Monday, 6 June 2016

Issues and Challenges in IT Industry

HR Issues and Challenges in Indian Software Industry 

Dr. Harry CD

  1.      Exclusive Technical Career Opportunities

According to an analysis of what the IT professionals look for in their career in over 300 top IT companies in the US and Europe, clearly reveals that they are technology oriented and are concerned with the type of technology they are working for. In India, software professionals move to the position of project leader in 3-4 years. The nature of projects being presently handled by Indian software organisations require that a software professional should be prepared to handle leadership and managerial responsibilities after being a developer for about 3-4 years. Atypical software professional doesn’t want to move to managerial position and prefer to concentrate doing technical work They have their role models from USA and other developed countries where software professionals keep working as a technical professional for atleast 10-12 years before moving to managerial position. Software Companies in North America and in other developed countries work on product development projects and are able to offer dual career opportunities in technical (knowledge) stream as well as in managerial stream. However, at present juncture not many Indian Software Companies are able to offer exclusive technical career opportunities. In India, the existing software business is such that organisation will not have growth if software professionals don’t start accepting managerial position. In a multinational Software organisation, the first level software professionals having 2-4 years of work experience were inquired whether given a choice they would like to attend a managerial or functional training programme. Invariably, every one of them replied that given a choice, they would prefer to spend their time in acquiring additional technical capabilities in their area of specialization as they are expected to be proficient in latest technologies in their respective fields. It seems that IT professionals like learning such subjects which are more logical and quantifiable. Since technical knowledge being more specific, tangible and apparently more visible, Indian software professionals tend to spend time on acquiring new knowledge and skills in technical field and this explains their inclination and aspiration for an exclusive technical career. 
Note: It is the nature of projects being handled by Indian Software organisations which provide very limited opportunities for software professionals to grow in technical streams.

2.       Managing the aspirations of software professionals- towards building realistic expectations.
Analysis of data suggests that software professionals tend to overestimate themselves and their capabilities. As a consequence of overestimation, they have expectations disproportionate to their capabilities and more importantly, disproportionate to their contributions to goals of their organisations. It has been seen that software professionals desire to work with complex technologies much faster in their career. Learning those technologies by oneself may require up to two to three years. Typical software professionals are reluctant to wait that long to learn those technologies. Software professionals are in touch with each other. Internet and other technologies further facilitate this. They know what is happening to their friends and colleagues. They know what is being learnt by their colleagues and what platforms they are using. They aspire to work on similar platforms and want to work with latest technologies that are being used by their reference group members. Apart from professional activities, they know about the pay, perks and about foreign visit of their reference group members. They build similar expectations and when   those expectations are not fulfilled, they experience tension and frustration. In this context it is interesting to note that software professionals when they resign from a job in India and go abroad, they don’t necessarily work on a superior project or technology. But they get partly compensated by higher earnings and savings. In addition, being abroad makes them and their families feel good. As a consequence, at least for sometime they willingly work on assignments, which may be routine and may not provide opportunities for learning and creating new knowledge. The reality is software professionals learn by being part of a regular professional course. Hence, they believe they can deliver whatever is required of them. Delivery of what is required by customers require knowing your customer, having product and process knowledge, skills relevant to the tasks and more importantly a mindset to work on details. Many software professionals don’t have all these capabilities and hence, they are limited in terms of their ability to deliver what their customers require. Partly, the system of education leads to software professionals developing the arrogance and partly it is ignorance about the organisations and their realities. It is important to mention here that while designing growth strategies, organisations should be in touch with the hopes, aspirations and values of their team members. Unfortunately, for software organisations, the task is much more complicated for the simple reason that many a time, software professionals themselves don’t know what they value. Knowledge organisations like software organisations will benefit by creating opportunities for their members to be in touch with what they value and how strong are those preferences and choices. They should also be facilitated to become aware whether what they claim as their values are their own or of their reference groups’ which they have imbibed without examining them.

Software professionals are young and immature. According to Nasscom’s survey, the overall median age of employees is only 26.6 years. Hence, 18.7 percent of the employees are below 25 years of age and only 2.5 percent of the personnel are above the age of 45 years. According to Nasscom, this age profile has important ramifications. It is possibly the reason why they tend to build unrealistic expectations. On the otherhand, the optimism lies in the fact that software professionals by nature being highly rational and analytical can be developed towards building realistic expectations if the organisations create space for its knowledge workers to know themselves and be modest about their achievements.

