Organization Model in Indian IT Service Companies

Guest post by Indu

I currently work for a large Indian IT services company which follows a ‘role based organization model‘ for human resource management. The term now used in the industry is ‘talent management‘ since that sounds more executive.

I was happy to participate in a recent HR (Human Resources) Department survey on the topic.  I have been wondering what a competitive organization structure for an IT services company is. I expected that the survey questionnaire will help me formulate my thoughts better. My expectation was a little farfetched.

I started my career as a software engineer trainee and have enjoyed career progressions in lesser time than Olympic gaps. The HR folks prefix ‘role’ and I prefer to prefix ‘designation’ to the term progression. Like most peers, I executed higher responsibilities prior to my movement to every new role. I was quite satisfied with self, until one of my best buddies asked me after my latest promotion – ‘Now that you have got this higher role, what do you intend to do differently?’ It was a good question; I literally blinked (did I feel small? yes, a bit). To me every promotion was recognition of my efficient toil for the organization. The urge was always to do my best, prove myself, improvise and impress, but hardly ever to develop myself better, learn better or plan for greater job satisfaction.

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Curiosity got me into checking what others (given higher roles before me) did, and do.

  • Are the higher level managers farther away from the ground? I think yes, they are, after analyzing a limited canvas in my large company. The higher managers manage ‘larger’ numbers – money and resources.
  • What can one do better, on moving from one role to the next? Manage more numbers every time and make sure numbers match, find & fill gaps with reasons narrated by folks on the ground?
  • What is our individual contribution?
  • How best are we using the technology and the business knowledge gathered (and may/may not have finessed)?
  • While I understand that organizations need folks for administration and management, aren’t most large Indian IT companies inappropriately wasting talent in the process?

Say, instead of an impressive 1000+ business or technology specialists with 15-20 years of experience in the industry, haven’t our companies churned out 900+ administrators and few countable specialists? Quite so, as I find from few casual intercompany interactions. Isn’t this one of the reasons why certain big customers prefer niche players than go to the biggies?

In another (larger) IT company, I have heard that they have a Project Administrator for every project of strength more than 50. Project Administrators are graduates (from any stream) with good communication, required computer knowledge and, an understanding of IT projects & organizational policies. They are paid lesser than the Project Managers and they manage statistics, reporting and resource movement. They work across multiple projects – say 50% each for two projects.

The Project Managers here have enough time to dirty their hands and be on the ground. I find this a better model. I would have personally loved to work with a manager – who knows how the work is done and, participates in the work. In my opinion, his capability in the role gets better tested. In this company also a role based model exists but aligning of talent is better, overhead administration costs per project are lesser.

The Project Manager gets to do more than administration. It is easy to delegate and be the ‘spokesperson’ for a team; s/he need not have any involvement in execution. It definitely creates a huge difference and gathers a lot of respect if it is otherwise. The role based organization, in most Indian IT companies, is a good thought which has faltered in execution by the HR department and has not enjoyed the right understanding by the masses.

It is better to create and clearly define an organization model that focuses on developing the “required” talents better in the “required” numbers. This will help Indian companies grow faster in the industry where knowledge & innovation truly matter.

I have been lucky to start my career in a small company with staff strength of less than 100. This has helped me learn the job the hard way thereby giving me a solid foundation. By the nature of their positioning, smaller companies I have found are better and more efficient; overheads cannot be afforded in most cases. There again, while these grow if the top management fails to recognize what to their clients is ‘value for money’, the story may not be different.

This is a guest post by Indu. After being dormant for a while, she is taking a break by writing again. You may read her few published articles at indoosdesk.blogspot.com.

7 Comments

  1. Thanks Jay for your comments and sharing these articles. The first article spoke our mind. I could not follow the second one much, may be I need to read more slowly 🙂

  2. The point about bigness is very true.
    First thing, it calls for of these ‘policies’ which by definition are for the lowest common factors. And that creates the frustration in the people who do have the judgment to make the exceptions but many times, not the power.

    One solution Tom Peters gives to organizations is to have an upper limit of about 300 people for any business unit and then run it as a complete business (with very less ’sharing’).

    Anyways, here are some good posts related to this topic. Some are a bit tangential but all are worth your time.

    ‘Success’ should not mean ‘Management’
    http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2006/09/success_should_.html

    Servant Leadership – Are of of service to your teammates?
    http://www.tompeters.com/entries.php?note=009503.php

  3. Thanks for the post!

    The Project administrator role looks interesting. But then again there are challenges.’Career path’ for that person for one.

    Also I couldnt resist picturing that poor guy sorta drowning in all the spreadsheets that he is asked to make for the client, middle management etc 🙂

    Also, we should also discuss how managers are gonna be assessed in the changed model. Or ‘appraised’ to use HR-speak. If their variable pay is still gonna depend on only how many ‘billable’ people they have and have added, that is what (most of) them are gonna concentrate.
    Thats Human nature 101 🙂

    I wonder how IBM Global Services, EDS and Accenture are organized and how they have met this challenge.In a lot of ways they are the best comparisons for the Indian IT services biggies and have been around longer. Any readers work for em and care to share?

  4. I remember arguing with delivery manager a few years back for getting myself permission to appoint someone with very basic education, to assist me in project administration such as attendance and time sheet tracking, report preparation, analysis of quality matrices, invoicing and billing, etc.. I was even ready to pay that assistant from my pocket. 😀 By doing so, I could concentrate myself on the actual project execution and innovation rather than just project administration.

    As organizations grow (in numbers and dollars) very fast, the rules gets stringent and flexibility is gone. My experience is that, the more stringent the rules are, the less innovative the employees would become. The employees end up spending more effort on making themselves feel comfortable in the environment rather than being innovative and passionate at work. Project Manager is then more of administrator rather than the leader by himself.

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