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Tech Talk: Lean IT

Lean IT’s core idea is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. To simply put it, lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources. Maurice Boon, Executive Vice President and Jeffrey Doss, Regional Director of Quint Wellington Redwood talks about current and future trends on Lean IT, IT governance and Outsourcing.


Media interview with Quint Group’s Executive Vice President Consulting and Managing Director (Netherlands) Maurice Boon and Regional Director Jeffrey Doss.

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Following is the full transcription of the interview.


Host: Good afternoon. This is Tech Talk, and my name is Jeff Sandhu. Lean IT's core idea is to maximise customer value while minimising waste. To simply put it, "lean" means "creating more value for customers with fewer resources", and today I am speaking to Maurice Boon, the Executive Vice President and Jeffrey Doss, the Regional Director for Quint Wellington Redwood, to talk about the current and future trends on Lean IT, IT governance and also outsourcing.

Globally, Quint Wellington Redwood is known as an independent consulting firm dedicated to resolving IT-related organisations' challenges. Now, you operate in more than 49 countries, including Malaysia, so tell me a little bit more about Quint - the services you offer, and what is your proposition.

Maurice: Quint is a company which was founded about 25 years ago in Amsterdam. Now, we have offices in over ten countries all around the world - including Malaysia, which we see as an important hub for the Asia region. From out of Asia, we are servicing clients like the big global telco companies, global insurance companies. I must say, my friend Jeffrey is doing a very good job.

Jeffrey: Oh, thank you very much! We learn from the boss.

Host: So, what kind of services, then, do you offer?

Jeffrey: Well, in Asia, basically, it's a little bit different from Europe - I mean, in Europe, we offer the entire full suite. In Malaysia, we have to pick and choose in terms of what we think is the [unclear] in terms of our offering. At the moment, of course, there is service management - which is, of course, the core of kind of what Quint does; it is what we feel is the starting point. But now, we are starting to see that everybody is looking towards making things more efficient - faster, meaner, stronger. Lean IT is obviously something that is now very, very - how shall I say? - people are very interested, and it's very encouraging.

Host: Let's just talk a bit more about Malaysia. So, how important is Malaysia or South East Asia in your global operations?

Maurice: From a global point of view - especially from a global sourcing point of view - Asia is one of the most important hubs in our global strategy. We cover the US, we cover Europe, and we cover Asia - and we see a lot of "offshoring" projects - from Europe, from the US - looking into Asia as an offshore centre, which we want to support from a global sourcing point of view.

But we also see the local upcoming market from a global sourcing point of view; we see new IT vendors starting up in Asia, in Malaysia, wanting to be part of the global sourcing environment - so, not only looking for Europe and the US to Malaysia, but also from a IT vendor Malaysia point of view, looking into the global market in Europe and the US.

Host: Now, Quint provides strategy, sourcing and service management to leading organisations, and offers the creation and implementation of best practises worldwide. Your portfolio includes services like education, consulting and measurement, is integrated across domains of businesses and IT, and your company stance is that it's "vendor agnostic". Could you elaborate a bit about what is "vendor agnostic"?

Maurice: Especially from a sourcing and [unclear] point of view, we need to be independent. It doesn't mean that we don't help IT vendors to improve their services - because we it as being in the best interests of the total IT market, including our end customers, like the big banks, or the big insurance companies.

They do well with the IT vendors. But if we do contracting or vendor selection for our customers, we need to be independent. We need to create a shortlist: a long list, a short list, select the best vendor for our customers, contract with this vendor - and in some of the cases, we are managing that vendor from a sourcing governance point of view. And then, we will commit our fees to the outcome, to the results of the contract, the business case, but also to the quality of service delivered by that specific IT vendor.

Host: You operate in more than 49 countries, so when you talk about dealing with IT vendors, is the mindset in Malaysia any different to the global mindset?

Jeffrey: What we bring to the table in terms of Quint in Malaysia is actually quite refreshing. If you think about it, CIOs are kind of - to use the word - "fed up", in a way; this is because you know that when somebody approaches a CIO, he's looking from a specific angle - and it's always from the point of a certain IT vendor. And sometimes, the CIO just says: "Look, let's make it very clear - I just want to know what is the best solution for me".

And for that, Quint is actually quite refreshing, because we come in, and we're not associated with any of the IT vendors.

Host: There's no vendor lock-in, then?

Jeffrey: There's no vendor lock-in with us.

Host: Right.

Jeffrey: So basically, we come in, and we advise, and we feel for that organisation who is the best.

Host: What are the current best practises when we talk about sourcing and service management for organisations today?

Maurice: Well, I think one of the best practises we bring to the table nowadays is the culmination of service management and Lean IT. And service management is about compliance, it's about getting in to control of IT. That's the ITIL® Suite. It's not just about process management. We need to think about customer value, the user experience; we need to think about output instead of throughput - so adding Lean IT to the service management portfolio, but also to the governance and sourcing portfolio, is really new.

