“To change is difficult, but not to change, is fatal.”
Last Thursday (20th October, 2016), Appirio announced that it had been acquired by the Indian IT giant, Wipro, for $500 million. Of course, the move means Topcoder, the world’s largest crowdsourcing community is now also a part of Wipro. There’s obviously been a lot of chit chat about it in the media and in the TopCoder community as well.
Time really does fly, I still remember the time I wrote about Appirio acquiring Topcoder three years back and merging it with CloudSpokes. Over the last few days, a lot of people have asked me about my perspective on this recent move and I thought it would be best to pen down my thoughts as a blog post.
Just to clarify though, the opinions reflected in this post are purely my own and as a community member’s perspective. I’m neither here to serve as a cheerleader for the deal, nor criticize it without any rhyme or reason.
I’m no stranger to either of these companies. I’ve been fortunate to follow Appirio’s rise very closely from the time it started with a handful of employees in 2007. The way Appirio has grown over the years to establish itself as a leading player in the cloud transformation segment is a remarkable achievement.
Since Salesforce had been a primary business focus for Appirio and being a Salesforce MVP, I’ve witnessed the company’s prowess and evolution in this domain over the years.
Circa 2013, I was among the top members in the erstwhile CloudSpokes community before it was merged into Topcoder and I’ve seen a lot of positive changes. I have a sense we’re heading in the right direction. Of course, being a member of the inaugural Community Advisory Board (CAB) for Topcoder also helped me develop a holistic overview of the community.
As for Wipro, with nearly $8B in revenue and more than 170,000 employees – it’s an established and well-respected name in the Indian IT fraternity. The closest I came to being associated with Wipro was when I interviewed with them more than 15 years back – I didn’t join though due to personal reasons.
Whether it’s running a company or a crowdsourcing community, I think everything boils down to trust and transparency. I can’t help but admire this honest and candid post from Appirio’s CEO – Chris Barbin where he pours his heart out on various aspects of this move, including his vision for the future of Appirio and Topcoder.
Shortly after the press release was made, there was a blog post on the Topcoder site as well as follow up emails from each of the track members – Design, Development, Data Science informing members of the re-organization. As well as an email that TCO16 finals will continue as planned – in short, the message was loud and clear, it’s business as usual and nothing changes, at least for now – and that’s a good sign.
I’ve witnessed a few M&As in my career and several of them have ended up as PR disasters. So, I’d say well done on that front!
The first thing I can’t help but notice is the scale that this deal brings to Appirio, and especially to Topcoder. Wipro has customers in 175+ cities and across several verticals & domains which Topcoder hasn’t explored so far. That brings in a tremendous opportunity to leverage crowdsourcing in untapped areas.
In fact, while the talk has been mostly around Appirio’s Salesforce and Workday practices, don’t be surprised if Topcoder turns out to be the real trump card in the months to come. Topcoder is a community with some amazing talent in the design, development and algorithm tracks – and that coupled with a different scale of opportunities offered by Wipro could lead to some fascinating results.
The Crowdsourcing mindset
Of course, crowdsourcing is a different mindset and I’m hoping Wipro aligns itself to it sooner than later. Wipro is a champion in outsourcing but crowdsourcing is a different value proposition all together. The good thing however is that the deal itself indicates that a traditional company like Wipro is willing to experiment with newer avenues that it hasn’t explored.
In the past, Wipro has been criticized for following a traditional approach and not keeping up with the trends of modern times. However, that seems to have changed in the last few years and I see this move as a massive step in that direction.
To say that Topcoder has changed significantly in the last few years – wouldn’t be an understatement. The community is more engaged now – thanks to Slack, dedicated track managers and the good old forums. There have also been changes – some of which have received a mixed response – the old Digital Run program has been deprecated in favor of the ‘Blitz’ which now determines the bonus payouts.
There are now TCO regional events – which are a great way to connect with the member community all over the world.
There is Topcoder Connect – which aims to be the self-service portal for customers to enter and run projects and it is already gaining a lot of steam.
And there are lots more coming down the road I’m sure.
While it’s impossible to predict the future, I for one, believe that this change is a good thing. The signs look good, and I for one believe that this will make the Topcoder community better than before.
Your fellow community member, Talesforce