There has been a lot of curiosity among our subscribers about HCL Software, ever since the news of HCL’s acquisition of several product portfolios from IBM closed on July 1, 2019.   We were pleased to have the opportunity recently to sit down with Darren Oberst, the head of HCL Software, and get answers to some of the questions that we have been hearing repeatedly.

As a nearly $10B global IT services powerhouse, why has HCL now moved into the software industry?

Over HCL’s more than 40-year history, we have expanded our offerings and re-invented our capabilities on several occasions.   We listen to our customers, assess evolving market trends, and look for under-served segments to apply our core competencies in new markets.   As an example, 15 years ago, we first launched our global remote infrastructure monitoring offerings, and began to compete against the global IT service giants.  Many people thought that we were crazy – but we built a strong playbook, differentiated value proposition, found creative ways to innovate in terms of technology and process, and built a multi-billion-dollar business from scratch that is today a global leader.   As we look at the software landscape, we see a similar opportunity.

Over the course of the IT industry, there are very few examples of services/consulting companies successfully moving into software – although most try at some point – why should customers believe that they can bet on you as a core strategic software provider?

First and foremost, our mantra is customer success.   One of HCL’s core values is “relationship beyond the contract.”   As a services company, every day, we have to face our customer, create value, and help our customer to work through problems. We understand that the pivotal moment in our relationship with a customer is not when they sign the contract and buy the software, but when they realize successful deployments – and continue to see value through meaningful high-impact product enhancements, expanded use cases, and new projects.

Second, we are approaching the software market with humility, and a mindset that we need to earn the trust of our customers and the larger market.   We are not focused on marketing hype, but rather on showing and delivering through our product roadmaps and our engagements with customers every day. We have greatly expanded our engineering and support teams for all of our products: AppScan, BigFix, Commerce, Connections, Digital Experience, Notes Domino and Unica to accelerate velocity. We’ve challenged our product managers to bring high impact “wow” features into every release, often times, in close consultation with leading customers and partners. We ask our customers to give us the opportunity to prove out that value every quarter as we deliver new releases into market and receive their feedback. We also work closely with them and our partners to upgrade to the newest versions and realize the value of new capabilities.

Third, this will not happen overnight.  We are in this for the long-term. Most of our largest customers and partners are relationships that we measure in decades – and we take pride in the trust and transparency of those relationships.   We aspire to be one of the best software companies in the world – driven by the quality and innovation of our products, realized in the value we deliver to our customers, and measured by leadership and growth across our key market segments.

You have mentioned partners a couple of times – we have heard some concerns from partners that HCL services may look to compete with them – how do you see partners fitting into your strategy?

In acquiring these products from IBM, we have been fortunate to also gain an extraordinary partner ecosystem who bring differentiated and unique solutions to their customers around the world, leveraging these products.   Our intention is to give those partners new and more offerings – with new major releases, new components, and new value-add programs – so that they can continue to grow their practices around these products. Every now and then, there may be overlap where HCL has a competing service offering, but that is truly the exception – in almost all areas, our partners provide unique capabilities that complement our products – and other HCL services.   In fact, we believe that there could be synergy in the reverse direction, in terms of offering ‘scale’ services capabilities to supplement and support our software product partner ecosystem.

What segments are key to your growth going forward?

We are a multi-product line business, focused on building market-leading capabilities in four major solution categories – Client Experience, Digital Solutions, DevSecOps, and Automation/Security.

How would you describe your technology and innovation strategy?

Our technical strategy can be summarized in three main points – Cloud Native, API First, and “trust and security in everything we do.”   Cloud Native and API First are the foundation of our architectural modernization strategy and ability to rapidly innovate new capabilities and components around our core products – it is also about giving choice to our customers, and recognizing that most customers want to avoid ‘lock-in’ and have the flexibility to control their data, mix-and-match among different tools, and to build their own solution architecture.   The principle of “trust and security in everything we do” is a wider mandate – and we see these issues as fundamental to the way that we build, test, and deliver our products, to the way that we establish trust with customers and handle their data, and to the features, capabilities and certifications that we apply in our product roadmaps.   

Given the heritage of the company, are you mostly in the U.S. or in India?

We are a global business – and very proud of that – we have key leaders and decision-makers in multiple countries around the world, along with an amazingly diverse global customer base.   To borrow a well-tread phrase, we want to be both “global” and “local” – to best meet the needs of our customers around the world.


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