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Ecosystem Leaders

Episode 183

September 7, 2023

#183 Madhuri Chawla: Partnering to Deliver Value to Customers through Digital Transformation

In this Ecosystem Aces Podcast episode, Chip Rodgers, Chief Partner Officer, WorkSpan is joined by Madhuri Chawla, the Global Head of SAP Strategic Partnership & Ecosystem at Kyndryl.

In this Ecosystem Aces Podcast episode, Chip Rodgers, Chief Partner Officer, WorkSpan is joined by Madhuri Chawla, Global Head of SAP Partnership & Ecosystem at Kyndryl.

Madhuri Chawla is a highly accomplished professional with over 23 years of experience in strategic partnerships and ecosystem development, primarily focused on SAP. Currently, as the Global Head of SAP Strategic Partnership & Ecosystem at Kyndryl, they drive innovation and collaboration in the industry. With key roles at IBM, including Director of Strategic Partnerships and Director & CTO of IBM Global Cloud Services for SAP, Madhuri is a recognized leader in the field.

Topics covered include:

  • Overview of Kyndryl’s evolution and strategic priorities - 1:41
  • What Kyndryl is doing to help clients - 8:26
  • Strategies around partnering with partners - 18:02
  • Advice on partnering with partners - 25:41

Chip Rodgers  00:05

Hey, welcome back to another episode of ecosystem aces. I'm excited to be joined this afternoon with Madhuri Chawla. Madhuri is Global Head of SAP strategic partnerships and ecosystem at Kyndryl. And first of all, Madhuri, welcome.

Madhuri Chawla  00:27

Thank you very much. Thank you for hosting me. 

Chip Rodgers  00:31

Well, you know, this is take 2. We actually did an interview at Sapphire a couple months ago and the show floor in Orlando and had a terrific interview and Kassar was really excited about publishing in and listening to the recording later, and we sent a like Munchkins. So that was not gonna work. So I said, Hey, let's get together and do this in a virtual mode. So really excited to have you have you join us, Madhuri.

Madhuri Chawla  01:11

Thank you. Thank you so much. I'm very excited to be here.

Chip Rodgers  01:18

Well, and since then, I think Orlando, and then you were heading to Barcelona as well. And so it's been, it's been a whirlwind for all around SAP.

Madhuri Chawla  01:32

Yes, SAP is a very interesting place to be. Things are moving very fast for Kyndryl and SAP. So we're very excited to be here.

Overview of Kyndryl’s evolution and strategic priorities

Chip Rodgers  01:41

So Madhuri, just a little introduction, you've been with Kyndryl since the spin off. And, prior to that, I think 23 - 24 years with IBM and a number of roles in partnering and now you're for Kyndryl. It's really exciting what's been happening with Kyndryl and I can't wait to dive in. But you're focused on the SAP partnership. And that's so strategic for Kyndryl. 

I think when we were talking earlier, you said, Kyndryl has 15 top strategic partners, SAP is one of those. And so you've got to have a really important role. A lot of pressure to deliver. Maybe, Madhuri, with that introduction, maybe you can talk a little bit about what you and your team are up to these days. And I'd love to hear more about it.

Madhuri Chawla  02:55

As you know, Kyndryl is a very massive startup, one of the largest in the IT industry. We started off with IBM with 90,000 employees in November 2021. So, 18-19 months into our inception. It wasn't an easy ordeal. Of course, it's been a wonderful experience, lots of learning, we as Kyndryls have gone through with this experience. I don't think history repeats itself. So, it was a once in a lifetime moment. As you said, I was with IBM for 23 years, very loyal to IBM or for many, many years, did many many different SAP roles obviously started in IBM as a professional hire in SAP consulting spent several years there. 

And then of course,moved into various roles one of the benefits of working for a large company, move from the global business consulting services into the global technology services as well as the IBM Cloud area and then into setting up some partnerships and IBM with SAP and other partners and then of course, moved into setting up some offerings and solutions, capabilities joint go to market strategies. 

Hence, when Kyndryl was about to be formed, I was offered this wonderful role to lead the SAP partnership for Kyndryl. It was a very interesting spot. Of course, as part of the spin off we had a lot of heritage. Outside of the 90,000 employees, we inherited 4000 plus customers. And the most important thing is not the account of the customer but the type of the customer.These customers are we service 75 of the Fortune 100 customers. So these are large, complex customers. 

