In these times, any organization responds by tightening its belt, by putting those new projects on back-burner. In its place, usually a number of quick-yielding initiatives are launched that are limited in scope, focused on results and often cut across functional silos. More often than not, these initiatives go below the IT radar and their roll-out has little IT support. In these times, this is a great opportunity for IT to step forward and support these initiatives effectively.
Let me present one such example of how IT made itself quite useful.
The organization is in the business of executing (fixed priced as well as time-and-material) software projects for its customers by deploying its software professionals on the rolls. It had a top-heavy structure. For making it more even-keeled and to reduce over-all costs of operation, a decision was taken to hire fresh-from-campus trainees (CT) in small numbers, induct them with adequate training and then staff them in projects. Intuitively it made a lot of sense to have some number of fresher recruits; they were skilled in contemporary technologies, they were high-energy’ed and performance driven.
The routiine HR reports did not have much to say especially about these trainees, whether the scheme was working and with what efficacy. Of course, it did show the cost per employee-month dropped somewhat in the monthly payroll. But what about the impact on the business?
For starters, IT decided to separately tag various batches of trainees inducted into the organization so that their performance could be tracked. There were two other models of hiring which were also concurrently in play. Some business-experienced, but not technology-ready professionals were taken in a Hire-Build-Deploy (HBD) model. These guys were sent out for intensive specialized training and brought back into the organization. There were also Lateral Hires (LH) who had some little experience and were a little ahead of the fresh-trainees in the learning curve. These lateral hires, unlike CT and HBD hires, were hired at any time of the year based on needs and not brought in batches; they were also not trained like the CT and HBD batches. These hires were tagged on a yearly bucket (example: 07 LH were guys laterally hired in the year 2007). So there were three different models and several batches of trainees/hires under these models that were uniquely tagged.
Now, IT created a few simple business-relevant views (and values) on these batches:
– How many months of billing each batch generated on an average in the first year and in their second year in the organization (the tracking was limited to the first two years in the organization)?
– How quickly did these hires become billable?
– What kind of billing rates these hires realized?
– Which Projects absorbed most trainees?…
Though the performance of the hires with regard to billing was not entirely in their own hands, nevertheless some useful pointers were obtained for the business. Expectedly LH did the best in over-all performance, followed by HBD and CT in that order. What was not expected was a detail: a LH candidate with one year total experience did better than an equivalent CT candidate with same one year experience. LH candidate perhaps showed the implicit advantage of the hiring process that, with prior wisdom, successfully matched the candidate’s profile to the demands of an available billing position.
Year-on-Year performance comparison of batches validated: a) the selection process was getting better in specifying and assessing skills and b) various improvements brought about in the induction training was paying off; and, it also pointed to available opportunities for doing even better. Projects that absorbed good amount of these hires presented both an opportunity as well as a risk of diluting quality factors for these customers, if overdone mindlessly. Clearly, the opportunity is for cutting back on the employee costs in the Project for the organization and passing on at least in part the gains to its customer too; and more importantly, how this practice could be replicated in other laggard Projects?
To cut the long story short, these views were useful to the business to figure out a) if an initiative works for the organization b) which good practices need to be intensified and c) which practices need to be re-examined for better results. The prevailing enterprise applications do not support these over-night initiatives as well as required.
If only IT remains connected with these initiatives undertaken from time-to-time by an organization, there are plenty of opportunities for making a difference to the operations in terms of providing actionable insights and value. Its cross-functional vision enables it to support these initiatives uniquely and quite effectively. Of course, it requires IT to actively scan and sense these possibilities and step forward unbidden to offer active support. The opportunities may not come their way cut and dried and laid out neatly on a plate.
All of these apply even during ‘peace’ times.
This way, IT is in Business, good times or not!