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
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
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
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
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 email@example.com