3. Creating a match between individual and organisation – towards building psychological contract based on mutual expectations – integrating with the organisation.

Of all industries, the Indian software industry is facing the brunt of the war for talent. It is because people are central to the software industry. Technology resides between the ears of the individual and walks out every evening on a pair of legs. The market is surfeit with opportunities, with every one vying with each other for the same talent pool. Software professionals change a number of jobs in their career without thinking it to be reckless. There is a shift from the traditional organisational career to the ‘protean career’. The ‘protean career’ is a process in which the person, not the organisation is managing. The person’s personal career choice and self-fulfillment are the integrative elements in his life. Considering the above, the most common advice to ‘pay and treat talented people well’ is no longer enough to attract and keep professionals in firm. Non-monetary principles and techniques need to be used now as strategies to achieve this end. Software organisations need to start with the recognition that the psychological contract is changing. It has to do with building a strong bond with the employee, long before he or she actually becomes one. It is important to keep in mind that one must look not only for ‘competency fit’ but also a ‘culture fit’. Infosys Technologies and Wipro who have excellent corporate image and identity have stated their corporate values and mission clearly which in turn define expectations and appropriate behaviour for organisational members. Induction must provide an opportunity for the new employee, to have a clear understanding of the expectations of the job. When people join organisations like Wipro and Infosys technologies, a psychological contract is built based on mutual / realistic expectations. These expectations are created based on what is revealed by individuals and organisations to each other during the selection process. Transparency in dealing and clarity of expectations from each other go a long way in improving the nature and quality of the psychological contract between professionals aspiring to join an organisation and the organisation itself. Infosys Ltd. and Wipro ensure that they don’t give a rosy picture to the knowledge workers aspiring to join these organisations. They are told that being solution-providing companies, they would be required to work for defined periods on assignments involving older technologies. However, they are assured that they would get opportunities to learn new technologies on a regular basis and at a later date, they would also get opportunities to work on projects of their choice (Agrawal,1998). It is important to mention here that software professionals being knowledge workers enjoy working in organisation where the work culture is open and highly professional, where organisations treat their employees with respect and give them a lot of professional freedom and opportunities to learn. Being treated as a professional and having opportunities to use one’s existing knowledge is likely to be experienced as a positive experience by a knowledge worker. Knowledge organisations who treat their knowledge workers as professionals and give them freedom and respect, will find it easier to integrate them with organisations and involve them in the growth plan of the company.

4.      Nurturing Teamwork and Team-spirit

“None of us is as strong as all of us”- that just shows the importance of teamwork. A team is a group of people who are working together toward a common end. Ideally, a company should comprise not of levels, departments and hierarchies, but of empowered teams. Each member of a team must be trained in all activities of the team and the team should work on assignments. This is very much true for Indian Software Industry where most of the projects require teamwork. Software organisations should make efforts towards creating a work environment that nurtures teamwork. The internal structure of a team largely governs the relationships among its members and often determines their behaviour. When its internal structure is effective, the team will concentrate on its official objectives, but when the structure is ineffective, performance generally suffers. Even though each individual member has a unique role, the overall character of a cohesive team is much like a collective personality. In the long run, this develops employees, reduces the problems a company may have to face when vacancies occur, help in finding replacements, ensures smooth workflow and greatly helps in morale- building and growth of the company. Unfortunately, a knowledge worker by nature tends not to be a great team worker. It may be because they are expected to be proficient in latest technologies in their respective fields. Since technical knowledge being more specific and visible, software professionals tend to spend time on acquiring new knowledge and skills in technical field rather than acquiring team-building skills. Besides, the project teams are usually temporary with project duration being three months to one year. Here it becomes all the more important to ensure that the team members familiarize themselves and enjoy working with each other quickly. And it is true that one has to work at being a good team player. It is a skill that has to be learnt. Our education system, for example, places a lot of focus on individual development, the ranking in school and college level examinations, to higher education based on rankings in competitive exams etc. stresses more on individual excellence. Things are different when one enters the work arena. One is told to be a good team player, but never shown how to do so. Throwing the baggage accumulated over years of performing well individually, to now sharing the rewards with other team members, doesn’t come easily.
Sam Pitroda  lists out the following skills, which he considers necessary, for a person to become a good team player : Respect for others; Tolerance to diverse view points; Ability to resolve conflicts within the team; and eschewing egotism.
Infosys Technologies and Wipro have substantially succeeded in creating a work environment that nurtures teamwork. Some Unique aspects of these organisations are:

