Management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done
"Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done."
There are two objectives of this report. One is to analyse the working of an SME (Small and Medium Enterprise). The second is to actually look back at two years spent in the industry by a then novice and then critically evaluate the working environment he was part of from the perspective of a student.
As much as we much dwell on the notion of living in the information age fact remains at the work place it's all about the culture prevalent at the office. People in positions of power. It's about equations at work. Inter departmental rivalry. All of this culminates into the guiding force of today's organisation; Office politics
The fish unfortunately is rotten head up. Today's management boards are either completely detached from the rest of the organisation or in worst cases almost always manage to act against the objectives of the organisations as a whole. It is extremely rare to see a board of directors whose members are completely familiar with the entire organisation. They may/not be knowing their own job, but as illustrated by this report they sure know of ways and means to make work complicated for people below them.
The reality of today's organisation is that it is run by people at the operational and strategic level.
Then what purpose do the board of directors serve? Apart from 'figureheads' of the organisation not too many. They can and ideally should be a lot more proactive and interactive but various factors mostly cultural prevent them from being the mentors that they can be considering the fact that some if not most of them are industry veterans and maybe in some cases indeed be knowledgeable, such cases are few and far apart.
Of course people at operational level don't help their cause one bit by behaving like a disgruntled lot that though is a different story altogether.
This in summary is how today's organisation functions.ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Dr Rajeev K Bali for giving me the opportunity to fulfil a long term desire to chronicle and more importantly critically evaluate my experiences in the private sector back home in India.ABSTRACT
This report is split into two parts.
The first part of the report would consist of an analysis of some of the basic strategy frameworks and analyse them in context to Info Solutions Private Ltd (hereon ISP).
The second part would consist of a diagnosis. Diagnosis of how and when the wheels of ISP's 'corporate re-jig' started coming off to the point where people started tendering their resignations en-masse. This part would be based on the experiences of a freshman, 'Novak'; His entry into the company. His work experiences both at the corporate office and On-Site. Most importantly what he learnt working at the organisation and his suggestions on the betterment of the organization?INTRODUCTION
The genesis of this business report is the two years of experience gained whilst working at a private software development firm in India. Novak started off in 2008 as a trainee programmer at ISP and after having spent two invaluable years signed off in 2010 as a system analyst.
ISP specializes in the development of software products for banks. The products catered to the payment cards division of banks. The suite or bundles would be developed by the In-house development team at the company's corporate office located in Mumbai as per technical specifications provided by banks. Once developed the product would undergo rigorous testing at both the corporate office by the company designated testing team and at the bank by concerned bank staff. There after the product would be deployed at the banks behest by the company designated deployment team. After obtaining signoff from bank, on site operations would commence.
When Novak started off he was assigned to work with the operations team at Yes Bank wherein He got to understand the basic workflow of the system. After about three months there He was shifted to the development team at ICICI Bank. In between He also worked for Knet, Mashreq, Burgan and NI Banks, all of which were gulf based banks, on an ad-hoc basis. For his last assignment he was posted On-Site at Axis Bank for a year wherein he was appointed On-Site in charge. At Axis Bank He had under him a twenty-member team ranging from operators to developers, stationed both On-Site and at the corporate office.BASIC STRATEGY FRAMEWORKS
This part will consist of the analysis of some basic strategy frameworks in context to ISP.
The frameworks used for analysis will be as follows:
SWOT - Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats
Porter's Five Forces
BCG Product Portfolio Matrix
McKinsey Seven S's: Strategy, Systems, Structure, Staff, Skills, Style, Shared ValuesSWOT:
Figure 1. SWOT (http://www.franteractive.net/swot.html)
Strengths: ISP's greatest strength would be its team of software developers. For Novak It was a privilege to work with them. He loathed the word 'coding' before he joined this team. Such was their brilliance not only did they make coding look simple; it was under their guidance that He developed one of the modules for the ICICI - Amex tie up. This is the best development team wherein any newbie would not only develop the necessary coding skills to survive in an IT company he would actually learn about various aspects of teamwork which would be of great help to him in the long run. Some of the products developed here are simply outstanding. The user interfaces and simple workflow are hallmarks of the products that come from this stable.
