The pandemic has changed our lives and forced businesses to adapt to changing times dramatically. At the onset of the pandemic, many businesses started shedding jobs across industries as per the diversity and inclusion thumb rules. With unexpected lay-offs and unplanned re-hiring, the crisis also exposed whether some companies view D&I as a "nice to have" thing or a business necessity. If D&I-based hiring thrived during the crisis, did it also open up new avenues for opportunities? To discuss how the ongoing crisis shaped the D&I landscape, we spoke with Sunny Kaila, the Founder & Global CEO at IT By Design (ITBD) – an IT consulting firm that offers MSP staffing, outsourced NOC, RMM virtual admin, Helpdesk, and Professional Services.
As the founder, visionary, and driving force behind IT By Design, CEO Sunny Kaila pairs an unquenchable entrepreneurial spirit with an inspiring point of view and innovative, inquisitive mind. From his roots as an IT manager in an NYC company, Sunny has built a thriving IT services business in the U.S. alongside his wife and business partner Kam.
Sunny leads ITBD with a mindset that sees hurdles as opportunities. He challenges his team to seek innovation in every aspect of the business—from marketing to customer experience to operations. Such efforts have turned Sunny’s baby steps into the world of entrepreneurship into a global company with nearly 500 employees servicing small and mid-sized companies across a variety of industries.
Here are the excerpts of the interview.
The pandemic is unprecedented in its impact on IT organizations and service providers worldwide. What can IT organizations expect for a COVID-19 recovery?
At a time like this, it is of utmost importance for businesses to have their teams stay focused on innovation simply because the world is changing faster than ever.
And in the new world, we are living in, companies will have to pivot quickly to continue to create ‘’value’’ through innovation. However, in order for the innovation to happen, you need to have a collaborative team and measures to engage all team members.
At the moment, some industries are going down while some are thriving because they challenged the pandemic. The technology sector is doing relatively well. When the pandemic hit us, all businesses in the US were really not ready for remote work set up. They didn’t have a cloud infrastructure for businesses in place. That’s where technology companies had an advantage. They had the technology to allow their employees to work from home. Though such companies continue to do well, they still need to stay focused on innovation, employee engagement, and leadership development. Remote leadership is new to a lot of people. So, companies will have to ensure that their leaders are ready to lead the distributive workforce.
With companies looking to the post-COVID-19 future, the vision for many is a model that combines remote work and office time. What’s your take on the sustainable model as we come out of this crisis?
The remote mode of work is here to stay.
Understandably, a bigger percentage of the world's workforce will want to work from home. So, going forward, businesses will have to embrace a remote work model.
After all, flexibility is important for the higher retention of top talent. Thus, organizations need to be able to make sure that they have programs in place that can allow their people to work just from home or follow a hybrid model.
I think the hybrid model will thrive alongside the remote work model in years to come. Some employees are fatigued from work from home. These are the ones who love socializing and are social animals. What we have noticed internally is that many employees ask if they can come to the office once or twice a week. They miss the social interaction at work, but like the convenience of working from home.
In the new normal, do you think people will matter more than ever? Will organizations have to focus on the changing needs and behaviors of their employees?
In times of crisis, companies with a people-focus win. When people’s needs change, it is essential to adopt a more “people-focused” approach to change management rather than simply exerting authority. What all businesses already know that great customer experiences drive business growth and success. What most of them fail to understand is that the people behind the delivery of that customer experience must come first. Focusing on employees isn’t only the right thing to do; it’s good for business too!
How do you see the state of larger diversity, equity, and inclusion globally in the wake of a global awakening concerning their efforts around diversity and inclusion?
With remote work in place, the world is getting smaller with Zoom becoming probably the fastest transportation vehicle. With this, we all learned the possibility of working from anywhere and anytime.
Going forward, I do see that diversity will continue to shoot up and businesses will continue to bring a diverse team and diverse perspectives with complementary strengths that come from different walks of life.
In India, now we have also started hiring from Bengaluru, Pune, and Vijayawada other than our conventional centers of Chandigarh and Noida. The idea is to expand our talent pool and enrich our ability to hire top-notch talent. With that, more diversity comes in. Before the pandemic, the majority of our reporting staff were from North India and now the bigger percentage of the same comes from South India. This has only helped us be an even more diverse company. This openness has enabled us to hire a team in the Philippines, something that added more to our cultural diversity.