¨      Both these organisations are flat in terms of their organisational structure. The work environment is informal and they have common canteens, common buses and similar workstations for all knowledge workers.

¨      Project teams are provided certain allowances for group outings and entertainment. They also create a common directory and use it to communicate and be in touch with each other.

¨      These organisations have extensively used Outbound Training to help their knowledge workers learn the skills of team working.

¨      Every person is also provided a group wise summary of what his reference group-members want him or her to continue doing, start doing and stop doing. Such qualitative feedback provides the direction in which a person is expected to move to improve his own performance and the performance of the team. Software professionals, Shailaja M and Rashmi P joined Oasys Technologies in 1998. They believe in teamwork When they feel the project has to be successful, teamwork comes automatically. Conflicts are minor, mostly on technical issues. There may be a clash of ideas. But they resolve conflicts by talking it out and reasoning what is correct.

Kavin Ireland, writing in her book, ‘How to have all the Answers when Questions keep changing’, says, “Learn to be a team player. That means you don’t get to play all positions and you can’t take credit for all the wins. But then again, you don’t get blamed for all the losses either”.

5.   Need and importance of Leadership

Leadership is the ability to influence a group toward the achievement of goals and it is one of the most important determinants of morale. A good leader is someone the employees always look up to. Wipro Chairman, Azim Premji speaking at a function organised to award him the JRD Tata corporate leadership award in New Delhi recently said,”leadership will be determined by its ability to generate excitement and enthusiasm to get ideas that will result in a sustainable, competitive advantage for the organisation. Leadership has built on a strong foundation of values which make success enduring and helps in building strong, resilient organisations that can standup to any crisis along the way.”
The nature of projects being presently handled by Indian software organisations require that a software professional should be prepared to handle leadership and managerial responsibilities after being a developer for about 3-4 years. Software professionals want to experience a sense of growth. They want to have new titles and they like to be called as project leaders/managers. But they are reluctant to provide leadership and perform managerial roles. Most of them being young doesn’t bother about learning and developing leadership skills and are reluctant to invest time on leadership issues. In a multinational software organisation, we had inquired with first level software professionals having 2-4 years of work experience, whether given a choice they would like to attend a managerial or functional training programme. Invariably, every one of them replied that given a choice, they would prefer to spend their time in acquiring additional technical capabilities in their area of specialization. Since technical knowledge being more specific, tangible and visible, software professionals tend to spend time on acquiring new knowledge and skills in their technical field rather than acquiring leadership skills.  It is a paradox that they don’t like to be led by others, and yet they often complain about lack of leadership in a given situation. It is this unique context which makes the task of providing leadership in knowledge organisations extremely complex and exciting. It is felt that Indian Software professionals must realise that in their own interest, they must invest some of their time in acquiring managerial capabilities. At least some of them have to take initiative to perform leadership function on a tenure basis. In their own interest they should take initiative to provide support to those who agree to perform these leadership functions. It is also important that in turn, knowledge organisations like software companies give signals indicating that leadership and managerial contributions are noticed and valued by the system.

In Wipro, seven leadership capabilities were identified and a five-day training programme, ‘Wipro Leadership Programme’ was designed around those capabilities. All managers were planned to be covered by the programme. Members of the Corporate Executive Council spent considerable time interacting with the programme participants. The Chairman spent half-a-day in every training programme addressing the participants and listening to their queries and suggestions. Quantified feedback is given on the seven leadership attributes.

 Venkatesh joined a well- known software organisation, he expected his project leader to be willing to teach him to work on complex technologies. After working on a project for about six months, he felt that the project leader is more concerned towards having team members with requisite skills rather than investing time in educating them. The focus was always on what was visible and tangible. As soon as the project got over, Venkatesh was made to work on another project with a different project leader this time.  

