

We sat down with Sri and asked him few questions to understand his perspectives on digital transformations, the impact of COVID-19 on digitalization and what powers the success of the firm and its clients.

Q: How do you define digital transformation?

The worldview around digital transformation is that it is a technology problem. I personally did not and still do not believe in the hype of technology being the panacea to the transformation opportunity and challenge. But as we began making the transition from 2015 onwards, I felt that we must first understand the phenomena much better so that we are ready to place ourselves in a position to advice clients and provide services that truly delivered outcomes.

Between 2017-2019, we conducted a worldwide study on digital transformations to get a sense of what they meant to leaders who undertake them, what their current status was, how they were prioritizing across their organizations, what the transformation cycles looked like, what technologies they were investing in and how prepared they were on the human dimension. Termed as the Trasers Global Transformation Survey (TGTS), the study grew organically spanning 18 industries, companies of all size segments and roles across the enterprise. We ultimately received responses from 9,000+ executives across 5,000+ companies, collecting over 1.5 million data points. So, the first element of our capabilities is a data-driven understanding of digital transformations worldwide. I define digital transformation in one sentence

“It is the reimagination of products and services from a customer point of view and the reinvention of the company’s value chain to deliver consistent and connected experiences to all stakeholders involved in a process.”

Q: What inspired you to write Crossing the Digital Faultline?

Visit Amazon and you will find numerous books written about digital transformations. They usually paint a sci-fi view of the future or how to use technology to bring about change or why companies fail. My intent was to find out why 7% of companies succeed? What sets them apart? What do they do differently and so on…?

To get to where we did as a firm, I heavily relied on the analyses about digital transformations put together by our Trasers staff. I overlaid my personal experiences and the stages of Trianz’ evolution and numerous conversations with senior clients. One thing led to the other and what stood out was that the common thread connecting the 7% of organizations that succeeded fully was the comprehension of change, the persona, style and a new set of rules these leaders play by.

The more traditional a company is, the higher the likelihood that its value proposition will be simply made obsolete by the tech industry or industry startups. I can say from first-hand experience that the task of transforming is a very-very hard one and it has been made even more difficult because of COVID-19. If companies and leaders don’t act quickly with a structured approach- decades of hard-earned shareholder value will change hands, organizations will perish, and jobs will be lost.

Crossing the Digital Faultline is a contribution to help streamline the efforts of business and IT leaders who are leading transformations, particularly those who are in traditional industries and companies. (digitalfaultline.com)

Q: What is the effect of COVID on digital transformations?

I began writing the book after analyzing the data in the summer of 2019. As COVID unfolded, I had to reassess the direction, scope and pace of transformations due to this new dimension. I have explored this in a lot of detail in Crossing the Digital Faultline. In a nutshell, COVID-19 creates a discontinuous shift within a discontinuous shift. Meaning, if we are beginning to see non-linear changes in business models, products and services due to changing customer behaviors and enabling technologies- we now have COVID creating an acceleration. It is like sitting in a movie theater which is already dark, staring at a screen not knowing what happens next. All of a sudden, the screen becomes dark, there are no other lights and no sound. We are all in that moment- and we don’t know if the same movie will be played or whether it will resume from the same point.

There is also a huge operational risk. For example- we just published a report titled the “COVID Proof IT Organization” (https://www.trianz.com/covid19-report) based on data collected in the last 2 months from over 300 IT leaders worldwide. We see that only 9% of them were fully prepared for a pandemic and we created the DNA of a pandemic proof IT organization. These companies have invested heavily in the cloud moving their data and applications to the cloud, in enterprise analytics and other specific areas highlighted in the report. So, another effect of COVID is a strain on a company’s ability to maintain safe and secure business continuity and remote working environments for a sustained period.

In a nutshell, the effect of COVID will vary by industry but overall, we will see acceleration of the pace. It will be devastating for traditional and generally unprepared companies.

Crossing the Digital Faultline is a journey across and away from the earthquake of disruption and uncertainty, to a zone of control and predictability. Unifying the style mastered by the successful 7% and principles he learned in the military, Manchala presents a new leadership persona—the Methodical Innovator—and a practical, 120-day action plan for readers to make a personal transition to crisis-proof leadership.

Let your journey begin.

©2020 Sri Manchala, All Rights Reserved