And Lean IT has been there for the last twenty/thirty years, but from an automotive point of view - say, Toyota - introducing these kinds of principles - which goes back to leadership, to management, to people management, and combining that with the process management - that really brings value.

Host: How is Quint different the big boys like PWCC and Accenture?

Maurice: We have a very specific portfolio. It's sourcing advisory; it's IT service management; it's Lean IT; and it's governance - and that's it. We don't do big SAP implementations, like PWCC and KPMG. We don't do the accountancy; we are IT advisory only.

Host: I was speaking to Maurice Boon, he is the Executive Vice President and Jeffrey Doss, the Regional Director for Quint Wellington Redwood, and when we come back in just a moment, we'll talk more about Lean IT: What exactly is it? This is Tech Talk on BFM 89.9.

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Host: This is Tech Talk. My name is Jeff Sandhu, and I'm here today with Maurice Boon, the Executive Vice President and also Jeffrey Doss, the Regional Director for Quint Wellington Redwood, where we were talking about the current and future trends on Lean IT, IT governance and also outsourcing.

Now, according to a report by our friends at DigitalNewsAsia.com, the Quint group is promoting the concept of Lean IT. So what exactly is Lean IT, and do you think Malaysia is a market mature enough for it?

Jeffrey: That's a very good question, actually. I think the Malaysian market is actually quite mature; if you look at CIOs in Asia - and of course, Malaysia - in the past, they were probably just focusing in terms of the infrastructure - talking about networks, talking about security, talking about all the components of IT - and not really looking at aligning with the business.

But now, you see - for example - the Web has transformed itself; everybody is now doing things on the Web - buying things, along those lines, you know - IT becomes a very big part of businesses today. And the CEOs of businesses today are looking at the CIOs, and they say: "How can you leverage IT to make me more money?" And CIOs are now being pressured to look and see how they can do things better, faster and more efficiently.

Lean IT is something, at this point in time, I see as ripe for the Asian market - especially, the Malaysian market - because then, CIOs can take it to the next step in order to show to the CEO that: "We're not just a cost centre, but we're basically aligning, and we can do things better, faster, and this is how we're doing it".

Host: How do companies then maximise resources and minimise waste? Is it like a "rip-and-replace" philosophy, or is it workable as it is?

Maurice: No, no, it's not about changing infrastructure. Lean IT is not about changing infrastructure - Lean IT is about getting the most value out of your people, your infrastructure and your software portfolio. Lean IT is about utilising what you already have - not by adding more services, nor adding more people, but by releasing the potential of your people.

Host: You mentioned early on about the role of the CIO. What, in your opinion, is the role of the CIO? It's changed so much already; now, they're not just technical leaders, they're also handling the business responsibility.

Maurice: We see there are two kinds of profiles. We see a lot of CIOs who are still taking care of the legacy - which needs to be done - but we also see CIOs who are really into the business transformation, business innovation.

Take yesterday: we had lunch with the CIO of Pos Malaysia, who's really thinking about the next step: how can IT enable the business for Pos Malaysia? How can we, Pos Malaysia, utilise our business model - which is originally a very traditional business model - but from an IT point of view, how can we add value?

And the ideas they have - if you look from these ideas, into Europe or the US - are very innovative. I would like to link Pos Malaysia with local, similar companies - in Holland, in Spain, in Italy, in the US - to see if they can learn from each other. And I'm pretty sure they can learn from Pos Malaysia.

Host: Is there enough of awareness, in a way, in Malaysia - especially the Malaysian CIOs?

Jeffrey: With regards to Lean IT? I think they kind of understand the concept. We're basically reaching out to all the CIOs in terms of telling them there is this [Lean IT]. Apart from it as well, we've got two lines: one is the academy, and one is the consulting.

In the academy, we have a course called Lean IT, with certification. If you look at the demand in the areas of Lean IT, we start seeing large organisations now looking for it. So, it's not just coming in terms of "us telling them" - but also from their people telling the CIOs: "There are things out there we could probably learn from, and that we could actually go for these courses".

And if you want to take it a step further, we could engage them in consulting. So, it's two ways.

Host: You know, you've also been quoted as saying companies should not invest in infrastructure, but should streamline processes. Is this a trend that you're promoting, or is it a by-product of cloud computing?

Maurice: Well, I must say - we had a summit in Singapore on Monday, and I was challenging local IT vendors in Asia - in Singapore and Malaysia - not to copy the behaviour of the big traditional IT vendors from the US or Europe, but to start thinking about utilising the cloud.

