11 mins


Derek Rose, Prasad Ramakrishnan, Peter Baskette

If you think introducing a shiny new tool or service is transformation. Think again. Our changemakers didn’t just bring in the latest tech trend, they wrought fundamental change in how people work, communicate, and collaborate. In today’s episode, we’ll investigate how Changemakers plan their work; set up their vision, objectives, and roadmap. And we’ll learn how IT transformation often begins with something other than technology.


Narrator: When you think of IT transformation, what comes to mind?

Row after row of pristine servers, maybe?

How about a stack of brand new MacBook Pros?

Maybe some bespoke cutting-edge software?

That’s where most transformation conversations end up… but that’s not always where they start. 

In today’s episode, we’ll investigate how Changemakers plan their work; setting up their vision, objectives, and roadmap. 

And we’ll learn how IT transformation often starts with something other than technology. 

Derek Rose: You start with the customer experience and work back to the technology.  

Narrator: That’s Derek Rose, Group Head of IT and Deputy CIO at V.Group. 

He joined the maritime services company back in 2019 after a whirlwind career that spanned energy, finance, policing, and the automotive industry. 

While he didn’t know much about life on the open ocean, he brought nearly three decades of IT experience with him. 

He immediately recognized that V.Group’s old IT system, which was little more than a shared inbox, had to change.  

But he didn’t jump straight to a procurement or tender process for new technology.  

Derek Rose: I've been caught up with this before in the organizations I've worked in that ... We pick a tool and go right at it and make less work. Right? So you're almost starting with the technology and trying to make the experience fit the technology, and more often than not we get it wrong. Yeah, and I've learned the hard way, absolutely learned the hard way with that one. 

So it's about flipping that 180, and saying, "Okay, what's the experience that I want to offer my customers? And how do I get there?" So for me, it was about business case, terms of reference, however you want to call it. Technology statements, whatever it may be, but for me it was about, "Okay, I need a central point of contact. I need a way for people to pick up the phone if they need to, I need to deliver an environment that they can self help, so they can go on and they can look at knowledge, basically."  

Because people like to fix things themselves, you know? We're inquisitive by nature, so let's give them the ammunition to go and find out about how to fix things. And their knowledge then increases as a result of it, so their knowledge base was a big part of it for me. And it was the ability to track where their resolution was at any given time, and that was about jump on now and have a look, so that the ability for the tool I was going to look at had to be ... Go on and have a look and find out where your ticket is at any point in time. Similar to the personal experience that we have when we request services at home. 

Derek Rose: If your TV, internet, or whatever goes down at home, you contact the supplier. And you almost expect an immediate response, because it's really frustrating and it annoys the heck out of you that it's not working, because you can't watch your favorite TV program, or whatever it may be. Or you can't go on the internet. It's a similar type experience in the industry, and business for me, from a service point of view. 

Narrator: Once he had an experience to aim for, Derek could begin working backward to the technology… A search that eventually led him to Freshservice. 

Derek isn’t alone in his interest in user experience. 

Most IT leaders think about how end users and engineers will feel using technology… But one Changemaker took a rather unusual step to ensure his colleague’s experiences were represented. 

Prasad Ramakrishnan: So we kicked off what I call as a democratic process for software selection.  

Prasad Ramakrishnan: We did is we did a bake-off between all the tools and I made it democratic where I had users and my IT engineers, both using the tool to try and see whether they like it from an end-user perspective, from an agent perspective, because what most people forget about is the tool that the IT engineer uses to provide service to the end customer matters.  

Narrator: That’s Prasad Ramakrishnan, Freshworks’ Chief Information Officer. 

While he currently heads up all of Freshworks' infrastructure and security, he’s talking about his previous experience at a pharmaceutical SaaS company, where he worked as CIO. 

To understand this organization, you have to understand something important: It was built on Salesforce. 

Its first product, a life science CRM, used Salesforce as a platform. Internally, all of its go-to-market teams used Salesforce products. 

Even their IT team used Salesforce… and that’s where the problems started. 

Prasad Ramakrishnan: What I was finding is, well, Salesforce is a great platform, nothing wrong with the platform. It truly is not an ITSM platform. 

Narrator: Replacing their old service desk wasn’t going to be easy. The company loved Salesforce. If he was going to convince people to move, Prasad knew he’d have to involve them in the process. 

He emailed the whole company, telling them he was going to replace the old ITSM platform and asked for help selecting its replacement. He also asked his peers — other department leaders — to nominate one or two people to contribute. 

The response was overwhelming and at his first meeting, Prasad’s evaluation team had 75 people. 

Now, all he had to do was find the best way to involve each of them in the process. 

