Bangalore: As the chief information officer of Dell Inc., the computer maker that is looking to go private in a $24.5 billion deal, Adriana Karaboutis is a billion dollar customer for many information technology (IT) firms, including some from India. In an interview, she talked about what Indian IT firms can do to compete more effectively globally and whether what Dell’s plans of going private mean for her work. Edited excerpts:
Dell is a consumer and also seller of technology products. What does it really mean for your role and how do you balance that role as a CIO?
What it means is as the CIO of any company, you try to bring in the best technology, drive the most efficiency, the most productivity, the most innovation and enable the business strategy for the company you work for. That remains my first and foremost priority. Now you think about the context of, I am the CIO of Dell, which is an end-to-end services and solutions company, and it says that we have some great products that I can use. I become the customer of our company and I consume the products. In doing this, I am able to become a reference account for our own sales teams. And by the way, I am a billion-dollar customer because I consume billion dollar worth of IT resource if you will in terms of hardware, software, services and all of that tied together in solutions.
So, I am proud to say in all our acquisitions I use our Dell services...; we also partner with other external suppliers. We partner with ...Oracle, Microsoft, and some other companies and then we become customers to them while they’re also customers for us and also the market.
What kind of complexity you deal with as CIO of Dell?
I think it’s a tough job being a CIO, but for a technology company it’s the most complex, the toughest in many ways, and it’s also the most exciting because if you think about the fact that we’ve got before the portfolio of products, it’s almost as if I’m in a playpen with so many toys to use that we can try and shift and drive . So it’s very exciting, especially when you’re in an organization where the leadership really fosters that innovation, “try it”, “ok to fail”, “do something new”. So it gives me a lot of runway but it’s hard. I won’t lie to you.
We have 104,000 employees. We’re in 167 countries, we’ve got 3,000 or so applications inclusive of our acquisition applications. We have 27,000 servers and we deal with petabytes of data.
Do you work with any of the Indian IT companies as partners?
We work with a number of partners and whoever’s the best in solution and helping us solve our problems. Dell Services is the India company I work with. It’s a great Indian company.
If you were to look at the Indian IT industry, companies are trying to figure out what to do next. What should they?
I think the days of speed and feed we’ve seen before are gone, I think days of we’ll manage your mess for less is gone. I think what we’re looking for in Indian IT companies and in general is innovation, value creation and ... skin in the game. Don’t come give me a fixed price, tell me time and material price for what we need, etc. Come tell me with conviction how you can help me create value for me as a company and what’s your skin in the game. You’ll keep a percentage if it succeeds, you’ll get nothing if it doesn’t. Those are the models I would go for at this point.
Has life really changed for you since Dell announced plans of going private?
When I was at General Motors, it was a public company that became a private company. Candidly, for me in the IT organization, the priorities remain the same, the agenda remains the same on deliverables, and the transformations. I’m just drawing on my experience. I can tell you that we stayed the course and things that needed to be done (got done).