BE A TRUSTED ADVISOR, INVEST IN PEOPLE
Hiranjan de Silva COO | Attune Lanka (Pvt) Ltd.

Leveraging 12 years of exclusive focus in the fashion and lifestyle industry, more than Attune has helped clients chart their way to success with technology enabled business solutions. Mr. Hiranjan de Silva as the Chief Operating Officer, has provided his in-depth experience and extensive technology knowledge to give the best advisory services to his clients. Joining with Exposition, he shares his expertise in leading Attune’s global resources and how Attune transforms the world of style.

Q. attune is a professional global consultancy, how would you introduce your business and its activities?

If you look at attune, we are a global SAP solutions provider. We work exclusively with companies in the Fashion & Lifestyle industry. Our scope of services goes across retail companies, brand owners and manufacturing companies such as MAS. We provide services across the entire value chain of the industry. We are present in 8 countries and we’ve been operating for the last 12 years under the name “attune”. We began our journey back in 1999 as being a part of MAS Holdings’ internal SAP team. Subsequently, we became an independent company back in 2002 under the name of Rapier. In 2006 we established attune as a joint venture between 3 other partners. As of 2013, attune has become a fully owned subsidiary of MAS Holdings. Over the years, we’ve been extremely fortunate to have worked with some of the biggest brands in the market, starting from Adidas, Burberry, Crocs, Rockport, and Brooks Brothers.

Q. This industry is dynamic and diverse. It demands a broad scope of knowledge about many areas. How do you handle this scope as the Chief Operating Officer (of attune)?

As a boutique organization, our customers expect our team members to come in, help, guide, advise them and support them in making the right decisions in SAP implementations. We have to be a trusted adviser. That’s the key differentiator we have among any other solution provider in this space. In order to do that, we invest heavily in our people. In fact, we actually start this process way before someone even joins attune.
We work closely with universities to develop c curricular and we participate in conducting educational programs. This is done with the idea of creating awareness and giving people a set of tools, irrespective of whether they join attune or not. This aims at providing an understanding of what SAP offers and what career opportunities are available. Subsequently, we look at how we can attract and bring the best talent into attune. We invest a lot of time in developing capabilities, both in terms of their knowledge in SAP as well as giving them the right exposure and experience in the industry. Our team members are required to have a good understanding of the business processes, the industry and need to be able to add value to our customers. I think that’s where we differentiate with some of the other service providers.
When someone joins attune, they are assigned a career coach. New hires typically spend up to 6 months initially, undergoing a training program. We have a detailed process in identifying areas where they need improvement and have regular reviews to measure progress. The initial training focuses on SAP product knowledge, industry trainings and factory visits.
This provides the right foundation to build their careers on. We invest a significant amount of time by giving them an opportunity to work with our global customers in client support activities based out of Sri Lanka. Consultants then progress to working with clients in the region and ultimately on global projects. We have many team members who started off their careers joining attune from universities in Sri Lanka, developed their skills and are now working with global brands in the US and in Europe.

Q. Could you elaborate on your business portfolio, your partners and specify the services and solutions you offer to the market?

As mentioned, we focus exclusively on the fashion and lifestyle domain. This includes companies that are into apparel, shoes, active wear, eyewear, bags and accessories. Even though it’s a niche, it’s quite a broad area. In terms of our client list, we work with high fashion companies such as Burberry and Brioni, sports and life style companies such as Adidas and Columbia, footwear companies such as Rockport and Crocs.
What we offer are solutions primarily based on SAP and complimentary digital technology based solutions. These include web, mobile and cloud based solutions; where we could be filling a gap that SAP does not cover or catering to a highly specific need that a customer may have by developing a peripheral solution.
We are seen as an end-to-end service provider. Starting with advisory services for the customers, we provide project management and implementation services. We also provide managed services, post implementation where we maintain and manage the entire system; both SAP and non-SAP applications from operations in Sri Lanka and India.
Additionally, we also provide business transformation and change management services; where we help customers manage the internal change that is required following a technology implementation. We help with customers’ internal training, communication, and in ensuring the adoption of the new solution.
We partner closely with SAP from product co-development to customer implementations to joint go-to-market activities. Currently we are the only partner in the SAP eco-system that focuses exclusively on the fashion industry.

Q. What do you identify as reasons for your specialization in the fashion industry?

We were born out of the industry; being a part of the internal team at MAS that implemented SAP within the company. We also identified how MAS was extremely successful as a niche player, focusing on intimate apparel at the time. This drove our focus and specialization in the Fashion & Lifestyle industry. We made a conscious decision to avoid being a generalist and to be a niche player.
We also developed a strong track-record of working with SAP solutions that were developed specifically for this industry. Our focus and commitment in the fashion domain resulted in a co-innovation initiative with SAP; to develop their latest solution for the industry, SAP Fashion Management solution. Today, we continue to work closely with SAP in helping further refine and develop their industry offerings while being seen as a thought leader in this space.

Q. With the high cost of SAP, you can only target the large brands. Do you have any other options for small companies?

Over the years, SAP as a product company has evolved. In the past, it was mostly the larger companies that embarked on an SAP implementation. However now you see companies of all sizes utilizing SAP product offerings which include Cloud based models that make it more affordable.
We strongly believe and have seen in the market, that in order to support growth, you require a strong, robust platform such as SAP. This becomes vital when your organization grows and expands in to new geographies, product categories, acquisitions etc. Having a strong technology infrastructure such as SAP becomes an imperative.
What we have also done specifically for the small and medium segment is, develop a set of pre-configured solutions on SAP that help reduce time and cost of implementations. We also provide these as cloud based offerings, further reducing the cost to SMEs.

Q. What type of technologies do you implement?

In addition to SAP based technologies, we also focus on digital and custom web/mobile solutions. We have capabilities in a wide spectrum of technologies including iOS, Android, Java, .NET as well as Salesforce.com.
We believe in providing the right solution based on the customer requirement. Customers expect us to guide and advise them on technology choice. We have built the credibility to suggest the right technology to use, based on what they want to achieve.

Q. Using what metrics, do you measure the progress of the company?

As any company in a highly competitive industry, we have financial metrics to measure growth in terms of revenue, profitability, but, for us in particular, one of the key aspects is our client success which determines continued, long-term relationships and in order to ensure client success we need to make sure our people are successful. Therefore we spend a significant amount of time and investment focusing on and measuring our team’s growth and development. We have initiatives geared towards equipping our teams with the right skills, competencies, experience and exposure. A comprehensive career coach program ensures that our team members get the right guidance to advance and thrive in their careers at attune.

Q. “Fashion” is global and diverse in terms culture and the likeness. Your organizational culture should suit these attributes to be successful. What is your take on this?

As a global consultancy, we are fortunate to work in 8 countries and have an extremely diverse team. Our diversity has helped us work in different client environments. We also take proactive steps when bringing highly diverse teams together through team building activities and ensuring everyone has a good understanding of the working model, team structure and client expectations.
I think we have a unique culture at attune; it’s a flat organization, titles don’t carry as much weight as credibility. People at all levels are very hands-on, and no one is shy to roll up their sleeves in order to get things done. And although we are globally dispersed, we work together well as one team.

Q. What sort of opportunities are available for graduates? What is your stand in the job market?

We have a broad spectrum from SAP consulting to technical roles. We hire both experienced as well as fresh graduates. What we really look for is the right attitude; being able to take the initiative and the ability to be a team player. These are some of the key traits determining your success, not just within attune, but also in our customer environments. In terms of all the other areas such as technical skills and softs skills, we can actually help to develop them.