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CEO Spotlight: Interview with Peter Harrison, GlobalLogic Inc

By The Sterling Report

He fell in love with software over 20 years ago and is still going strong. The Sterling Report interviews Peter Harrison, CEO of Global Logic, who believes in the importance of communication and creating a vibrant corporate culture. He talks about his global outlook and working across cultures and distance.

The The Sterling Report (TSR): You have been in the software industry for over 20 years now. What inspired you to join the industry?
Peter Harrison (PH): I fell in love with software in 1977 and can’t imagine not being involved in it 30 years from now. I love its potential to empower, accelerate and enrich ever greater aspects of lives.

TSR: When you joined GlobalLogic it was a 20-people company. Now, the company has locations in Asia, the EU and the US. What are the challenges of running a global delivery operation?
PH: The challenges all come down to communication. These challenges can be reduced to location, time-zone, language and culture. Of these, I find culture the most interesting since simple words like ‘yes’ and ‘no’ can mean such different things in different cultures. ‘Yes’ can mean ‘yes I hear you… <but I’m not sure if I understand>’. It can mean ‘yes I understand <but I’m not sure I agree>’. Or it can mean ‘yes I understand and will do my best’ and so on. The art of real communication is getting to the heart of what people really mean and perfecting a two way or many to many interchange.

TSR: Still on global operations, you have worked in both the US and India. How much of an asset is that in today’s globalized economy?
PH: My mother was born in India, I was born in the UK and my kids were born in the US. I’ve also travelled extensively in Asia, Europe and the Americas. I’ve found this broader worldview to be a great asset in my professional life since the IT industry, more than most, is increasingly global. Even here in the US it enjoys a tremendous diversity. Now more than ever it’s essential to develop ones skills in work across cultures and distance.

TSR: Wow, three generations, three different continents – you obviously have some experience with different cultures. As a company that has acquired quite a few companies in different continents, do you find it challenging to align your new acquisitions to your company culture?
PH: Aligning the culture is in fact the hardest part since the business models of all the firms we’ve acquired is very similar to our own. That said, I often joke that it’s harder to get two teams in the same country to align than it is teams in different countries and there is some truth to this. The key it seems is having a clearly articulated and ingrained culture and not compromising on it each time you do an acquisition. You can compromise on many things, but culture is not one. It helps that the firms we’ve acquired have always been much smaller than us.

TSR: Let’s talk business now. You have previously described your global delivery model as “insourcing” rather than outsourcing because you focus on R&D instead of IT. Why is this?
PH: We often refer to what we do as working with clients to insourcing their R&D offshore since our model affords our clients a very high degree of visibility and control not usually found in outsourcing. Essentially we build with them a Managed Lab.

TSR: How has your R&D outsourcing changed over the years?
PH: What’s changed over the last few years is a growing number of established clients have expanded their relationship with us to include co-sourcing (Co-Labs) and outsourcing where a client hands us end-to-end responsibility for a product. This is not just true of small companies that want to focus on product management and channels while we focus on engineering, but also large companies where a broad portfolio of products may call for a range of different models. This ‘fab-less’ model has long been popular in the hardware sector and is now growing in popularity in the world of software.

TSR: Growth – that’s always good news. Has the recession changed or had any effect on GlobaLogic’s strategy?
PH: The recession has really not changed our strategy. We remain focused on forging partnerships with technology firms to accelerate the new product roadmaps. The fact that we can often do this more efficiently than they can without losing any of the innovation has only made our services more appealing as the economy tightens. It is true that the market for our services is growing faster abroad than here in the US but this was true before the downturn too.

TSR: What are some of the future goals that GlobalLogic is currently striving for?
PH: We want to become the de-facto leader in software R&D service. To lead this market we aim to be more than $300M in just three years which requires ~40% annual growth. While the majority of this growth will be organic we continue to pursue smaller acquisitions that bring specific skills or capabilities.

TSR: Now about you as a CEO. Of all the companies you’ve worked with, which were the most influential in terms of shaping you as a CEO?
PH: Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but I’ve actually only worked for four companies in 25 years. My first startup, Seer Technologies, which was a spin off from CSFB, shaped me the most. It was my first exposure to working with an intensely diverse team. It taught me the importance of communication and creating a vibrant corporate culture.

TSR: This is something that we ask all CEOs. Who do you think is better equipped to lead a software company – a CEO with a sales background or one with a technology background? This should be interesting as you have a strong background in sales.
PH: I’m actually a software engineer that moved into sales and so I’m biased when I say that the best would be to have both. If one had to choose then I’d say sales since in my experience engineering the product is in most cases the easy part. Engineering the path to market is typically the hard part!

TSR: Now that you have mentioned the hard part, what was the most difficult adjustment you had to make, or the biggest challenge, after taking on your first CEO role?
PH: I was not prepared for how lonely a role being a CEO is. It’s unique in that you’ve multiple bosses and technically no peers. I’ve found it’s very important to reach outside the organization to get the kind of input and feedback you might typically get from peers.

TSR: One last question, apart from your work, what are you passionate about?
PH: Besides my work and my family I’m passionate about games. I think that games, particularly software simulations, are the ‘schools’ of the future and I love building and playing new games with my kids.

Peter Harrison is Chief Executive Officer of GlobalLogic, a global software product engineering company. He is passionate about software and has spent the last twenty-two years committed to improving the way software is built. Peter joined GlobalLogic in 2002 when there were only 20 people. Today GlobalLogic employs nearly 3,000 people in 20 locations around the world. In recent years the company has emerged as the leader in a new category of outsourced software product development. Prior to GlobalLogic, Peter was SVP, Field Operations at Versata, a leading provider of rules automation software. While at Versata, he grew revenues from $1M to $56M in just four years. Peter was instrumental in growing sales and service from 10 to over 300 people during the same period. Versata completed an IPO in 2000 that at the time ranked in the top 25 best openings of all time. Prior to Versata, he was a co-founder of Seer Technologies, where as VP Sales he helped grow revenues from $0 to $120M in five years that resulted in the company completing an IPO in 1995. At Seer, Peter played a leading role in establishing international field operations that swiftly grew to represent over 50% of revenues. For interview feedback, contact Peter at peter.harrison@globallogic.com 

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