Of course this team isn't only about coding. It is more like an extended family. The seniors are always at hand not just to guide juniors but also step in when the chips were down. Brilliant mentors whom one would not find in any other organization.
Weaknesses: Whilst the Business Development (hereon 'BD') does bring the client a sense of complacency has set into this team. This team unfortunately exists within the organisation as a metaphor for mediocrity and complacency. The products developed by the technical team do not require geniuses to market them. The products developed here are compliant with the industry standards in place. So user-friendly are the products they have earned rave reviews from managers at Axis praising it for its user friendliness compared to the products of competitors.
Complacency sets in within this team once they get the company business they tend to rest on their laurels. The management gives them undue importance and their remuneration is three-four times that of the technical team. This is one of the major reasons that complacency is a part of this team.This and other imbalance issues will be dealt with at greater length in the second part of the report.
Opportunities: ISP's USP (Unique Selling Point); the software product catered to a niche segment of the market. They have not more than 4-5 competitors in this market. Their product is the one available at the most reasonable price as compared to others. Since they deal with products in the payment card industry which still remains at a nascent stage in India their product has immense potential. Continuous improvements namely by way of system enhancements meant individual bundles and the suite as a whole has always been technically a step ahead of its peers. Overseas clients mean they also have a marketing base outside of India.
Threats: Attrition; The bane of the Indian IT industry. The technical team is perennially underpaid. Therefore ISP has earned the reputation of being an 'academy' where freshmen receive their training and after a span of 2, maximum 3 years leaves the organisation to seek greener pastures. Talent retention is something ISP management need to work big time on. Unfortunately they are so detached from the rest of the organization that they do not notice the abundance of talent within the technical team, which can also be called the engine room of the company as that is where the product is generated. Members of the technical team being regularly courted by other top-notch companies with better prospects don't help matters.ANSOFF MATRIX:
Figure 2. Ansoff Matrix (http://www.franteractive.net/Matrix-Ansoff.html)
Existing Products/Existing Market: This is what ISP tried with SBI and CBI though how successful they were is debatable.SBI and CBI were with ISP's competitor FSS (they are being mentioned here as competitors though their frequent mention in this report merits them to be addressed as arch rivals than mere competitors).FSS over the years had become very finicky over the issue of pricing. Their penchant for being sticklers to their own company procedures (justifiably so) irrespective of On-Site working environment didn't help matters one bit. Finally when SBI had had enough of them they came straight to ISP.CBI followed next. Revenues generated through these new 'acquisitions' are subject matter of intense debate in ISP even today.
The ISP engine room (read: technical team) also had a major role to play here. Once the suite was developed, individual bundles would be sent to the 'in house' RnD team. This was the team which analysed the software thread bare. They have this rule of thumb that software which left the technical team should never come back. If it does at all come back, it is to develop enhancements to the product. Complaints regarding work were taken very seriously and the consequences were severe. Continuous product improvement is their motto. This strategy definitely helped big time in cementing their reputation as piece-de-resistance of ISP. Of course this was a fact company management have failed to acknowledge and will be dealt with in the second part of the report.
Having excellent customer relations is extremely important. Retaining existing customers is a lot more important (and easier) for businesses than attracting new ones. A direct consequence of this fact was Axis Bank enquiring about and eventually purchasing the 'Travel Card' bundle for the EURO(euro),AUD(Australian dollar) and CAD(Canadian dollar) currencies adding to the already existing bundle of GBP(Great British Pound),USD(United States dollar) and JPY(Japanese Yen).It was also during this period that Bank Of Baroda(hereon BoB) purchased our DCRS(Debit Card Reconciliation System).
New Product/Existing Market: Another gem from the Technical Team was the Chargeback Module. The development of this product was a direct consequence of feedback from ICICI Bank. ICICI Bank was one of our major clients. Whilst working with them for the Amex module they frequently aired their exasperation of having to raise chargeback from the software of one vendor and resolving the dispute through another. Their operational department were having a harrowing time because of this. This bit of news somehow got to the ears of one of the ISP developers and within a week the module was ready to be deployed at the Bank.
