MarTech Interview with Raj Narayanaswamy, Co-CEO of Replicon, Inc.

PPM solutions help provide businesses and stakeholders a unified real-time view of the progress of different projects while reducing a lot of the common alignment challenges that teams may face, Raj Narayanaswamy, Co-CEO of Replicon, Inc. discusses the growth of PPM in today’s B2B marketplace and why marketers and sales team can benefit from it:

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Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Raj, tell us more about yourself and your journey through the years?

Thank you, it’s my pleasure to chat with you. I’m a computer science engineer turned entrepreneur with the goal of solving a common challenge: tracking employee time accurately. For some time in the 1990s, Lakshmi (my Co-CEO) and I worked as software consultants. At that time we were filling out timesheets to get our work hours captured. Lakshmi suggested that we automate the timesheet process as it was an annoying task. This is when we co-founded Replicon in 1996. We soon realized that too often, organizations overlook the importance of time in their business – when in fact, it’s a powerful resource that impacts productivity, performance, and profitability, making this a highly impactful problem to solve. 

Within a few years, we were able to evolve Replicon into a profitable business. Over the years as we solved multiple challenges around time tracking, we felt the need to create a Time Intelligence Platform which fundamentally changes the way organizations manage, analyze, and leverage time as a strategic asset. We applied more than 20 years of best practices to help global brands unlock the underlying power of time – empowering them to analyze, optimize, and capitalize on time.

Recently with the pandemic driving a dramatic shift in attitudes on remote work to the adoption of top technologies, we saw the need for innovating remote project-based work whether it is client-facing professional services or internal-focused project portfolios. With hybrid workplace gaining popularity, project-based firms needed a solution that brings together data from all operations and metrics on a common platform — one that can support every function, employee type, and location across geographies. This is why we created Polaris – the world’s first self-driving PSA (Professional Service Automation) & PPM (Project Portfolio Management) solutions.  Polaris makes it easier for organizations to make tough business decisions by doing the heavy lifting — analyzing real-time data and recommending the best possible choices for business leaders and project leaders to decide from.

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We’d love to hear more about Replicon’s core products/services and a few top highlights on the recent launch of Polaris PPM solution?

At Replicon we treat time as a strategic asset.  Our Time Intelligence Platform enables businesses to connect time spent to outcomes produced, and understand and deploy time as an asset, just like the way they treat money, resources and materials. This new knowledge can flow back to individual employees, so they can understand their own time and manage it better to be more successful. Our core products help businesses turn time into a strategic asset and manage all use cases around time tracking. We recently launched the Polaris product line which provides self-driving solutions, Polaris PSA and Polaris PPM, for enabling project-based organizations to deliver better.

Coming to the PPM market, there are two critical things that business leaders & PMOs in project organizations must do to be successful. First, getting their resources and projects properly aligned with the strategic priorities. And second, getting up-to-date information on how those projects are performing, so they can make real-time course corrections. We created the Polaris Self-driving PPM solution to solve this problem so that firms can make better decisions, based on a real-time, accurate, holistic view of their projects. Polaris PPM brings together all the data from existing execution systems and provides a single view of projects, resources, and costs.

With Polaris PPM, for the first time, PMO and business leaders have a solution that does the heavy lifting, analyzes real-time data, and delivers live recommendations on the best possible choices. Polaris PPM introduces a number of innovative approaches to empower businesses to improve and optimize project, resource, and portfolio management:

  • MissionControl provides a comprehensive real-time view of the whole project portfolio and details on specific initiatives, resources, or cost, as well as integration with leading BI tools.
  • Real-time project portfolio management helps group and manage all project, resource and cost metrics related to a project portfolio as a single entity.
  • Instant budgets vs. actuals enables leaders to track actual hours, costs, project progress w.r.t budgets to manage accounting for chargebacks, cost capitalization, R&D tax credits and more.
  • SmartBeats helps update timesheets and project status in real-time by gathering rich comprehensive details about the work being done by your resources from desktop, mobile and execution tools like Slack, Jira, Microsoft Project,  Asana or anything else they use.
  • SmartMatch is an intelligent resource recommendation engine that provides the best resource based on the criteria specified and ensures the right resources are allocated to the right projects.
  • Collaborative resourcing workflow enables conversations between project and resource managers around the right resources for projects.
  • Skills Cloud provides tracking and smart display of skills, certifications and expertise levels for each resource as needed by your services firm.
  • Project, resource and portfolio governance standardizes projects, resources, costing, and other processes across your business for a consistent view.
  • Mobile, enterprise-grade, cloud platform is secure, global, configurable and scalable to support millions of users.
  • Plug-and-Play offers smooth integration so you can share project, resource, time, and costs information with your ecosystem – whatever that may be.

Why in your view are PPM solutions becoming integral to multi-department and team collaboration? A few thoughts on how PPM solutions are useful to marketing-sales teams? 