A large majority of these customers run SAP and Kyndryl has been performing different sorts of services for these clients ranging anywhere from just infrastructure operations, to technical managed services to some services to some sorts of other areas of BTP, for example, and then some custom developments. 

But the most important thing to keep in mind is Kyndryl doesn't look at SAP workloads as a single siloed workload, we looked at the customer to support the mission critical business comprising SAP, but has, of course, a lot of other mission critical apps as well. So it's been very interesting to now learn from our heritage, and then, we've spent 18 months making our foundation with SAP stronger and stronger, took a lot of efforts to spin off, and some of the SAP systems we have to be listed as Kyndryl, just like any new partner would be, but then complicated. 

With some of  those people's credentials and stuff, how do we get it poured out, because a lot of those employees are now Kyndryl employees that have been in the SAP space for 30 plus years. So the business that's spun off was really global technology services. And we have from that point of view, that business alone has a 30 year plus relationship with SAP. So it's been very interesting to move Kyndryl forward. And as we go through our conversations, I'll highlight some of the key things we've done with SAP and other partners. 

So, from a Kyndryl strategy standpoint, partnerships is one of our top A’s. As soon as our CEO has often been pretty vocal to the market, we're leading with the three A's strategy. So the first day is actually alliances, which is very different from IBM, because we're not a product company. We're a services company, IBM is a product company.

So the alliances and partnerships are the most critical part for Kyndryl to grow, in the ecosystem, work with multiple partners to create offering solutions capabilities, at the end of the day, everything for the benefit of the client to support their mission critical businesses, that's what we're here for. The other two A's really talk about advanced delivery. 

So as I talked about, those 1000s of clients we have, we obviously have a vested interest to continue our service, and provide quality service, not just service and guarantee to the customer that they are peaceful, because they can trust because Kyndryl is managing everything for them. Choose Kyndry, we will be behind it to support them. So that's really what it's all been about. 

And the third A is about accounts. So we have strategic accounts. Part of the account business, obviously, some have been very profitable for Kyndryl slash IBM in history's some work. So it has been a major strategic focus for Kyndryl to actually go through those install bases and come up with new value prop to transform the customer. And then of course, make sure the account also remains profitable for Kyndryl as well. So that's where we've been focused on for the past 18 months as a company.

What Kyndryl is doing to help clients

Chip Rodgers  08:26

Well, that's very exciting, in your role, one of the most strategic partners for Kyndryl and the first A being alliances, like we said, the pressures on but that that is fantastic. And clearly Kyndryl has done so many things with it with SAP. As we were talking earlier, a lot of that because Kyndryl is a services organization that you're really helping customers do their digital transformation, like help get them transformed and bring their their systems and capability into the modern age and that includes SAP a lot of times is the core but then as you mentioned, there's a lot more that has to all work together. And that's where Kyndryl shines is on the integration front and making sure that it's all delivered and working.

Madhuri Chawla  09:35

Absolutely. That's where we put our focus in. We have been focused in this area and we continue, obviously with the transformation journey right for customers. Part of this journey, of course, includes application upgrades, but more importantly, a lot of it also includes transformation and migrations to new platforms. Customers, we've been running for 20 plus years. 

So still running in some of the older models and from an infrastructure standpoint. So it's the migration services that Kyndryl has built in this space, given our heritage, even if we speak the SAP language for a minute, SAP, as you know, over the years used to support all these relational databases. Lately, all they've been focused on is Hana, which is their product, their evolution came into S/4, well, a lot of the large clients are still running older, db to the Oracles, the sequels, and other, databases and OSS of the world, some of them migrated to Hana, some will take their time still to move to S/4. 

So one of the value props that Kyndryl was also brought to the table from SAP point of view is the fact that our history and skill sets that we have support all these different kinds of databases that the customers are still running upon. And we are able to support all of that. So SAP workload plus, of course, the other non SAP workloads that are running on these databases. 

So from that standpoint, and then the operational standpoint, to give one integrated governance delivery model to these customers, is very, very important and a major differentiator, why we invested heavily in these centers of SAP centers of excellence that we have set up, where we're fostering, migration services to help customers, depending on their journey, where they are in their journey. And, the phased approach that most of these clients end up taking, migrations don't happen overnight. It's several weeks, months of effort. 

So that's where we like to help our clients and if you visit Kyndryls, external site, you'll find that we have a lot of external case studies of customers, we've helped transforms and they fall into many different categories, some transformation, some are business oriented transformation, some are migrations to a new platform. And the majority of our case studies, actually 35% today are SAP case studies on our website.