New Market/Existing Product: A chance visit by the then Managing Director of BoB to Burgan Bank in Kuwait led him to recommend our CCRS (Credit Card Reconciliation System) to him. Burgan Bank was looking at a product which would not only handle the whole of the Credit Card system but also come at a reasonable price. The then Managing Director immediately got in touch with our director, had a demo arranged and the rest as they say is history.
New Market/New Product: One of the disadvantages of being a small company is the fear in the minds of the management that diversification will hurt the company as a whole. Whilst the fear is not entirely unfounded as there have been cases galore of diversifications getting divested. If planned carefully it can take a company into hitherto unchartered territory which can be good if a company moves into related markets but if thereon operations become unmanageable then management could land in a serious spot of bother.
ISP management seriously considered a move into the British and Australian markets. Eventually though nothing came of these planned 'forays'PORTER'S FIVE FORCES:Diagram of Porter's 5 Forces SUPPLIER POWER
Importance of volume to supplier
Differentiation of inputs
Impact of inputs on cost or differentiation
Switching costs of firms in the industry
Presence of substitute inputs
Threat of forward integration
Cost relative to total purchases in industryBARRIERSTO ENTRY
Absolute cost advantages
Proprietary learning curve
Access to inputs
Economies of scale
Access to distribution
Proprietary productsTHREAT OFSUBSTITUTES
-Buyer inclination to
trade-off of substitutesBUYER POWER
Threat of backward integration
Buyer concentration vs. industry
Buyers' incentivesDEGREE OF RIVALRY
-Fixed costs/Value added
-Diversity of rivals
Figure 3. Porter's Five Forces (http://courseware.finntrack.eu/strategios/strat_process.htm)
Porter's five forces consist of three external and two internal sources:
The five forces are as follows:
The threat of the entry of new competitors
The intensity of competitive rivalry
The threat of substitute products or services
The bargaining power of customers(buyers)
The bargaining power of suppliers.
In the context of this report not all of these are applicable. The fifth force is certainly not applicable as it is not part of the business model in place at ISP. Also the third force is not applicable cause as it is the company caters to a niche segment of the industry. Therefore this report will only focus on the first, second and fourth forces only.
The threat of the entry of new competitors: All said and done the banking industry is a profitable though not recession proof industry. Such a prospect is definitely enticing for companies looking for a share in the pie. Entry into this industry however is not going to be easy. Coming to think of it Banker would think very hard before putting critical financial data in the hands of a new entrant. The only way a new entrant makes his way into this sunshine sector is if another subprime happens thereby causing companies to undertake a major downsizing exercise consequently to go out of business. Still the conditions aren't viable as in a subprime environment survival won't be easy for established players let alone new entrants.
The intensity of competitive rivalry: This one calls for special mention. In fact it was one of the reasons ISP's supposedly ambitious restructuring plans went bust. If there was one thing to be learnt from this phase it was there are no secrets in an organisation. This is where the major re-jig plans started meandering. Management was not able to give a clear picture of the future to the Project managers concerned. The confusion only worsened as days went by. Somehow FSS got wind of this. Next thing people were tendering their resignations left right and centre. There was a day the entire testing team resigned en-masse.
The bargaining power of customers (buyers): This was where ISP in particular ISP management went weak in the knees. Part it had to do (ironically) with their lack of confidence in the technical team. Part it had to do with perhaps the most incompetent BD team ever. Axis bank almost held ISP to ransom (that was till Novak threatened to report all random processes being carried out by our On-Site staff to his Project Manager (hereon referred to as 'PM').). Of course not everybody was so lucky. Amex was sold for free to ICICI Bank in exchange for referrals and recommendations of the products to other banks which never came by. Whilst BoB did give ISP Burgan though they got DCRS at one-third market price. ISP director's pet concern was not losing out on clients.This was very unfortunate for the development team considering it was their product that was getting sold for a song.BCG PRODUCT PORTFOLIO MATRIX:
Figure 4. BCG Product Portfolio Matrix (http://tutor2u.net/business/strategy/bcg_box.htm)
Here again not completely in entirety. Partly cause there weren't many products. Partly because organisations like ISP cannot afford dogs or question marks. Never the less, the cash cow and the star remain:
Cash Cow: All the products deployed at BoB. Reason ISP handled their card operations end to end. A joke that frequently did the rounds of ISP was that there were more On-Site ISP employees at BoB than there are actual BoB employees. BoB was their Cash Cow.ISP salaries hinged on BoB revenues. When BoB sneezed ISP caught a cold. Whilst it might not seem fair to call the client a cash cow instead of the In-House product those products would be of little use were they not utilized by the client.
