A.J. Singh founder & president of Modularis
Listen to the interview here.
MM: What isv’s, oem’s, & integrators do you work with outside of the United States?
AS: Some of our partners are international by nature. Cultures are different for ISV’s where software development is profit motivated. vs. internal corporate IT shops where it’s a cost center. Microsoft changed the game with Visual Basic. They made it easy to write software. They created codeslingers. That kind of culture pervades large parts of IT here in the US. When you start attacking larger/more complex projects, the codeslinger mentality simply doesn’t cut it. ISV’s need to build commercial grade software to be used beyond their own walls, nationally & internationally. It needs to be packaged, with a clear upgrade path, longevity. You can’t afford to reengineer it every 2-3 years. It’s a pretty simple idea that the needs of the business come before the needs of the technologists. 1 of the greatest compliments I was ever paid, was a customer of ours who said, “At Modularis, it’s business 1 st & technology 2 nd.”. There’s also a difference between software development & software engineering. An engineer is tasked with building a new device. He needs to know, what are the parameters? What’s my budget? Then you move to the design phase, trying to strike the balance between features, functions, & cost. The same thought process can be applied to the software development process. Design something before you develop it. A developer wants to jump immediately from a whiteboard to the keyboard. There’s not enough emphasis on design to thoroughly to serve the needs of business prior to writing a single line of code.
MM comment: for a firm their size, Modularis has some big-time clients. The world doesn’t just view us as gunslingers & codeslingers, but as derivatives- & mortgage slingers as well.
MM: How is working with them different from working with the same here?
AS: Our software is the answer. The name of our company is Modularis, which stands for modular information systems. We build all of our applications with our platform. As long as there is a defined protocol, we build 1 user interface widget which displays the info on that device. None of this touches the core software application. It’s hardware & protocol independent. Just as you can buy a webcam & plug it into your pc & know that it’s going to work. As it all changes, we can quickly adapt.
MM comment: their modularity is a huge advantage when going global.
MM: How does your accelerator deal with language/localization issues?
AS: It is a strength. Localization I see in the same category as maintainability in order to have software have a lifespan greater than average, which is 18 months & ironically the same tenure of a CIO. I believe if sufficient care is taken in architecting designing & developing, you can have an application with a lifespan of 10+ years. There are some core fundamental principals of good software architecture that have been around for 30 years & will be around for the next 30 years. The difference is how you manage iterative programming. The result is extreme coding. With more middle of the road iterative development with short cycles of iteration, a 2 or 4 week basis works effectively.
MM comment: iterative programming among different language speakers can be problematic.
MM: How does .net compete with open source platforms like Linux that are more prevalent world-wide?
AS: Linux is just the operating system. Often the development community can be divided into Microsoft & anti-Microsoft camps, open source & non-open source. They have their place & keep Microsoft innovative. Now the 2 main camps are java & .net. From a technology perspective, .net & Microsoft tools are vastly superior to other technologies. If anything goes wrong, they provide support & make them work better together. In open source, or java or Linux & something goes wrong, you have to buy support from either Redhat or consultants. Microsoft comes from a product centric point of view & open source comes from a standards point of view. It needs to be looked at over the lifecycle of an entire solution. It’s not really free when you look over the whole lifecycle.
MM comment: despite Microsoft’s “superiority” open source is gaining ground, primarily for perceived cost reasons.
MM: How does being affiliated with Microsoft help you globally?
AS: For us, what’s been effective is working with Microsoft Development Platform Evangelist (DPE) teams. They have counterparts around the globe. The best way for us to penetrate overseas is through the DPE organization. You can also work through Microsoft marketing. You will only get out of the relationship what you put into it. If you can deliver significant value to the end user, & solve their problem the rest of the value chain takes care of itself.
MM comment: I understand the DPE group is a particularly influential group, is compensated differently, etc.
MM: How did Modularis enable Feed Management Systems to expand from a domestically-centric/geographically-limited company to a global-centric one?
AS: One of Feed Management Systems’ core products was originally written for one vertical market, and limited the product to North America. They had grown through acquisitions. They had acquired programs that were built in old languages & not internationalized. FMS partnered with Modularis to use the Accelerator Business Application Platform to build a solution and platform that would enable them to penetrate feed manufacturing markets globally. Accelerator also allowed the company to build a platform to leverage intellectual property into additional lucrative vertical markets.
MM comment: more companies should emulate what FMS is doing.
MM: What did Tata & Modularis bring to the table for your mutual global pharmaceutical client & how were tasks divided?
AS: Tata Consulting Services (TCS) has completed 2 large scale projects using our technology, allowing them to automate up to 70%y of the process. They leveraged the Modularis platform to give them a competitive edge in fixed price bids. . When we were working with TCS in India we noticed that they were very systematic & methodical in how they estimated & executed large scale projects. There is a lot of emphasis on estimation & defining/refining metrics, they can bid on multimillion $ projects in 1 day. Most domestic systems integrators can’t do that. They work on fixed contract basis. Estimation is a make or break proposition. They do have some relief valves, namely relatively cheap labor.
MM comment: having lived/worked for Siemens in Germany, the land of engineers, I think many engineers, not just Indians, are metric-oriented.
MM: Have your foreign language capabilities helped/hurt you?
AS: I came here when I was 6. I was told I spoke better English than ma others who were born here. I forgot my Hindi in 6 months. Being transplanted between different cultures has made me more sensitive to cultural issues, either working with people overseas or immigrants here. It’s helped me focus on what’s makes us the same rather than what separates us. Regardless of the culture, you need to show respect & things work themselves out.
MM comment: We still need to pay attention to & respect differences.
MM: Anything else?
AS: We understand we’re not done with the solution until the client has seen some tangible results, increased revenues or decreased costs, not when we ship some software. American software developers have gotten a bad rap for that. We ship & think we’re done. Business is all about building personal relationships with people you trust. I’m surprised how so many people lose sight of those very basic simple things.
MM comment: Especially internationally, it’s all about the relationships.
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