Prasad Ramakrishnan: When you're choosing a tool, and this is a methodology which almost every IT department in some form or shape already have. They call it as a scoring matrix, where you would put what is called as a weighted score, where in the most simplistic form visualize this as a table where you say feature functionality has a 40% weightage, the cost has maybe a 10-20% weightage. The stability of the vendor has a 10% weightage, and customer references and other things has a 20% weightage. So every company has some form of a criteria that they use for choosing vendors. Now where the cross-functional democratic process comes in, is in terms of working on the feature functions, which is the most important thing, the reason you're buying this tool is because you want to transform the way support is being delivered and deployed today and make it attractive for the end users. 

So what we did is, came up with a set of criteria. Things like how easy is it to report a ticket?? How easy is it for us to build a report? How easy is it for us to add a new user, change the grouping, and change the routing?  

Prasad Ramakrishnan: We brought them together, had them all play around with the tool. And this is where Freshworks was great. I told them, "Hey guys, we're going to go through this process where I would need you to give me the trial licenses for these people, so people can try out what it looks like." And so that's how we got people involved in the process. And then after the one or two week trial period, we brought them into a conference room and said, "Tell me what you liked, tell me what you didn't like." 

Prasad Ramakrishnan: It was, "On a five point scale, tell us what you would put as a score." And then we had a big whiteboard in which we had the features listed on the left, and then we'd have everybody just go and write the score against each of these, brought it into an Excel spreadsheet and did a weighted average score. 

Narrator: Combined with scores for stability, references, and price, Prasad created comparable scores for each product. The winner was Freshservice. 

And this wasn’t just Prasad’s choice. A 75-person strong cross-functional team had helped select it. And that held sway in the organization. 

Prasad Ramakrishnan: I know it's a little bit more complex than you're going to the poll booth and then pressing the button to say who the president is, but this is a little bit more than that. But it makes it a scientific process and a transparent process. If you don't have any favoritism or any bias getting into the picture. Everybody sees what's there on the whiteboard everybody's bought in. And so and I'm sure there may be a few people who do not like the tool, but they're seeing that there are 75 other people who like it. So it helps build consensus. 

Narrator: Both Prasad and Derek kickstarted their transformations by looking internally. They studied their own experiences and the needs of their teams. 

But there was another option: looking outward and learning from others. 

Peter Baskette: Happily, I think it was pretty self-evident, and in fact, there was already movement to make these changes, to lean into an IT Service Management structure as part of the operational strategy, for example. People were already talking about adopting ITIL, for example, ITIL best practices, and we were simultaneously evolving some of our project management practices as well. 

Narrator: Meet Peter Baskette, Vice President of Information Technology at Riverbed Technology. 

When Peter first joined Riverbed, it’s service operations were pretty poor. But he says the company was already committed to improvement. 

They were already talking about adopting processes from ITIL — that's the Information Technology Infrastructure Library. It’s a set of detailed processes that condense down global learnings and best practices. 

It was music to his ears. Instead of starting from scratch, Peter could use their work as a strong foundation. 

On top of ITIL, Peter layered learnings from Dr John Kotter’s eight-step process for leading change. 

Peter Baskette: It's just a very compelling and clean approach to addressing that people side of the equation. And it's literally eight steps, and you follow them... I mean, it definitely takes interpretation, and it's not totally scripted, but it makes a lot of sense. 

Peter Baskette: That framework was what I used to organize the approach and then to really drive the change forward. 

Narrator: The framework is built around a simple eight-step process.  

One, create a sense of urgency. 

Two, build a guiding coalition. 

Three, form a strategic vision and initiatives. 

Four, enlist a volunteer army. 

Five, enable action by removing barriers. 

Six, generate short-term wins. 

Seven, sustain acceleration. 

Eight, institute change. 

Using a combination of ITIL best practices and Kotter’s process, Peter had a robust roadmap. He could hit the ground running, driving tangible change from his very first day in the job. 

But Peter’s transformation is a story for another day. 


Narrator: You’ve been listening to The Changemakers from Freshworks.  

They say that the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry… but no one thought to tell that to our Changemakers. 

With exacting precision and care, these IT leaders crafted clear transformational game plans. 

Derek Rose honed his ideal end user experience… and then found the technology to power it. Prasad Ramakrishnan harnessed the wisdom of the crowd to select new technology as a unified team. And Peter Baskette tapped into decades of collective experience, learning from everyone else’s mistakes so he didn’t have to make them. 

On the next episode of The Changemakers, we’ll discover how these meticulous plans coped when they met reality. Will they bend and bow or shatter under the strain? 

Coming up… 

Colin McCarthy : I think there's nothing wrong with just setting it up and then adjusting it on the fly. It's almost like the Google and other startup ways of working is you throw something at the wall and see if it sticks. We weren't damaging anything. We weren't going to break anything. We would still be able to respond to people's support requests. And we had the ability to learn and refine the product in a live environment, which we could have never have done in a hypothetical environment. 

Thanks for joining us.