Star: The interchange module. This wasn't a cash cow by any stretch of the imagination but it delivered results. It was the pet project of the head of development team. Technically it was unrivalled. The BD however did not understand the value of the work put in by the technical team as it involved a lot of specialist technical knowledge alien to them and thus constantly berated it and therefore even though it has the potential to become a Cash Cow (the ONLY module not to be completely deployed at BoB) internal politics snuffed any chance of that happening.MCKINSEY SEVEN S'S: STRATEGY, SYSTEMS, STRUCTURE, STAFF, STYLE, SHARED VALUES
Figure 5. McKinsey 7s model (http://www.lindsay-sherwin.co.uk/guide_managing_change/html_change_strategy/06_mckinsey.htm)
This is one framework ISP management needs to have a hard look at. It will address many issues which are at the core of the issues currently plaguing ISP.
Shared Value: This is one area where ISP management need to undertake serious introspection. The sad part of ISP corporate structure is that the three major operational level departments operate more as separate entities than units of one company. They are run like virtual fiefdoms. Part of the problem stems from the fact that there are many old heads still within the company since its inception and it is these people who hold the key for Management to try to instil any kind of values within the company.
Strategy: The ISP management need to address the issue of employee retention and break down the company into further set of functionalities to address growing client list. As a consequence of more clients entering into purchase agreement with ISP, the management did try to address this issue but failed to take into account rising employee resentment as there was no clarity on as to how the restructuring would take place. This lack of communication did the management's image no good in the eyes of the employees and thus the entire exercise wasn't as successful as it was initial thought it would be.
Structure: As a result of small size and not many employees ISP does not have a very well defined structure. There does exist a board of directors but below that everything is very fuzzy and more a case of teams bound by the work delegated than any actual departments per se
System: Despite being a small enterprise ISP does have in place very basic work related procedures and processes. Even for the employees there is a very basic system in place for hiring,deciding on promotions. Appraisal too are mostly token gestures. The company has decided to these issues by outsourcing development of a company intranet where in all of the above mentioned processes would be done online via the company website. Consultants were roped in to help the company decide on an appropriate structure for the intranet
Staff: Staff strength of between 1000-1500 people. Consist mainly of developers and people with some experience of sales. A major component of the workforce is people from the operations department who do not need to have any specialist skill sets.
Skill: The developers working at ISP are highly skilled technical people. They are well verse in high level technical languages such as C, Java, and Oracle and in some cases C#. The BD team consists of people who are mainly commerce graduates and in some instances als have a postgraduate degrees in managementCHANGE MANAGEMENT ISSUES
Novak was an engineering graduate who was also Oracle certified. He joined ISP as a trainee programmer. He was a very quick learner, had a great attitude and most importantly was a through team player. He wanted to explore the importance of databases in the field of Banking. He wanted to create a good image of himself in the eyes of his PM. He wanted to hit the ground running. Today he is an experienced system engineer but the period where he learnt the tricks of the trade were like passing through a firestorm.
In considering all of the above he did not know and thus did not take into account amongst other factors that small little thing called office politics.
It all started in week three. One fine day of all people the HR manager called him to her cabin and told him that the company would be sending him to Burgan Bank, Kuwait to be a part of the operations team. He was ecstatic. His joy knew no bounds. There were however two things amiss. Firstly the HR manager calling him without speaking to his PM first which was a downright breach of hierarchy and protocol, which but obviously didn't go down too well with his PM (At the end of the day he was the PM's resource). Second she had jumped the gun. Confirmation was yet pending from the authorisation team. The manager however had her own personal agenda. She had killed two birds with one stone. She could now report back to the director that 'the resource is ready'. Also HR and the technical team were perennially at loggerheads (their limited to no understanding of technical work being the issue).She had also managed to unsettle the technical team by striking at its weakest link which was Novak.
