Thursday, November 03, 2016

On Disruptions!!

No business conversation today is complete without someone talking about either being disrupted, or of disruptions in the ecosystem.

A good video to watch is this Keynote from Tony Seba, which talks of demise of some Industries which we would not think possible – namely the Automobile as we know, Electricity Utility as we consume today and some others. What would they be replaced with? None other than our Silicon Valley!  See for yourself

Not being an in-depth researcher or author and futurologist like Tony, I cannot present spell binding data on disruption, but I will attempt to list some mega-trends and disruptions that is shaping the future Information Technology (or IT) Services Industry. Of course Tony’s predictions above will shake up the IT Services industry no less, in that some of the target customers and Business Verticals itself will not survive!

Here are these, in no particular order, I penned as they came to my mind.

  1. Everything connected to everything – also called as IOT (Internet of Things) or Internet of Everything.  Every ‘thing’ will have an IP address and be always online. Reams are still being written on this, of trillions of ‘things’ talking to the internet
  2. Everything will have to be Secured – a corollary from above megatrend. With so many (trillions) things online and open, Cyber Security will be one of the biggest concerns, and business opportunity!
  3. 5G – higher throughputs, higher bandwidths, higher data compressions (Hopefully I will be able to connect to the ‘WhateverG’ network at my home in Noida, as of now I cannot get 3G or 4G signals!)
  4. Algorithm Economies and Algorithm Organisations will Rule. Google, Facebook are what I call the Algorithm Companies. They employ people, yes, but their business is based on Algorithms
  5. The ‘Geek’ shall inherit the earth? Finally.
  6. Video and Images will rule – we will stop calling, we will always video-call. Selfies and Perfect Profile Pictures will drive behavior, not to say of dressing
  7. A strong positive domino effect on the apparel and grooming industry – with all the selfies we would want to be seen in something ‘new’ everyday
  8. Possible new businesses - Apparel (dresses) as a Service. Wear a new dress every day, delivered in the morning, intuitively selected by an AI system based on your mood, your schedule, health and other ‘vital’ signals analysed as you sleep!
  9. Everything as a service – remember the famous quote, ‘don’t buy anything – rent your shoes if you can’. It was prophetic in nature!
  10. Establishment of Consciousness as a mainstream science
  11. Work anywhere, anytime, for anyone
  12. Crowd Everything – Crowd-Consulting, Crowdsourcing, Crowd-financing, Crowd-Learning
  13. IT Services Industry as we know will not exist, so far as Resourcing and Employees go. A large proportion of the work will be in Crowdsourcing models, farmed out as modules to independent developers.
  14. IT Services companies will be more of thin layer of Aggregators, Integrators and Architecture Definers, as against armies of code developers and system maintainers. Much like manufacturing in the past – the ‘Programming Supply Chain’ will rapidly evolve to a set of smaller, far more economical, sub-system providers and Individuals. Check what platforms like Maven or Upwork and many similar are already providing.
  15. End of Full Time Employment and Job Security as we know it. Read the points above. This will happen in all Sectors
  16. Concept of work and management.  All teams will be Virtual – people will have to be re-trained to lead a new team every week, or everyday probably! You could be leading a team of ten nationalities, collaborating across time-zones one week and be an individual contributor the next.
  17. Blurring of lines between Products and Services
  18. Data will be the new Fuel
  19.  ‘Brand’ as a concept will die. Consumers will have no Brand Loyalty, they will flit from product to product on a daily basis.
  20. Differentiation will last for a day - ‘Brands’ will have to prove their worth or establish differentiation on a daily basis
  21. Think of the Impact on Advertising Industry
  22. Products Customised to an Individual – remember the good old darzi (Tailor) in India, when the concept of ‘ready-made’ clothes was non-existent! Now take that custom tailor, accelerate the turnaround time to end product by 100, accessible online, anywhere anytime, home delivered, and you have a new economic model!
  23. Concept to Product Cycle, or Lab to Retail Shelf cycle will be Days, maybe Hours! It will be driven by consumer need, events, and availability of technologies like 3-D printing
  24. Environment and Sustainability will drive product and services adoption – the paradox of an increasingly aware, even though highly consumer and materialistic generation combined with a very high sense of responsibility towards the Environment. This generation will force corporations to be more ‘Socially Responsible’. They will shun products that are known to kill our planet or ‘exploit’ human resources
  25. Availability of information and transparency will force the above change
  26. New Industries will emerge more rapidly, ones that we cannot yet conceptualise (did we think ‘knowledge Search’ would be a hundreds of billions of dollar business)
  27. Discontinuities and disruptions appear more frequently, and have a higher impact
  28. Concept of physical ‘cash’, probably of ‘wealth’ will be replaced – see Block-chain and Bitcoin
  29. A more ‘Urban World’ than ever before. This will force ‘pockets’ or islands of ‘rural’ within the urban jungles, from a way-of-life perspective
  30. Resurgence of Values, Self-discovery and Spirituality 

There would be many more disruptions, mega trends than what I have listed above. Do let me know your thoughts.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Disruptions Facing the Tech World

My Views on some of the Disruptions facing the Tech World, and especially those that will affect India IT companies more than our global competition.