For any project-based organization, PPM solutions are imperative for selecting the right set of projects that meet business goals, risk, resource availability, and other criteria. With a PPM tool in place, portfolio managers can quickly identify which projects are not contributing to the business objectives. 

Without PPM software, business leaders are overwhelmed with all the execution data from the different systems used by their teams. This fragmented data causes a lot of problems. Portfolio and project managers don’t know which project to prioritize, or whether the projects are really on budget, and you can’t understand the current situation to do effective planning. Also, a lack of aggregated view across the portfolio means that there is no way to look at if this is a priority project and how much should they be spending for execution.

PPM provides the estimation capabilities needed to ensure that projects are estimated more accurately and the right resources are put on the right work at the right time. It unifies all these disparate project and resource data, that is spread across multiple systems in use by your different teams and departments to create a single source of truth across the portfolio. This information is critical for sales and marketing teams too as they can know which deals to pursue or not based on costs, margins and resources. 

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What are some of the internal team and project management challenges you’ve observed sales/marketing teams struggle with, what are some of the top thoughts you’d share as tips here?

Today firms operate in a highly competitive business environment and need to prioritize clients and project portfolios they should focus on while strategically aligning projects and resources. Without project-resource alignment, there is a high chance of resource costs increasing due to last-minute requests, which in turn shrinks the project margins. The cut-throat competition coupled with customer’s purchasing power builds the pricing pressure on both the sales and project delivery teams.   

Furthermore, organizations working on multiple projects at a time, need real-time visibility to manage delivery.  With increasing hybrid and remote workforce, project teams may operate in multiple time zones and currency variations with a resource having multiple rates for different roles. Sales teams need to be cognizant of the implications of these differences before committing to clients and drafting contracts. Also, there is a high dependency on forecasting to manage future revenues and pipeline. This is where Polaris helps them deliver more results with less hassle, giving them proactive insights to get and keep projects, resources and finances on track. 

How do you feel PPM Solutions will evolve in the future to redefine how projects are managed and worked on? 

Today PMOs are forced to get projects executed within the constraints of the resources that they have. They have limited support to effectively plan out strategic projects and prioritize them based on real time data while aligning resource planning and project execution. While most of the PPM solutions in the market take a top-down approach by providing beautiful charts and dashboards, if you’re not getting real-time data none of the information is really valuable.  

Polaris PPM has a bottoms-up approach while also providing top-down visibility and alignment. We leverage accurate real-time data to answers all the questions the business needs to ask such as:

  • Is the project aligned to strategic goals?
  • Is the project on track as planned?
  • How much time have resources spent on a project and how many more hours will be required?
  • What is the resource utilization rate and how much more is left for use? 

Since Polaris PPM is built on our Time Intelligence platform,  it comes with the extended benefits of configurability, scalability, modern interface, support for global, advanced AI/ML technologies, and plug & play capabilities. 

The most evolved PPM software will be self-driving — an intelligent product designed to truly enable growth and seamless operation in organizations. Like a self-driving car, a self-driving PPM liberates the user by taking the wheel, detecting obstructions, and safely redirecting everything in the right direction. The best PPM software is capable of identifying these exceptions or concerns and bringing them to a business leader’s attention right away, helping them to ensure projects, resources, and costs stay on track.

Some last thoughts and takeaways?

The rise of the hybrid workplace, globalization, the cloud, and the proliferation of mobile devices are creating opportunities for companies to adopt technology to fuel rapid growth and profitability. We created Polaris PPM to unify disparate project portfolios, resource and other work data that are spread across multiple systems. Polaris is the first self-driving PPM that is enabled by collecting large amounts of real-time data to understand what’s going around in an organization.  It is a comprehensive and easy-to-use project portfolio management solution that is flexible to meet any organization’s specific needs. Being a true cloud platform, Polaris PPM scales with the organization and adheres to the highest security standards and privacy controls. It leverages advanced technologies to help manage business intelligently and  integrates seamlessly into the existing ecosystem.

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Replicon, the Time Intelligence company, has over 25 years of industry leadership, pioneering new approaches to time, project and resource management. Time Intelligence elevates time as a strategic asset within an organization, to improve operational productivity, performance, and profitability. Replicon’s Time Intelligence Platform offers award-winning cloud-based solutions for enterprise time management, global time and gross pay automation, and includes complete solution sets for project time tracking for costing and billing, time & attendance, and workforce management. Replicon’s innovative Polaris product line introduces the world’s first self-driving solutions for Professional Services Automation and Project Portfolio Management, helping project-driven enterprises deliver increased revenue and profitability. Replicon’s team of over 500 employees supports thousands of customers around the globe including PwC, Siemens, FedEx, NTT, Expedia, Moody’s, SAS, Facebook, and Hyatt. 

Raj Narayanaswamy is the Co-CEO of Replicon, Inc.

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