What followed hereon was firestorm which made Novak's first month in the job eventful to put it mildly. His immaturity didn't help one bit. Every passing day he unwittingly kept on adding fuel to the fire. Everything he discussed revolved around the subject Burgan .The stupidest part of the entire episode was to consult members of the BD team on this matter, who he figured out later on were hand-in-glove with HR in this entire operation. Finally after about a month or so when his PM had had enough his PM called him to his cubicle and had a quiet 'word' with him. Over the course of the month there had been instances to suggest to him that all was not well. Only thing was he didn't expect it to boil down to this little 'chat'.
Lesson Learnt: Irrespective of designation and status in the team ALWAYS respect hierarchy.
In the meantime Novak had been assigned Yes Bank where he did indeed hit the ground running. In three weeks time not only was he single-handedly conducting operations, by this stage client interactions had commenced. However, as ironic as it sounds, there was the little issue of the team not being able to keep pace with his work rate. The fact of the matter was with him around work would be done no matter what. In the process however he had unintentionally irked his reporting officer (hereon referred to as 'RO').Next thing he had his PM asking him to slow down.
Lesson Learnt: It's better to be a team player. Dragging along team mates isn't a way to work. There's a reason the team is working the way it is. It wouldn't be in place otherwise would it?
By this time he had unwittingly become the cause celebre of his team. The Burgan controversy was one reason. The other one was rattling his operations team mates with his work rate. Not a good start to one's professional career by any stretch of the imagination. Also he had begun mingling too freely with people from other teams for his PM's liking. His PM for one was the most reticent person one could ever come across. Very reserved he always liked to keep to himself. He also expected the same from his team. This for a fact he realized when on New Year's Eve his PM called him to his cabin and gave him the first of the three 'doses' of his 'hair dryer treatment'. There was even a veiled threat to fire him.
Lessons Learnt: CULTURE. It's not about knowledge. It's not about how well a person knows his work. It is about how well one gets along with his co-workers. This lesson was learnt from the first hair dryer treatment. Novak had unwittingly been on the back foot from minute one. His energetic self had done my image a great disservice. An image malaise is a difficult ailment to cure. Whilst he had impressed his PM with his work, the extrovert within him had done far greater harm than good. On joining ANY organisation gauging the culture first and foremost is an imperative. 'Test the waters'. One cannot superimpose oneself on the prevalent culture in the organisation no matter which post s/he are appointed to. Throwing one's weight around will only serve to alienate your co-workers.POWER AND POLITICS
Three eventful months thus passed by. Also the 'image malaise' realization had more than hit home. Damage control had begun. Novak began behaving as if he was in communist china much to the amusement of the coterie.
One day it so happened that there was an important deployment to be done for ICICI Bank. Inclement weather however had caused the office to wear a deserted look. Team Interchange (entrusted with the task) was decimated. Novak was done with Yes Bank operations for the day. Out of nowhere PM cropped up and with his assistance what would otherwise have taken 10 hours took 10 minutes. That Novak saved him a dressing down from the director is a different story altogether. As a result of this Novak netted ICICI operations.
Novak heaved a sigh of relief. He thought life at ISP had settled into some sort of normalcy. He was however mistaken. This was where the going got really tough. He was given work and that was it. No briefing, no one spoke to him, if he approached anybody for help he was either turned down or reported to his Reporting Officer. Often the assignments He was given had either nothing remotely to do with his work or were beyond the scope of his capabilities. Why was he put through all of this? Ethnic reasons. The members of the coterie did not speak English. They only spoke their regional language and had this impression that the way he spoke was an attempt on his part at one-upmanship. As this was the case of a team operating like a fiefdom work suffered too. The coterie did not necessarily concentrate on all projects in their hand. They only focused on the 'technically challenging' ones much to the chagrin of the Management.
In his RO (Referred to as 'JT' throughout) he had run into a technically very sound person. JT was also for all other purposes a poster child for a bad team worker. He just gave work and expected results. He was just handed coding assignments. That was it. No briefing, no functional specifications nothing. He wouldn't hear a thing from him the whole day. If luckily He did get hold of him to ask doubts, all that would draw was a blank stare from him. His point was this; "nobody taught me what I know today, why I should bother teaching you what I know."