How do you unleash talent and ensure that your organization has representation from multiple points of view, and can leverage diversity and inclusion practices as a sustainable competitive advantage for your company?
We have successfully transitioned from a Managed Service Provider to a master MSP of great repute. It's our openness to think differently and embrace diversity & inclusion that has helped us thrive throughout this journey.
When I started IT By Design in 2003, we were only hiring in NYC. IN 2008, I went to India to open up our 24x7 center and that was just for our own MSP.
We embraced diversity from day one. Our competitors didn’t. As a result of us being open to bringing in more talented people, no matter which geography we could find them, we are now serving our competitors as the expert of experts.
Our competitors have started to come to us for advice. Today, there are over 60000 MSPs in the US and the majority of them have 100 people. On the contrary, we have a headcount of 500, which makes us the biggest privately held MSP in America. When I look back and reflect on our business journey, there’s one thing that stands out. And, that was embracing diversity and inclusion as a business philosophy.
The pandemic has elevated disparities and gaps in our societies and it has also created new trends in terms of where and how work gets done. What questions should leaders ask and act on for a better future of work?
Do I have the right strategy to pivot faster, better, and cheaper? Am I positioned to innovate quickly, faster than my competitor? Do I have the time, talent, and treasure to innovate better, faster, and cheaper than my competitors? It’s time to address and reflect on these questions as a leader. You should also reflect on questions such as “do I have the right leadership program to develop my leaders, to lead the distributed workforce?”, “How can I better adapt the KRAs, KPIs, and company structure for a remote worker?”
Our leadership team continues to brainstorm around important questions such as "How can we collaborate effectively?", "How can we empower our leaders?", "What all tools can we give to our resources so that they can collaborate better?"
We know that during a crisis and beyond, teams with effective communication and collaboration do better. Achieving a great collaborative spirit in a remotely distributed workforce is where the majority of your competitors will have a hard time. If you can figure out the system and processes to stay focused on collaboration and communication, you will do much better and weather any storm.
With shifting business priorities and changing customer needs, how are you gearing up to come out stronger on the other side? What’s your long-term plan? How do you measure the impact of your new initiatives?
When your people are engaged and productive, your customers are satisfied. This helps you earn higher profits and enables you to grow. With a focus on your people first, satisfied customers and organizational success follow. We clearly understand such linkage between a great workforce and a great balance sheet. People are the most expensive assets any business can have and also the most valuable ones. And, a strong people-oriented culture is our best way to maximize their value. When we continuously invest in recruiting, rewarding, and managing great talent, it automatically gets reflected in our business metrics.
IT By Design offers a variety of solutions, including dedicated staffing, Helpdesk Services, NOC services, and more to small and medium IT companies. What makes ITBD different?
What sets us apart is our people-centric approach. We invest a large chunk of our business budget into the well-rounded development of our people. The intention is to build a community of passionate employees – something I like calling the "internal community." This only helps us build a culture of family where everyone looks after each other. This keeps our internal community happy. When we take care of our community members, they take care of our customers.
What’s your larger India expansion plan and top priorities moving forward?
Our workforce expansion plan includes hiring 300+IT Infrastructure engineers in India. We are actively hiring engineers in India with expertise in cloud computing, cybersecurity, and managing IT infrastructure.
We are also planning to open two new offices in Bengaluru and Pune. We have started hiring people from Bengaluru and Pune already, providing them with the hybrid model and flex days. They can either work from home or come locally to our offices. Right now, we have our presence in Chandigarh and Noida - the locations we actively hire for, all year long.
Can you talk about your top challenges and how do you plan to tackle them now?
Going forward, our major challenge is going to be keeping the ITBD community healthier and safer as many of us continue to work from home. The "war for talent" is making hiring and retaining talented employees challenging than ever. To address the elephant in the room, we focus on our "people" strategies and are continuously working on creating a culture of WOW. In the post-COVID economy, keeping employees engaged is a huge challenge. Many people working with us are the ones who come to metropolitan cities in search of employment. Our focus is to keep them engaged and look after their well-being with our wellness programs.