Chip Rodgers  12:21

Interesting. And you mentioned when we talked earlier, that Kyndryl has done, 1000s, of transformations of workloads.

Madhuri Chawla  12:36

Yes, 1000s of workloads with the Centers of Excellence. So we are a global company, of course, operating in 60 plus countries, but the SAP centers of excellence, we have them for the 24 by seven support model, of course, focused in all the major regions of the world. And that's where we have, I'll go into our newest announcement that we did in May, shortly, we've expanded those centers with these new capabilities that we've added on as part of our portfolio.

Chip Rodgers  13:09

It's interesting, you're doing a lot of things, hand in hand, and I think deeply embedded with SAP where your Kyndryl and SAP are working together to Co-create and do Co-innovation together. Madhuri, maybe you can talk a little bit about, what are some of those kinds of solutions that you're working on? And how do they deliver value to your mutual customers?

Madhuri Chawla  13:43

Absolutely. So we have a big advantage here in the sense that Kyndryl is one of SAP stop customers. So we started our SAP S/4 transformation journey, just prior to the spin off, Kyndryl made a decision that we have to break off all IBM Systems, and the TSA is in place within two years. So we are almost at the end of that journey. Of course, this November, that two year period finishes. 

And we've done a phenomenal job of moving our own systems off of the legacy applications, including SAP that we're running an IBM on to S/4. That's what Kyndryl has done. So the advantage we got out of this is obviously a lot of learnings and the fact that we are able to Co-develop and Co-innovate with SAP and give them direct user feedback, influencing the strategy of the product.

It's a wonderful story, our CIO Michael Bradshaw talks about it quite often. And it's been truly inspiring to see how Kyndryl internally has transformed like SAP is touching every employee in Kyndryl, in some shape or form, depending on whether you're in finance procurement, whether using Concur, or Ariba, we are a full SAP shop.

So one of the announcements that we just did in May is a direct result of this effort. Over in Waldorf, we co innovated with SAP. SAP made an announcement at Sapphire on day one. And our pre press release was on day two, this was around a new product that SAP has developed, called the Digital blueprint, it's on the business transformation center. 

They're still evolving, of course, the product is gonna go through its evolution. So they're in their first phase now, which is already launched, its G8. And this was all tried out on Kyndryl, what it helped us do is basically, if you think about migrations, historically, when migrations were done, for these large customers, the SAP on the non SAP workloads, it took several weeks of efforts just to get some sort of a handle on everything that needs to be migrated plan out of scope. And typically, the major GSIs did this through excel and files on people's laptops to kind of collect all the information and try to present it. 

And those files were a blueprint. That's why this is called the Digital blueprint. This digitizes that entire exercise through this dashboard. That's what a business transformation center is all about. And it gives you not only access to the data, but more importantly, insights into the data, which therefore shortens your project timelines gives you a much more cost effective approach that could be identified data's cost centers, for example, that don't need to be migrated because there was nothing ever at it. 

So fortunately, analyzing the data versus just saying that you have to do this migration. So it's a very cool tool. And then kinder, of course, adds on services. So right now, we are the only partner that can do this. There is no other partner yet. In the future, there may be a couple, but right now we are the only partner that SAP is taking this to market with and as said we have used it. So very positive feedback, from Kyndryl. So that's a true example of Co- innovation together with SAP.

Chip Rodgers  17:26

I love that story. This didn't just come out of nowhere. It was the process that you were going through yourself. And your teams were going through and said, Hey, rather than doing all of us in spreadsheets, let's develop a process called codified, create the reporting and analytics to be able to really optimize the process, and then we'll then turn around and use that with our shared customers. I love that story.

Madhuri Chawla  17:56

That's right. That's what we're all about: giving the benefits to the client.

Strategies around partnering with partners

Chip Rodgers  18:02

So I think that's a really good example. And as you mentioned earlier, Madhuri partnering alliances is a strategic priority, right from the top down. Maybe talk a little bit about how Kyndryl sees working with partners as critical. What's the strategy around partnering?

Madhuri Chawla  18:28

So Kyndryl, again, made a very conscious decision two years ago, before inception, that we are going to put a lot of focus on partnerships. A huge organization that exists in Kyndryl is all about partnerships.  And we also made a decision that there's going to be under 16 strategic partners that Kyndryl is going to heavily focus on that includes SAP, of course, it includes the major hyperscalers, and a handful of the technology partners that we have. 

