Business Today

Cognizant, frankly

Malcolm Frank bootstrapped Cognizant - from crafting a 10,000-foot strategy to executing it daily.

Rahul Sachitanand        Print Edition: Jan 23, 2011

Malcolm Frank came into the world of software services almost by accident. The one-time college football player was trading gold, copper and crude oil on Wall Street when a chance meeting with John Donovan, Founder of Cambridge Technology Group (CTG), led to his conversion.

Cambridge Technology Partners, a spin-off from CTG, was a start-up focused on client-server consulting on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus. Frank took the plunge joining the 50-person unit in 1990 and, in a decade, saw it grow to be a 6,000-plus-staff firm. CTP was among the early information technology firms to go public in 1993, before it was snapped up in 2001 by Novell.

Cognizant's Mr. Strategy

A Quick Bio

Name: Malcolm Frank, Executive
VP and Chief Strategist, Cognizant
Age: 44
Grew up near Cleveland. Father was an archaeologist and college professor. Mother, a Scot, was a doctor
Education: Went to Yale
Milestones:
  • College-level American football player
  • First job as a commodities trader
  • First IT job was with Cambridge
  • Technology based on MIT's campus
  • Grew Cambridge Technology from a 50-person firm to a 6,000-plus firm
  • Founded NerveWire and sold it to Wipro in 2003
Frank - 44 today and driving strategy at Cognizant Technology Solutions for the last five years - rose to become Vice President at CTP, learning how to build a brand, managing public expectations and listing a company. That helped him ride his second wave when he founded NerveWire, an Internet and IT consulting firm, which was sold in 2003 to Wipro in a poorly-judged deal. His last start-up, CXO Systems, had Cisco Systems backing it in 2004 before taking over two years later. His fourth wave is at Cognizant.

The New Jersey-headquartered IT firm, which runs most of its operations from its centres in India, including Chennai and Bangalore, hopes Frank's success in the past will rub off on it. He brings on the experience of spotting patterns in different economic cycles and advising Cognizant on what works best.

Lakshmi Narayanan, now Vice Chairman of Cognizant, was swayed by those skills of Frank a week after he came aboard. Over a traditional south Indian lunch, Frank pushed Narayanan, then CEO, to look closely at the evolution of the industry from a centralised computing model to a client-server model and to one centred around mobility. "He got us thinking strategically...this is how we recognised that the future is in mobility and 'anywhere computing,'" says Narayanan.

Now, the tech industry is on the cusp of what Frank calls "the social enterprise" - where companies will outsource not just their IT requirements but also engage with outsourcers to manage the entire knowledge processes that will require specialisation. For instance, from drug discovery to clinical trial simulations for the pharmaceutical industry.

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