Don't build a data centre yourself, but start using the cloud of Amazon, Google, etc. Because that's the old school kind of volume business: low margin, big volumes. Start thinking about added value: how can you, as a local Malaysian or Singaporean IT vendor, add value from an end-customer point of view?

It's thinking about how you can add value from a security management point of view, or an appliance management point of view. One of the big topics nowadays in Europe and the US is cybersecurity. What is the proposition of a telco provider in Malaysia or Singapore who wants to step into the IT services domain and cybersecurity? That's where the value is - or big data management.

Forget about the big volume game - that's Amazon, that's Google, that's the HPs, the IBMs, which compete with Google and Amazon. Don't think about that game - think about the value.

Host: So where does outsourcing come in? You guys are recognised by the international association of sourcing professionals as the world's best outsourcing adviser? So where does outsourcing come into all this?

Maurice: For outsourcing, forget about the word "out"; think about the word "sourcing". "Sourcing" is about utilising every means which is available in the market. It could be very traditional, big bang outsourcing, for example, offshore into Asia, into India; it could be sourcing making use of new concepts like the cloud.

What we want to do is sit with our clients, and think about the sourcing strategy first, to think about the core capabilities that need to stay in the company - and it has to do with adding business value from an IT point of view.

That's the core competence of IT within a company, and think about how can we design an IT delivery strategy - including sourcing capabilities - to optimise the output from a business IT point of view. That's our core business if you talk about sourcing.

Host:, Here in Malaysia, CIOs tend to have their "own and operate" mentality, so they own the infrastructure, and they operate their own infrastructure as well. Do you think the outsourcing concept is a bit too advanced for them?

Jeffrey: Not really. I think at the end of the day, the concept of outsourcing - or let's just take the "out" out of it, and look at sourcing, which is actually a very good idea - the thing is, how they go about it is probably something that could be improved. And that's where we could probably come in.

The thing is, most CIOs today just look at the cost factor - and that was the original intention for some of the very large outsourcing efforts that we've seen in the last ten years or so, where CIOs basically look at the cost factor, and then negotiate with the IT vendor. IT vendors do this on a daily basis, it's their bread and butter.

So, at the end of the day, if you look at it, a lot of CIOs who have initiated these outsourcing initiatives, after five or six years, realise that the cost is actually not that cheap, and that at the end of the day, that what they wanted to achieve wasn't exactly what they thought out at the very beginning - what they found what most of the CIOs found that it was actually more of a hassle, a pain and a problem when outsourcing.

When Quint comes in - and which is why we are ranked No 1 - is basically we can work with CIOs to see what is the intention, what is the purpose you want to achieve and sometimes, it's not specifically cost it could be other factors involved.

So, at the end of the day, what we say is: "OK, let's look at it", and determine - if it's a very large organisation - could we, for example, introduce Lean IT to make it more efficient, more effective, and not take things away, not ripping things apart as you say?

Another way is really, there is actually a lot of savings; let's look at a sourcing model - i.e. you are outsourcing to one vendor, or a few vendors - and then we come in, and then we determine what is the best approach. How are you going to do it? Because most CIOs who outsource, at the end of the day, send the entire IT team to the outsourcer - and at the end of the day are just left with a very skeleton team and nobody knows what to do.

So let's manage that as well, as we do this transitioning, and then we also manage in terms of working with the CIO and his team, to say that "OK, these are the set of KPIs that we want to achieve after we do this. Let's get to that!" I mean setting KPIs is easy; achieving it is another question. Get that stabilised, and then transition everything nicely, and then Quint leaves with everything working fine.

That's what we always want to do; we don't want to be the consulting company that is forever around, like it's part of the payroll. We want to be able to come in deliver value and then leave.

Host: Now before we leave, you know, what do you foresee changing in 2015, or what do you hope to see change in 2015, locally and perhaps globally as well?

Maurice: I hope that local CIOs and IT managers adapt to new global standards, using cloud, using sourcing as a means and not as an objective by itself; and that seeing that sourcing is not the solution for everything - but also seeing that not taking it into mind is not OK. It's like the balanced approach from IT delivery, and business IT alignment.

From a global point of view, we as Quint want to utilise and build our local capabilities in KL. We see a lot of potential in the people - not only because they are bright, but because of the mindset of Malaysian people. We are building a team in KLCC - from an IT HR marketing finance point of view - which easily can team up with our core team in Amsterdam, which is in Holland. It's like a "buddy-buddy" system. And the way the Malaysian people are, the Asian people are - the way they operate, the way they work - will perfectly fit into the culture of Quint from a global point of view.

Host: I have been speaking to Maurice Boon, he is the Executive Vice President and Jeffrey Doss, the Regional Director for Quint Wellington Redwood, and we were talking about the current and future trends on Lean IT, IT governance and also outsourcing. This is Tech Talk on BFM 89.9.

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