For the next nine months under JT's tutelage Novak was to be a victim of the worst case of office politics ever known. Other teams baying for one's blood is still better. One's own 'RO' berating, sometimes publicly for trivial issues is quite something else. Whenever Novak worked with JT it was like having a gun to his temple. The fact that his forte and JT's Achilles heel were the same, coding, didn't help matters. Neither did them not having a common language (he couldn't speak English, Novak (at that point of time) couldn't speak Marathi) .This was a classic case of people not getting along because of cultural and ethnic reasons.
This went on for about nine months. To say that it was enervating was to put it mildly. Worst was Novak could do nothing about it. It came to the point where Novak decided that he had had enough and would tender his resignation.
The day arrived. His resignation was ready. Just when he was about to click the send button in his email client, he received a call. It was from his PM. His PM had pulled a rabbit out of the hat.
He was to be deputed to Axis Bank as Site Manager.
Lesson Learnt: Any organisation is like an iceberg 10% above the surface 90% beneath. To survive in any organisation for long one has to uncover the 90%.The organisational politics at play. It's not what one know that matters it's who one knows that matters. The sooner one figures out all of this the better. It would definitely have helped Novak had he known of all of these factors well in advance.
The boss may not always be right, but he's still the boss. On more than one occasion the treatment meted out to Novak by JT was an embarrassment for JT but such was the personality JT didn't budge. JT's talent made him a star, but the person was deeply despised by many. Often communication breakdown between him and other team members led team Interchange being sitting ducks for our nemesis, the BD team. JT very often did not get along with the PM though they never squabbled publicly. Novak survived all of this. Part because he battened down the hatches. Part because him being left idle towards the end of his ICICI assignment made his PM look stupid in the eyes of the Management. To them he was wasting a resource. In all of this however Novak's commitment to work was unwavering. This factor alone did two things. It made JT look very stupid in front of his boss. It convinced the PM that Novak was the right man to lead the On-Site team at Axis Bank.ON-SITE EXPERIENCES
Axis was where Novak had turned a new page in his career. He was assigned a team of 20 people onsite. For the first he came face to face with some corporate heavyweights at Axis Bank no less than the Vice President amongst others. HE was to oversee operations, daily reports, troubleshooting, coding and testing to name a few.
There were however two others aspects to this. Firstly ISP had undertaken a major corporate restructuring exercise. A consequence of which was Novak's posting at Axis. Secondly Axis had a notorious reputation as a client. In the past whenever anything went wrong at Axis the blame was passed onto ISP. The VP would directly ring the director and the site in charge would receive a dressing down from the PM.
Lessons Learnt: Management should never attempt to change things unilaterally. Unilaterally not because it hasn't taken important people into confidence; unilaterally because change cannot happen overnight, more so in a politically entrenched organization like ISP. If they act like 'know-it-all' people then they are sure to lead the organisation to doom.
At Axis again things didn't go according to plan. This time the cause was not Novak, it was his PM was the culprit. Whilst he had obediently initiated his bit of the corporate restructuring exercise, he had conveniently forgotten to inform the powers That be at Axis. This didn't go down very well with the Axis VP.
At Axis more than the VP Novak dealt with the Branch Manager (hereon 'MGR').At Axis he was Novak's RO. There was just one subtle difference between JT and MGR.JT was a modern day bad boss.MGR on the face was an absolute gem. Behind the back however he was capable of getting Novak fired.
The issue at Axis all the time was a manifestation of poor resource shuffling at ISP. Novak's was not the first case. However Novak's was the 1st case of a person being deputed On-Site without receiving proper training. He was simply thrown to the wolves. For the 1st month at least his work wasn't exactly a case of fish taking to water. In particular there were operational oversights galore. They could however have happened with anybody. Here Novak's nemesis was the Junior Executive whom In-Site had to submit our reports to.
There was however one thing that really made life difficult for Novak at Axis. It was the complete absence of any work related procedures or protocols. Whilst quite a lot of the reports were system generated, there were a significant number of reports which were manually generated using external tools. Whilst this was not necessarily a bad thing it created two operational issues. Firstly there would be no record of the reports generated manually as they wouldn't be system generated. Secondly and critically because of this if by chance any errors occurred neither would tracking it be possible nor would it be possible to quantify losses incurred if any. As a consequence of these operational errors were many and as lot of the work was happening manually the errors were quite frequent. To complicate matters the BD team had no representative for Axis Bank. Not only would Novak get a dressing down from the MGR, his PM would not spare him either.
