Infomation Communications Technology

Cisco launches latest generation IP Phone

Cisco Systems, the Internet Networking giant, announced the launch of its latest generation of IP (Internet Protocol) phones recently. Cisco IP Phone 7912G brings state-of-the-art technology to address the needs of a cubicle worker who conducts low to medium telephone traffic on a daily basis in the office.

"With the need for integrated business functionality, businesses/corporates look beyond conventional voice systems and are moving towards a converged network. Cisco IP Phones are a part of IP Communications which enable businesses to become more productive by becoming an instant link to work resources like purchasing data, inventory management, corporate calendars, travel services and web content delivery," said B. Ashok, Vice President, Cisco India and SAARC of the need for such a unit. The Cisco IP Phone 7912G supports an integrated Ethernet switch, providing LAN (Local Area Network) connectivity to a co-located PC. In addition, the Cisco IP Phone 7912G supports inline power, which allows the phone to receive power over the LAN. This capability gives the network administrator centralized power control, translating into greater network availability. The combination of inline power and Ethernet switch support reduces cabling needs to a single wire to the desktop.

Cisco AVVID voice and video solutions prepare organizations to compete in the Internet Economy. By converging data, voice and video onto a single IP network, companies are able to take advantage of IP-based business applications for enhanced employee productivity; customer flexibility and control; standards-based, distributed, open architecture and exceptional customer service.

Lanka rated high in Call Centres survey

By Akhry Ameer
Sri Lanka has been rated as the third strongest potential destination for offshore call centre activity in the Asian region by a leading offshore call centre operator. British owned Asian Call Centres (ACC) specializing in call centre related consultancy, project planning and setup in its Continent Review for 2002 has grouped the country as the 'chasing pack' behind main contenders the Philippines and India.

The 2002 ratings are said to have been boosted by two local companies, Hellocorp and Hays Commercial Services setting up call centre operations here last year. One of the companies had been contacted by ACC as part of their research of the Asian countries.

The report has cited the ceasefire as a major factor for Sri Lanka's movement to third overall from an above the tenth rating in the previous year. However, the country has been rated as low as 13 for factors such as telecommunications and support services. The ratings are based on seven characteristics that include quality of English language, costs, management capability, number of agents already in operation and stability.

While all factors are considered for ratings, the quality of English plays a major role, according to a local IT official. India's position as second best is partly due to this reason. Many companies seeking outsourced call centre support are wary of the Indian accents, according to the report. The Philippines on the other hand is considered to have a neutral accent because of the dominance of English in the country.

Though Sri Lanka has been rated the fourth in English, the rating is hampered by the infrastructure says a local operator. Jonathan Rasiah, Country Manager for Hellocorp said that the voice infrastructure needs improvement before the standard of English can be tested. Hellocorp is part of a global outsourced call centre operation having clients like Microsoft, America Online and AT&T as its clients largely provide text-based support services. "In the Philippines we would be informed ahead of downtimes, but here even an hour into the downtime without notice and they cannot locate the fault," said Rasiah, who has the distinction of setting up operations in the Philippines.

In an earlier interview with The Sunday Times-FT, Devapriya Perera, General Manager of Hays Commercial Services that also commenced operations last year, cited lower a standard of English and the lack of support services as reasons inhibiting the growth of this business. Perera was of the view that they are unable to maintain competitive price offerings because of situations such as having to purchase power separately in a 24-hour operation.

Asian Call Centres have over 30 years worldwide experience in having developed, set and managed call centre activity for key companies such as MCI Worldcom, Cable and Wireless, Sky, American Express, and Vodka Martini.

Debt to equity plan for Lanka Bell to remain competitive

Wireless Local Loop operator Lanka Bell Ltd last week announced the conclusion of a debt-restructuring plan to make it competitive and harness the benefits of the telecom reforms being offered by the government.

The company commenced discussions with its major creditors in October 2002 to resuscitate its debt-ridden operations. The result is a debt elimination exercise whereby part of its debt would be written off in exchange for a consideration in equity for the balance. "Our major creditors have now become part owners. Lanka Bell as a company becomes a zero-debt telecom operator. This opens us to make strategic partnerships and seek new finances and be competitive in the market," said Joey V. Mendoza, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Lanka Bell.

