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50 Leading Companies of The Year 2020

Virtusa: Sparking Digital Innovation, One Sprint at a Time by Challenging Norms


“Virtusa’s unique value comes from the combination of deep technical expertise and an intense industry focus that results in holistic, humanistic, and highly effective business solutions.”

Digital transformation is the profound transformation of business and organizational activities, processes, competencies, and models to fully leverage the changes and opportunities of a mix of digital technologies. Outsourcing plays a vital part in a company’s evolving service delivery model and it is increasingly being used to capture market innovations in digital transformation. Companies must be capable of adapting their sourcing cycle to capture value being created in the marketplace.

Virtusa Corporationis a global provider of digital business transformation, digital engineering, and information technology outsourcing services that accelerate its clients’ journey to their digital future. Virtusa engages its clients to re-imagine their business models and develop strategies to defend and grow their business by introducing innovative products and services, developing distinctive digital consumer experiences, creating operational efficiency using digital labor, and rationalizing and modernizing their existing IT applications infrastructure.

The company was founded in 1996 and is headquartered in Southborough, MA.

Kris Canekeratne: Interview Highlights

What was the reason behind the genesis of Virtusa?

I co-founded Virtusa based on a belief that the software industry was ready for transformation; that the growing inefficiency of legacy IT systems and the emergence of the Internet and digital were going to require global corporations to re-think their entire IT infrastructure and how they interface with their customers. Today, we partner with some of the world’s most venerable brands to help them accelerate innovation and transform into digital-first businesses, while simultaneously applying the latest technologies to improve business efficiencies and reduce technical and process risk.

Coming out of university, I was both in love with software engineering and convinced that it was an industry ripe for radical transformation. Me, with some of my engineering friends, discussed the inefficiency of legacy IT systems and the need to move from on-premise to off-premise, online models. Those early conversations, a chunk of personal savings, and at least three maxed-out credit card accounts, ultimately turned into Virtusa.

How successful was your first project roll on? Share the experience.

My first project was two steps from being a failure and ended up being a huge success. I started my career in an entry-level developer position for a division of ADP. It was just a job, and I must confess working on mainframes wasn’t very exciting. I thought about quitting, a lot. One day I ended up having an impromptu conversation with my manager when I brought up the potential of an open systems approach, at the time a pretty radical idea. He gave me the green light to play around with the concept, which resulted in me building a solution that was two times faster and fully scalable. The project became a big deal for the department and an even bigger deal for me. I was hooked on open systems innovation.

Fostering a culture of feedback is crucial to the success of every organization. How is this true with your company?

Let’s start by defining what culture is. In my experience, culture is a derivative, meaning it is the consequence of policies, decisions, and most importantly, behaviors of leadership. If you want your organization to have a more open culture, leaders need to be more open. Any 21st-century organization has to be an innovative organization, which really means it has to be an open organization. As I shared earlier, the pace of change is only going to accelerate, and the only way to keep up is to learn constantly, share honestly, and collaborate always. It needs to be open to ideas, to different perspectives, and yes, to feedback, both positive and not so positive.

What are the factors that make your company stand out from the competition?

I’d point to the five factors that I shared earlier and to this: Virtusa’s unique value comes from the combination of deep technical expertise and an intense industry focus that results in holistic, humanistic, and highly effective business solutions. We empower our agile engineering teams to achieve unparalleled velocity using our open innovation assets to provide measurably better, digital-only business models that drive the pace of innovation sparked by a culture of cooperative disruption.

If you have to list five factors that have been/are the biggest asset to your organization, what would they be and why?

  • Our people are the biggest asset to Virtusa.
  • Our focus on alignment. Aligning everybody in the organization regarding the vision, mission, goals, priorities, strategies, and critical tasks is necessary to get from where you are to where you want to be and using the annual planning process to create that alignment.
  • The creation of what I call a motivating context. At Virtusa, our motivating context is called the Journey to 5. It’s our roadmap to 2025 for becoming the de facto leader in our industry and the best company to work for.
  • Exhibiting a commitment to learning. To survive, every company must get better at changing, which means their employees must get better at changing. A culture that is committed to helping people change, develop, and grow their skills and capacities will inevitably create a positive culture. And by the way, the learning task includes leadership. We have to keep learning too.
  • Last but not least, creating a psychologically safe environment. It is the critical characteristic of high performing, innovative, and happy teams.

Do you have any new products ready to be launched?

Yes. Later this year, we will announce a new cloud transformation and digital innovation approach that combines our deep industry knowledge and experience with the right engineering tools, industry assets, and certified technology teams to help our clients be more successful on their digital transformation journeys.

Where do you see your company a couple of years from now?

Simply put, doing more. We’ve been a good corporate citizen for much of our life, but the task is bigger today. We all need to be better global citizens. That means reducing footprints and increasing our capacity to create positive change for all the people we serve. It also means ensuring the long-term viability of the business itself. Our ability to do good by the world is predicated on our continued success. And the way we’re going to achieve that is by continuing to help our clients transform their businesses and doing so in ways that deliver measurably better results.

Kris Canekeratne: A Visionary Leader

Kris Canekeratne Co-founder/Chairman, serves as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Virtusa Corporation, a leading global digital engineering company. He plays a key role in defining the company strategy and continuously pushing next-generation technologies and organizational innovation to bolster its leadership position in the industry. In 1989, Mr. Canekeratne was one of the founding team members of INSCI Corporation, a supplier of digital document repositories and integrated output management products and services and served as its senior vice president from 1992 to 1996. In 1996, he co-founded Virtusa and in 1997, he co-founded eDocs, Inc., a provider of electronic account management and customer care, later acquired by Oracle Corporation. Mr. Canekeratne obtained his B.S. in Computer Science from Syracuse University.

“We partner with some of the world’s most venerable brands to help them accelerate innovation and transform into digital-first businesses.”