Lesson Learnt: The importance of work procedures. If the appropriate work procedures are in place and protocol is adhered to and strictly followed life can be a lot simpler. There will be a record of everything incident to take place and more importantly people will be held accountable. In fact with procedures and processes around not only is work done a lot more efficiently, it also takes minimum effort.
Both Novak and his PM in the heart of hearts knew the mess at Axis was not Novak's doing but there was nothing either could do about it. The Axis VP had repeatedly asked the PM for a dedicated and experienced Site Manager for Axis. However all the pleas made to the BD team in this regard fell to deaf ears. The VP had in fact taken the wrong route. Directly getting in touch with ISP directors would have solved the issue. What however would he have known of ISP's deeply entrenched organisational politics? This single factor made Novak's stay at Axis an eventful one.
Another external disturbance made life at Axis difficult for Novak. Half way through his posting at Axis news that the corporate restructuring was not going entirely as planned started coming through. It was being reported that many people had started tendering their resignations. Also this was the exact time around which the Indian job market started picking up after recession. Many of Novak's 'Offshore' teammates were being courted relentlessly and some of them had given in and tendered their resignations. To counter this attrition the management introduce a three month notice period, but not only was it circumvented most of the time; it worsened the already deep rooted resentment in most of the employees in the company. Employee, morale was at an all time low. At axis it was no different. Keeping ISP staff engaged in their work was turning out to be a major challenge for Novak.
This was around the time On-Site staff strength had been decimated to four people. One fine day Novak got a call from the PM that on instructions received from Axis VP he was to be recalled back to corporate office. The official version was that there were too many operational errors occurring too frequently On-Site. Fact of the matter was that the workload had increased manifold and four people were just not enough to handle all the work. All fingers were pointed at Novak and the management unanimously approved replacing Novak with somebody more experienced.
Lesson Learnt: A serious challenge at work for Novak was to deal with the situation wherein because a lot of work involved operations, the kind of work that doesn't necessarily excite techies, On-Site technical staff would shirk from work. Bank staff would observe this and report it to corporate office. All they knew was that they were not getting their reports on time. Next thing Novak was at the receiving end of a dressing down from his PM. Techies were not wrong. It was a corporate restructuring exercise wherein the board had gone by perception not reality. Perception was there were too many techies who are better off On-Site generating revenues than in corporate office doing research. Reality: Forget On-Site or industry these people were best suited to be conducting research away from Industry. Result: Work was going for a toss.FUTURE DIRECTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Two years at ISP imparted invaluable lessons in the organisational functioning of a company. Unless all divisions of a company work towards a common goal with a shared set of goals and the same objective that company's progress is in serious doubt. There is no doubt that in today's global marketplace the workplace will be consisting of people of mixed races and ethnicities. In such an environment it is imperative that cultural differences are kept aside.
ISP is a tale of two sets of ethnic groups, the techies who don't see things the way management saw them and the management from whom work is all about the client that generated the maximum revenues and justifiably so. Add HR and the matter complicates further. Neither HR nor management see things the techie's point of view which is unfortunate way. The result today is that rather than having a comprehensive organisation structure in place, all that exists is the Senior Management and and not a very well defined structure below.This however does not deterred the techies from running their own fiefdom; their own 'technical academy' where preference is given to research oriented activities. Result: Management had to hire consultants to try to get the restructuring back on track.
The way forward lies in techies becoming people who not only get excited by seeing lines of code but who interpret those very lines in a manner which best fits business. They must see business from a client's stand point. It's the client serving who generates the company revenues. No client, no business. They must always look at innovative ways at providing the most effective solutions to businesses, but the solutions must be such that client is impressed by what he sees and is willing to stay in the business as an investor. This will serve both the interest of the techie as well as the general purpose of business.
ISP is fortunate in one way. Revenue generated through tech support and maintenance. It is this constant stream of cash flow that camouflages management's follies big time. Thus even though the wheels are coming off big time on the management's ambitions plans it somehow remains afloat even today.
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