The debt close to $80 million consisted of payment to equipment suppliers, a management company and other creditors. Major equipment supplier Nortel Networks cleared Lanka Bell of 90% of its debts in return for a 7% equity stake, while GTE's payments for a management contract have been written off completely. Other major creditors included Transasia Telecom, Miel Investment and AIDEC, who were all given new shares of the company amounting to 30% of the outstanding in return for 70% debt forgiveness. The composition of shareholding would remain the same with Transasia Telecom as the dominant shareholder with a 48% stake.

Asked for reasons for such an accumulation of debt, Mendoza said, "The choice of technology at that time catered to a particular market. Wireless Local Loop technology is costly and it was impossible to offer a connection to someone willing to pay Rs. 300 a month." Lanka Bell now hopes to choose technology based on its expansion plans enabled by the government technology neutral telecommunication licences. However, the company did not have this option when it entered the market initially as the licences then stipulated the technology being used by the operator.

The debt elimination programme now reflects accumulated profits over Rs. 7 billion in Lanka Bell's pro forma financial results. The company has also experienced over 180% growth in business subscriber lines, and a healthy financial position fuelled by its launching of broadband data services, Internet and satellite services.

Responding to questions on the new telecom reforms, Mendoza said that the initial signs are good and cautioned the need for strong structures. "Intrinsically it is very good, as the barriers are being lowered. It also becomes a double-edged sword, as it could also mean the survival of the fittest, and that is why we need the regulatory structures in place," he said.

The company head also praised the reforms as benefiting the consumer. He added that the future Lanka Bell would be stronger with increased products and services and island wide presence. "We hopefully would have a partner by then and would take a total solutions approach to telecommunications," he added

Do you suffer from Pre and post-mail tension (PPMT)?

By Will Sturgeon,
People's anxieties and fears over e-mail etiquette and the inescapable phenomenon of digital blunders has given rise to a new term - pre and post-mail tension (PPMT).
As many as half of us fail to properly understand personal e-mails - giving rise to conflicts which may not have occurred if messages had been communicated face-to-face - and blame the resulting confusion for arguments and even relationship break-ups.

The plain text nature of most e-mail means common conversational ploys, such as sarcasm, often do not travel well.

Helen Petrie, professor of Human Computer Interaction at London's City University: "E-mail is a great way to make contact with people and maybe develop a romance. The problem of PPMT we have revealed by these statistics is caused not by e-mail itself, but how people let their anticipation and expectation get the better of them.

"Furthermore a massive 61 per cent of e-mail users live in fear of becoming the next Claire Swires, panicking about any personal or sordid information that they include in an e-mail, worried that it may fall into the wrong hands and be circulated.”

Swires became an overnight celebrity after details of a very personal 'moment' with her boyfriend were forwarded to his friends and then the rest of the world.

According to Yahoo! Mail, who polled 26,000 e-mail users, people can also become obsessed with 'inbox expectations'--constantly opening their inbox to see if a particular e-mail has elicited a response.

The survey also revealed that as many as 64 percent of us have problems concentrating on work if we are waiting for a reply to a specific e-mail. The findings suggest cyber-slacking is still on the increase for modern office workers and make a further mockery of the idea that e-mail was intended to simplify our lives.

(Courtesy: MSN Singapore website, News channel)

SEA to train on project management and testing

The Human Resources and Training arm of the Software Exporters' Association (SEA) plans to conduct workshops on software project management and testing from May 5 to 7. The workshops are being organized as part of the association's plans to focus on "Quality improvement for Software Professionals" this year. The association has already conducted two workshops on the widely accepted CMM certifications within the IT industry during this year.

This second series of sessions will comprise Training on Project Management for CEO's on May 5 and Software Testing and Quality Assurance training workshop on May 6 and 7.

"For any IT project to be successful, it is vital that it be managed effectively and efficiently to ensure timely completion within the allocated budget. Organizations very often spend millions of rupees on IT projects that end with budget overruns and even prove to be failures. In this aspect CEO's of vendor as well as the buyer organizations have vital roles to play," said Anuradha Tennekoon of SEA who is coordinating the training programmes.

The second workshop of testing and quality assurance will enable local organizations to work towards producing bug free software of the highest quality, thus becoming competitive in the global software market. "Be it for the local or international market the software products should be of a very high quality in order to achieve its objectives. This workshop will give the Sri Lankan IT industry insights into Software Testing and Quality Assurance," he said on the necessity for such workshops.