There's of course, a much larger list of partners we work with, but these are the primary strategic partnerships, I would say is under 16, that we made a decision. And then what Kyndryl started to do right, offering assumptions if you follow our history, we started to make public announcements with these strategic partners. 

So as if Microsoft was our first SAP was our second and, by the way, we're also Microsoft customers. So, S/4 is actually on Azure. So hence, the customer side comes in. So the idea was that we have to change the market perception because market perception for us was spinning off from IBM. IBM is a products company on how Kyndryl is only a services company. 

So to make sure the market perceives us as such, and sees Kyndryl growing, with these strategic partnerships, going in the sense that we want to create new solutions, and the new solutions that will help clients solve their business problems, that's really the driving force. To solve the business problems, the solutions don't necessarily always come from one partner, they could come from multiple partners. So to give you another example, in the SAP space, that's more relevant. We talked about the partnership with SAP, one of the things we did with this business transformation center. But then there's another example here, which is, we have a very strong practice in cybersecurity and resiliency of leaders and lots of credentials in that space as well. 

So we thought about cyber resiliency, so I'm not going to talk about security, I'm going to talk about resiliency, two different topics. And a lot of people,may or may not know the difference, but they are completely related, but they have completely different business value to the end customer. So there's a lot of security providers, SAP embeds a lot of security within the product itself. 

But that's really to keep the unauthorized users out. That's what security is the primary focus on. Resiliency is a different ballgame. What that's really talking about is, for example, in today's world, you hear everywhere that there are cyber attacks, bringing down corporations, bringing down countries, large parts of the businesses, etc. 

So here, obviously, the unauthorized access has already happened. That's the difference. When that has happened, what do you do? This is more around recovery from an attack? How do you actually recover all the workloads, SAP and non SAP included if you are under a cyber attack, which is a very common phenomenon now. So if you talk to C suites, or clients, this is amongst their top three issues that they are raising, how will I recover, and if they're not raising it, they should raise it, because if you read that, it's pretty mind boggling, and scary, how many are coming down.

I can tell you in Canada, we had an attack, it was a few months ago, it brought the country down, it was an attack on one of our telecom providers. And you don't think about it, telecom providers are not just supporting the small businesses, those of course went down. But parts of our emergency services are using them now as an example. So calling 911 Imagine the system is down when 9/11 comes down, no emergency services can be delivered anywhere. So it was chaos. It was a big catastrophe in the country. 

When it happens, retailers couldn't accept any payments, because they often were dependent on this provider. So you can't even imagine the widespread impact it had outside of the small businesses. The first ones, of course, completely shut down. But then all these other parts of the country impacted the government's various sectors and so on. 

Similar things have happened in Europe. So it's not something that you can use as an afterthought anymore, you have to plan proactively, that's where our cyber resiliency services come in. And what we did is partnered with Microsoft and created cyber resiliency services for SAP and non SAP, because SAP is one of the workloads we would support. But that service is available today on Azure. Of course, in the near future, it will be available on the other hyperscalers but that's kind of showing you a coin Ovation where we're doing multiple partners, and solutions that can help customers running, heterogeneous workloads in different environments. 

So I think it's a great area in Kyndryl, because we think creatively, how can we use these different partner capabilities to come up with a solution that can solve a business problem that we're hearing from our clients.

Chip Rodgers  24:33

That's amazing. It happens more than we even know. Because sort of the default is well, okay, that happened. We're not gonna go public with this because we don't, unless we have to so there are a lot of things that breaches that happen that we don't even know about. So it really is critical, and I love that you're working with partners to build up. 

So Kyndryl provides the overall wrapper service and offering. But you're working deeply with a lot of multiple partners to put the solution together for customers.

Madhuri Chawla  25:17

That's our intent to grow with the partners to basically help the clients in the end right to come up with solutions that work. So hence the focus on alliances and partnerships in Kyndryl. And then we're seeing the benefits. I mean, this was just one example. There's tons of others, where we've collaborated with a whole bunch of partners to come up with creative solutions.

Advice on partnering with partners

Chip Rodgers  25:41

By the way, this has been fantastic. I really have enjoyed chatting with you. Maybe I'll ask you one more question. Our audiences, a lot of partner folks, partner leaders, and, some maybe earlier in their career, you've been very successful for a long, long period of time, any advice that you might have for some early learnings or things that you picked up along the way that would be helpful for others that are maybe starting out in partnering?