  1. Machines and Algorithms replacing Humans. There is an increased risk for not so high skilled L1 or BPO agents to be made redundant. there is risk also for some higher skills to be made redundant.
  2. Virtualized Everything – Networks, Compute, Storage, Hosting – Different and Limited Skills available with IT Companies worldwide,and especially with India Inc. required to Transform and then run new age IT sytems.
  3. XaaS. Managed App Services and Infra Managed Services can Shrink as organizations move applications and IT Infra (Servers, Storage, Compute) into the cloud. This risk is high for application workloads or Dev QA environments that will move into public clouds. for apps moving to private cloud or hybrid cloud there would still be enough IT support work available.
  4. XaaS presents a Big Opportunity to Re-Architect, Transform and Migrate Apps to Clouds.  This, however, is a very short window of opportunity, for a few years more at the most
  5. The big rik that XaaS poses for Indian IT companies is about Skills - many IT servies companies do not have enough High End Architecture Skills to Scale these servoces of moving apps to cloud as demand peaks in the next few years.
  6. Digital is Forcing Customers to Rapidly undertake Business Transformation, Move accelerated by Digital. Seek Indian IT players to provide ‘Biz Transformation’ and not mere Tech Transformation. Risk – we lack Positioning and capability for this. But this is the starting point and will define all following tech transformations and Ops (run) services
  7. Data Everywhere, Data will Rule. Whether IOT or Digital, Connected Systems are throwing up more data than ever, increasing Exponentially. Billions of Sensors and Devices will throw Zettabytes and Yottabytes (Billion Petabytes) of data! Opportunity – Analytics. Challenge. Skills Gap– we are not producing enough Data Scientists, nor developing Algorithms at the pace at which is done in Bay Area. Opportunity to acquire or invest in start-ups in this area.
  8. Startups, Born in Internet Cos, Algorithm based Cos dominate (likes of Google, Facebook and others) – This will lead to Skill and Talent Gap. Best of brains will increasingly be siphoned off by these cos. There will be increasing challenge to get good Delivery and Technical Execution Talent. The Industry will get Business Talent (B-Schools, MBAs), but a lesser number of Tech Experts. If the Industry does get these skills, they will be very expensive. This will put tremendous Pressure on Quality of Delivery, of Scale itself, of launching new services and on Margins. This will be exacerbated by a not so efficient middle layer of project managers (see an earlier post on this issue)
  9. Skills for Future will be very different from what we get engineers trained in today. Further pressure on IT Cos to become pseudo- CS engineering schools. This is usually short term, but the rapidly changing nature of IT will continue to outpace engineering schools curricula.
  10. Changing Nature of Business. Blurring Vertical Market Divides in our customer cos. Uber is in healthcare (mobile at home flue shots), GE in IT, Ford in IT. Companies will straddle Vertical rapidly. Opportunity if we have flexible IT Models and Commercial Models. Challenge if we cannot respond fast enough to their changing IT needs.
  11. Risk Sharing by IT Cos – Severely and Rapidly Shrinking Time to Market for our customers to release new services and products. Successful IT Services Cos will be ones to offer more skin in the game, more Risk Sharing in End Business Outcomes. This will force more Predictable Technical Solutions, Transformed Commercial Models, Stringent Scenario Planning, Selective Customer qualification and acquisition among other fundamental business model changes
  12.  Technology Changes and time to maturity will outpace ability to train armies of new skills – for example Market will force rapid time adoption of Blockchain, SDN NFV and New Mobility / Security (5G Ecosystem)  or Security Standards or Interoperability standards. Pressure on IT Services cos to build pools of new skills in shorter cycles. Cos might have to become selective in investing in technologies, as against carrying a wide catalog of skills
  13. IOT, IIOT, IOE – Will require new set of skills. That of Complex System Integration, Rapid Prototyping, Large scale deployments and others.
  14. Security – Exposure of Personal and Enterprise Data due to IOT/IOE, Connected Everything, increasing Cyber Attacks. Will demand newer set of Security Services – new algorithm based / Appliance based products will dominate. Opportunity for scaling Security Services. But India Inc.’s limited investment in core IP for Security could be an inhibitor for margins
  15. Bulk of India Inc IT Industry revenues are from Lagging Technologies, many are legacy or last century (C or Java can be considered in this league). Margins will come from leading new age technologies, Including Embedded Programming for IOT, Alogrithms for Virtual Reality or Cognitive Computing. Though these would take time to Mature or Scale, but the pressure will start to be visible in next 2 or 3 years.
  16. Crowdsourcing and Indvidual Contractors – increasingly, best of computing talent would freelance. This will pressurize Delivery and Execution.
  17. Algorithms Centric IT – India Inc.’s Lack of Core and Fundamental Innovation or R&D, lack of IP to scale – medium to long term impact, link to revenues from leading technology vs lagging tech. Cos that could succeed would be ones with Algorithms in AI or Biomimicry systems or Cognitive Computing etc.
  18. Changing nature of Application DevelopmentRapid Time to Market and Shrinking App / Product Life Cycles will force new Development Methods. Industry to transform to near 100% Agile and more rapid Agile for App Development. Could be highly Reusable Components, Ref Architecture based.  IT industry will be pressurized to invest more into teams developing these components, in labs and co innovating with OEMs.
  19. Changing Nature of all Verticals – Unbundling of Banks, Connected Manufacturing, 3D Printing forcing Manufacturing at the Edge, Moving of Mfr back to West and other similar Industry Shifts will force IT services re-haul.
  20. Alliances and Partners will be Coopetition ( Competition + Cooperation) – all OEM partners will have one or more ‘Products’ to replace current AD Services, or move to XaaS etc. However there will be opportunity to Run Support for many of these Technologies or Products.
  21. Changing Nature of Competition for IT Services Cos – from above, competition will be from every type of organization. Existing Customers( Banks, Mfr, Auto Cos GE Predix, Philips etc). see also
  22. IT Budgets disintermediating – moving to CMO, CDO, other emerging CXOs. They will source from Non – Traditional IT Cos, like Design and Ad agencies who are offering competing services using XaaS (Analytics – then Design – Execute – Measure – relaunch etc).
  23. Younger Highly Mobile, Tech Savvy Consumer – even more demanding, Driving Transformation. As we get into the 2020’s the next generation will force newer product and services standards, forcing IT cos to respond
  24. Increasingly Virtual Workforce – Need for more Virtual Collaboration. Environment / Pollution regulation might force even more restrictions on mobility. Employees might not want to commute long distances (Example in Bangalore IT staff could spend upto 4 hours a day Commuting). Pressures on Productivity and Efficiency would also force remove working, work from home and virtual collaboration even for basic Development. This would also force additional investments in Security and other processes. Add the increasing Freelancers and Crowdcoding, and we will have a large virtual workforce, sometimes globally distributed. 
  25. Macroeconomic Disruptions. Eurozone, BREXIT, Pressure on Sustainability, Regulatory Changes, Oil Prices Movement, Currency Instability and other would could also Disrupt status quo. There is a need for scenario building and planning for some of these variables.
Do let me know about your thoughts on the above. 