The trainers will comprise senior personnel from Mphasis, India with wide international exposure. Mphasis is a CMM Level 5 and ISO 9001 certified company. Those interested in participating at these events could contact the SEA secretariat at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce on phone 421745 - 6, 074-716673.

Sri Lankan heads top 'IT stock' in US

A Sri Lankan-born Chief Executive Officer (CEO) has been rated as one of the top 25 CEO's in USA, while his company has been rated best performing information technology stock across stock exchanges in the US for 2002 by Forbes Magazine. Kumar Wijeyaraj Mahadeva, who was born and educated in Colombo, is credited to having built Cognizant Technology Solutions, a $1.4 billion market capitalization company in the US and heads the company as Chairman and CEO. Cognizant has also been ranked as a top Information Technology company in Forbes' 200 Best Small Companies in America and in Business Week's Hot Growth Companies.

Cognizant provides custom information technology design, development, integration and maintenance services through development centres in India and Ireland, and onsite client teams. Having achieved this top position, the company is evaluating cost-advantages of Asian and East European countries to expand its base and operations. Mahadeva whose vision is to grow the company into a billion dollar enterprise in the next few years with a truly global presence, has China, Eastern Europe and Sri Lanka high on the list.

"Now, with the peace process taking a welcome direction, I am keenly looking at Sri Lanka for opening a development centre, initially to take care of business continuity and back up requirements of Cognizant. I am convinced of the great potential that Sri Lanka has in the IT and BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) space and I am sincerely looking at opportunities for Cognizant in Sri Lanka", said the Cognizant head in an exclusive (email) interview with The Sunday Times FT. He added that Sri Lanka could possibly be his next destination for expansion ahead of China and Eastern Europe, if the peace process moves faster.

The son of a former permanent secretary in the Sri Lankan Government Administrative Service, Mahadeva was educated at Royal College before leaving to pursue his Master's degree in electrical engineering at Cambridge University, England, and later a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the prestigious Harvard Business School.

Mahadeva gained vast experience working as a business strategist for some of the top global companies before forming Cognizant. Starting his career in research and development at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in London, he has served AT&T as the Director of Strategy and Corporate Development, and as Chairman of Dun and Bradstreet India and China. He was also a consultant to CEOs of information technology companies on issues related to corporate development, strategy, and operations at McKinsey and Company.

The urge to leverage his rich consulting experience and spearhead his own enterprise led him to launch Cognizant, initially as a technology division of the Dun and Bradstreet Corporation. Today, as the Chairman and CEO of Cognizant, he manages the company from Teaneck, New Jersey, US. Cognizant has over 6,100 software professionals globally, spread over eleven development centres in Chennai, Kolkata, Pune, Bangalore and Hyderabad in India; in Limerick, Ireland; and Phoenix, USA. Cognizant reported revenues of $229 million for 2002, growing at a rapid pace with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 84% since its inception in 1994.

Mahadeva attributes the company’s performance despite the economic downturn to its intense customer focus made possible by an "onsite-offshore model". Cognizant's head chose to have the delivery out of India and the leadership in the US as opposed to having both in one location. This "best of both worlds" approach helped Cognizant to develop better insight into its customers' business through its leadership team located closer to the customers.The leadership team's proximity to the customers helped Cognizant establish tighter customer relationships and attain highest standards of responsiveness and flexibility, and the delivery team in cost-effective India helped the company scale up the number of professionals in keeping with its growth potential.

Another reason attributed to Cognizant's success is the multi-national and multi-cultural character nature of the company. "My journey across the Asia-Pacific, Europe and the US, working across different cultures helped me build the foundation of Cognizant.

The biggest challenge in the IT industry today is managing customers and people across different cultures and continents; my experience straddling this critical dimension has been an advantage," he said.

"Outsourced software programmes have grown 175% among large companies in the last 18 months. More than 70% of firms now outsource at least some of their software development. Open 24 hours and based in Teaneck, N.J., Cognizant maintains 12 development sites across India. The time difference means the firm can offer around-the-clock tech services to clients. Cognizant competes against larger offshore service firms, including Wipro Technologies Ltd and Infosys Technologies Ltd. Yet Cognizant has grown strongly through the economic downturn. Earnings rocketed from 8 cents per share in 1997 to $1.15 in 2001.

Return on equity averaged 31% annually during the same period," reported Evans Data Corporation on a recent analysis of the company.


Back to Top  Back to Business  

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.