We live in a culture of speed: a digitalized environment where results are expected at the push of a button and innovations are rolled out in increasingly shorter cycles to meet spiraling demand. NTT DATA Services has harnessed this mindset in a powerful way to drive performance of its data and technology services with Racing for Time in a Culture of Speed – a fast-track initiative that enables NTT DATA Services to maintain a hyper-focus on the finish line. At parent company NTT Group, title sponsor and technology partner of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, it’s no secret that speed equals relevance in business as well as sport.

“In racing, as in business, speed is the name of the game,” said Vicki Furnish, vice president of Global People Solutions Operations and Analytics, NTT DATA Services, a part of NTT DATA, a $22B, top-10 provider of global business and IT services, headquartered in Tokyo. NTT DATA Services is based in Plano, Texas, with 50,000 workers and revenue of $4B. In recent years the company has been growing rapidly through acquisitions.

“Companies can no longer wait to implement newer technologies or we’re going to be left behind by our competitors,” Furnish told an audience at SAP Sapphire Orlando, where she presented NTT DATA Services’ cloud journey. “We’re in a constant state of acceleration. We’re using technology to change the game.”

Rapid Ascent to the Cloud

NTT DATA Services’ journey to the cloud started with its established SAP footprint in 2012, when the division ran SAP ERP Central Component to help meet the needs of its then-20,000 employees in five countries. When SAP bought SuccessFactors that same year, NTT DATA Services quickly pivoted to implement the new cloud-based software suite for human resources.

Furnish says that her team started with SAP SuccessFactors Performance & Goals and SAP SuccessFactors Compensation and later migrated to SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central. “We were able to get our SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central module implemented globally across five countries in six and a half months,” she said.

In 2016, NTT DATA Services bought the former Dell Services in an acquisition that expanded its offerings to become a comprehensive portfolio of business and IT services. The team at NTT DATA Services was able to get the core functions of SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central running in six months from the time the deal was signed. “We’re very excited about that,” Furnish said.

Two questions come up whenever Furnish shares the success story of NTT DATA Services’ migration to the cloud: How did you do it? How big is your team?

Lots of pre-work and preparation went into the project, according to Furnish, and executive buy-in was an important factor in seeing the project through to completion. With NTT Group leadership on board, the project was set for success. As for the team size, it’s remarkably similar to the six-person pit crews of IndyCar fame. “I’m very honored to manage a large team today, but the ones who manage our global SAP SuccessFactors configuration and maintenance are six very smart and talented people who are deployed across the globe,” said Furnish.

Lessons from the Speedway

Lessons learned at NTT DATA Services come straight off the speedway. Furnish said, “To compete in this culture of speed, there are two things we can learn from the world of motorsports. First: reduce resistance. Second: keep the pedal down.”

One of the biggest barriers to speed in organizations today is outdated legacy software, tools, and technologies, which act as digital drag on efficiency. “While it’s easier said than done, updating those technologies and systems will unleash a powerful set of capacity and capabilities,” said Furnish, who noted that sometimes the problem is that there can be too much great technology to choose from. She recommended honing in on technologies that offer clear value, allow easy collaboration and quick implementation, and meet the strategic needs of the business.

Talent was identified as an area of investment at NTT DATA Services. “We are a professional services company, so people are core to what we do,” Furnish said. By looking at the whole person throughout the employee life cycle, the organization has advanced its people agenda. “Our approach is, if we put the right foundation in for our team and people, our team members will be successful. If they are successful, we will then be successful in our business.”

Keeping pace with customer demand and the competition will always be a challenge, but Furnish is optimistic. “I think moving to the cloud has kind of leveled the playing field. The companies that are nimble and address updating their technology quicker and faster are the ones that are going to take charge.”

The Checkered Flag

At the closing of her presentation, Furnish waved the metaphorical checkered flag for the takeaway: “Change is constant, but what we’re seeing is coming at us historically faster,” she said. “I would encourage all of you to remember the strategic objectives that you are focused on with your team, leverage all of your resources, and ask for help when you can – because in this environment of speed, it takes your entire team to win the race.”