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12/19/2003
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2004 Innovators & Influencers: Bearing Down On The Future

It's sure to be a year of change in business technology. Here are some of the people who will drive that change.

Paying Attention To The Process
Pawan Kumar wants to spread some moksha--the Sanskrit word for enlightenment--around the computing industry. The chairman and CEO of Bangalore, India, IT-services startup vMoksha (for virtual enlightenment) says current measures of a service provider's efficiency don't go far enough in gauging its ability to deal with business issues. "An organization may be technically good from an engineering point of view, but how are they at handling customer service, or dealing with unexpected contingen- cies that can arise from outsourcing?" Kumar asks.

That's why he has developed an enhancement to the Software Engineering Institute's CMM (Capability Maturity Model) and CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration) quality-measurement standards. CMM and CMMI cover the technical and management areas that surround software development, such as project management, but don't apply to broader organizational issues such as risk assessment and contingency planning.

Pawan Kumar -- Photo by Tom Pietersik/Corbis

REFINEMENT
Kumar is working on enhancements to the Capability Maturity Model.

Photo of Pawan Kumar by Tom Pietersik/Corbis
Kumar envisions Business CMMI, or bCMMI, extending to include, say, the legal responsibility a service provider assumes for failed projects and the steps it will take to resolve such issues. In all, bCMMI covers 57 business processes.

Kumar plans to present his proposal to the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University next year. The model is being tested at vMoksha, where company management is based on process ownership. For instance, vMoksha employs a chief reputation officer who presides over a reputation-management unit that performs a mix of functions that would typically fall into silos such as legal, human resources, and media relations. "If you have clear ownership over a process, then responsibilities are very clear and you get better results," he says.

Indian services companies can contribute more to the IT industry than just low-cost labor. "We have young people who are looking at old problems in new ways," says Kumar, a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology. He's held positions at many companies doing business in India, including a stint as president of IBM Global Services' Indian operations.

When Kumar launched vMoksha in 2001, one of his goals was to land a $1 million service contract within the first year of operations. It took just two months. VMoksha also achieved the CMM Level 5 rating faster than any other services company in the world. Kumar says vMoksha will double its sales this year, to $20 million, and he wants to hit $25 million in revenue next year. Kumar also heads Indian startups jadooWorks Animation Studio and vFortress Security. He asks, "How could I manage all this if I was not focused on good process control?"

-- Paul McDougall

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