Madhuri Chawla  26:19

I would say the simplest thing that's helped me is an open mind. I grew up a technologist, but business and technology blended over the years, and now obviously, move more to the business side. To me, keeping an open mind was the most important thing. There's a lot of people that get hung up on my degree, my Master's in Computer Science, that's how I started. Do I do that today? Not really.

Chip Rodgers  26:46

I think we mentioned early on you, you actually wrote some ABAP code. Is that right?

Madhuri Chawla  26:51

That's about the time I did. That's how I began. But to me, what was more interesting was the fact that I was more inclined to hear the customer's business problems, what am I actually solving? Explain to me your entire problems. And that was the trigger in my brain to say, Okay, this is the problem. Don't lead with a solution. Never lead with a solution? Because if you do, you're not most likely to solve the real problem. Sometimes you will. But most of the time, you won't. 

So the key is to listen to your customers. And listening means asking a lot of questions. Sometimes the customer may think that those are not relevant, but they are relevant, because the more you find out about the client's business problems, the better solution you're going to come up with. If you lead with a technology answer, then unfortunately, I think you're missing half the problem. So if I can help a customer and a set of clients and partners, I feel like I've accomplished a lot. So at night, I think back, like in this last week, or in the last month, what did I actually accomplish? Who did I influence? How did I change the strategy? Did I influence someone the right way? Whether it's a personal career, or it's a customer's problem, I look at the same way, did I influence them enough to really think more broadly? 

And if I did, I think I could sleep better. So over the years, you asked me what I've done. So I've been a major advocate for STEM. I'm sure you know what STEM is?  Unfortunately, here we are, in this era, look at the number of women in leadership roles, or in the technology area. It's peanuts. Like it's a rounding error. Why did the First Nations and the leading countries in the world not do much about it?

And I would hate to see the next generation say the same statement. I hate to say that, and to see that, right. So when my daughter was younger, I decided that something had to change. Her mom is in this field. She has to get inspired and her immediate circle of friends so that if I can make that much of a difference, then I think the ball will carry on. 

So back to IBM days. IBM was a great sponsor in this area as well. So IBM, at that time used to run workshops that were called stem workshops, and every couple of months we'd spend the entire weekend going to the bringing in girls from starting from grade two and up all the way into first year college, and we would run these weekend programs for the girls. 

So we basically have to put agendas together, and so on right to inspire the girls and keep them entertained for the I mean, you're bringing these girls in for eight hours, you know, which is a lot. So what are we going to do? So we had to bring in speakers, people that had gone through various professions in one of these four areas science, technology, math or engineering, and talk about their experiences, entrepreneurs, then of course, we have to design some coding workshops as an example to get them inspired, then there'll be some analytical games. 

So the whole idea was to influence them to see if you know if at least somebody will listen to one of the speakers. Some believe it or not, some of these girls continued with years, some came to three sessions, a year they lived, the other started bringing in more and more of their peers. And it was just so nice to see over the years, these girls grow through this. 

And then of course, we expanded the program into local middle schools, high schools, and so on, to basically influence these young minds. And I can tell you, my daughter is one of those inspiring people. So I have accomplished my mission, and, of course, some of our friends. And I hope to continue that's part of what I feel as a gift back, all leaders should be doing. This is not a woman thing. I think the males should take on the same responsibility. 

You all have sisters, daughters, nieces, and so on. Two daughters. There you go. I have two as well. So I think it should be a shared responsibility. I certainly would hate to see someone 20 years from now having the same conversation that will be so sad.

Chip Rodgers  31:53

I think there is progress. And there are some good organizations that are helping. I love that, that it's really about inspiring and making it tangible and real and having people understand, girls and women understand that this is possible. Here are some other role models, people that are like yourself that have advanced and have very senior roles in larger organizations. 

Madhuri Chawla  32:20

Absolutely. I actually, when the kids were younger, I actually selected female doctors, especially another layer of inspiration that they can see there really isn't a difference.

Chip Rodgers  32:37

Well, that's fantastic. Madhuri, thank you so much for spending some time and I again and let you know, we got this time we got even a little more time to, to dive in a little bit deeper. So it's been fantastic. And I really, really appreciate you taking the time and thank you.

Madhuri Chawla  33:03

Thank you

Chip Rodgers  33:08

Thank you all for joining and we will see you within the next Ecosystem Aces Thanks, everyone.

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