A thrust on autonomy, entrepreneurship

Iris scores over larger organizations in its collaborative culture, says Vinay Vijayan.

“There is no escalation culture here. The culture is to figure things out.” That is one of many aspects where Iris distinguishes itself from the others in its field, according to Vinay Vijayan, Iris Vice President of Sales and SBU Head, Financial Services. Vinay joined Iris in 2019 after having worked with some of the biggest software services companies. He shares his perspectives on how the Iris culture is different from others in its industry and how it provides it an edge in the market.

Below are excerpts from an interview with Vinay:

Open culture and autonomy

If the work culture at Iris could be summed up in two ideas, it would be its open culture and autonomy. While many companies tout the concept of an “open culture,” I have yet to see one that is as open as ours is. I must admit that I was surprised by the level of communication when I started working here. I had come from organizations where communication was done in silos and only on a need-to-know basis.

Iris business heads and managers have a great deal of autonomy in decision-making. While communication is open and people can and do question your decisions, they also recognize the autonomy granted to us.

The combination of genuinely open communications and great autonomy while making business decisions is enmeshed in our culture. 

Recently, we signed on a client where our profits were expected to be much lower than what we usually accept. The tradeoff was an opportunity to cement a longer and deeper relationship with the client. A few internal stakeholders disagreed, but they appreciated that it was my decision to make. This is where Iris sets itself apart from others. Here, nobody will say, “You shouldn’t have done that.”

However, having worked in larger organizations, I can say that sustaining an open culture becomes extremely difficult as companies grow. But somehow Iris has managed to retain that without any downsides.

Figure it out and collaborate

The other major distinction at Iris is the importance it attaches to collaboration between teams as a way of resolving issues or problems. This is often not possible in larger companies with bureaucratic hurdles and multiple power centers.

One recent example of how collaboration resolved a tricky issue was when we had pitched for client projects in two different areas. But one of our project managers was critically required in both projects at the same time. We had won both the projects, but faced the question of where we could deploy that manager – clearly, he couldn't be in both places at the same time. In large companies, a scenario like that would have triggered a minor turf war between two departments, which would get escalated, and there would have been a winner and a loser.

Instead, my counterpart and I talked it out, agreed on a way forward and moved on. Nobody had to intervene. It would not have been this smooth in any other organization. The culture is to figure things out. I can’t think of a single case where I had to escalate an issue I may have had with my colleagues or other groups. Of course, we have our differences, but we pick up the phone and decide what to do. And it has worked.

Moreover, people know that our culture is not to escalate. There’s no way, even if you escalate, that someone will come and mediate. So we must figure it out ourselves and do that quickly.

Define your entrepreneurial role

Values such as client-centricity and collaboration exist in other companies because these are prerequisites to run any client-centric business. However, one value where Iris distinguishes itself is its drive to build something completely new.

Every Irisian looks at the company as his or her own business and tries to define ways to create something new and take it upon themselves to execute it. You are not here to do a part of a job. You are here to play the whole game. If something doesn’t work, then it’s your responsibility to make sure you pull somebody else into it and get it done.

That culture of driving entrepreneurship across the company has been a big motivator and a big reason I joined Iris. In large organizations, you could do well in your area, but it may not make a meaningful difference to the rest of the organization. At Iris, there is a chance to define something along with the rest of the senior leadership. When you define the culture, you define the way we go to market.

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