Software professionals don’t have immediate permanent bosses. Often they are part of the temporary teams and during those periods they tend to have temporary leaders. Since relationship is temporary, leaders will be reluctant to make an investment of their time teaching their team members new technologies. Since mentoring contributions are difficult to quantify and often their impact may not be noticed immediately, people in the position of leaders are reluctant to make investment of time and effort to educate their team members.

5.      Nurturing Customer orientation / emphasis on customer orientation

 An unrelenting focus on customer needs has never been more critical than it is today. Traditionally, organisations focus on measuring financial performance because it is important for shareholders- the major stockholders. However, the world becoming a global village has led to customers having enormous choices and say in defining the success of an organisation. Hence, there is a need for organisations and particularly, knowledge organisations to have knowledge about their customers and their satisfaction. 

Typical knowledge workers (software professionals) tend to define their concept of self in terms of what knowledge they have. It is strongly felt that they lack customer orientation. They tend to start from where they are in terms of their knowledge rather than starting from where the customer is. But knowledge can be relevant and effective only if it is contextual. A knowledge organisation, which nurtures customer orientation and encourages its knowledge workers to have knowledge of its customers, is likely to be more successful in terms of its growth. 

Delivery of what is required by customers require knowing your customer, having product and process knowledge, skills relevant to the tasks and more importantly a mindset to work on details. Many software professionals don’t have all these capabilities and hence they are limited in terms of their ability to deliver what their customers require. 

Knowledge organisations need to ensure that they have effective performance management systems that help in providing big enough roles to knowledge workers based on the requirements of the customers. Being able to perform and deliver what the customer requires is the only way to survive and grow in a highly competitive software market. 

In Infosys and Wipro, it is ensured that project teams are in touch with their customers on a continuous basis. They ensure that expectations and requirements of a project are clearly understood by every person associated with the project. Customer orientation is very much a part of induction training. Employees are in direct touch with their customers and regular visits to customers’ sites by project members are encouraged. Superior systems of documentation enable an organisation to deliver performance and quality to their customers. Typically, while software professionals are excited about working on projects, the documentation processes come through as routine activities. Both Wipro and Infosys are ISO-9000 organisations. Since people working in these organisations take pride in their organisation being a SEI certified software companies, they are willing to invest time and effort for documentation.

 Wipro has identified four values towards customer satisfaction. They are:  

¨      Human values—Customers are respected as individuals, their different needs are recognized and company continually strives to satisfy those needs to improve the quality of their lives.

¨      Integrity—Individual and business relationships are governed by the highest standards of integrity.

¨      Innovative solutions—The company emphasizes the need to constantly research and develop superior products and services that meet the changing needs of customers.

¨      Value for money—The Company promises to serve customers with continuous improvements in quality, cost and delivery of products and services.

 Infosys and Wipro invest considerable time and effort to institutionalise these values. Since these organisations are growing fast, they feel that they need to put much more effort to ensure that every member of their organisation internalizes these values.  At Ramco systems, sales people and support staffs are compensated on the basis of customer satisfaction. Electronic tracking of account information helps the company stay in tune with the customer. This is a necessity for a start up, which is trying to make a name for it

 At HCL, the company’s core competency lies in understanding customer needs in areas of IT.

 6.      Creating room for Innovation and Creativity

Peter Drucker says, “Business has only two basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results. All the rest are costs.” Today, in software industry, a strong market position is based on its technical competence. Eric A. von Hippel while examining the sources of innovative ideas in several industries found that bulk of innovations originate in organisations where the users are technically competent. Now the question arises, why there is lack of innovation and creativity felt in Indian Software organisation? While innovation requires creativity, it also involves a great deal of hard work. The lonely inventors with bright ideas take the essential first steps, and their efforts will be totally wasted if someone with the necessary drive and energy doesn’t pick up each idea and turn it into a business success.


Dr. Harry CD is a HR strategist with more than 25 years of experience in multinational corporations.
He is a Fellow from IIM-Ahmedabad and has a PhD from Gujarat State University, Dr. Harry is a corporate trainer, active researcher and writer.