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Are we ready for the coming IT Storm!!

Beware the Coming Storm!!

The pace of change only increases and we do not cease to be amazed by new and relevant business models.

The pace of Innovation itself is accelerating, what with higher connectivity, collaboration platforms and enablers of the likes of Maker Movement (and its variants), KickStarter, MakerBot and others yet to be discovered, absolutely fantastic innovation accelerators.

Concept to Product is now days, for complex products weeks, and not months!

So what is the Storm for IT Companies, specifically Indian IT Companies still stuck in the last century 'Lower Cost' syndrome?

Lets face it, most revenues still flow in because India has not economically grown to a size and scale; and because we continue to get cheaper Engineers mass produced from our Education Factories, which so remind me of the Pink Floyd video 'another brick in the wall'.

The Storm is, as stated above, Innovation and New Business Models for delivering IT Services.

What do I see as the Big Shifts due to the Storm, what gets blown away?

  • IT workers with commodity skills will be replaced, in thousands, by 'Algorithms'.
  • Crowdsourcing will enable the best and most efficient 'Independent Contractors' to provide services at costs far lower than high overhead IT biggies, far more nimble, equal or higher quality. 
  • Smaller, Niche Service Providers will nibble away, and then rapidly eat part of the lunch, at least for niche areas, the likes of Analytics, or Data Sciences.

The first of these is very real, very very real and nearer than we care to think or acknowledge! Industry has nearly a million commodity IT 'knowledge' workers who have not cross skilled into relevant and current technologies. Most are complacent, comfortable in their cocoons, getting year on year 6% raise, job hop a few years and stay ahead of inflation, become a 'team leader', perhaps a Project Manager some day.. will we have a million PM and Project Directors?  of course not!

Entry level salaries of engineering hires has not increased dramatically in last decade. so either one gets replaced with 'Cheaper' fresher engineer, or by an algorithm. either which way, one will get replaced if one did not upgrade and stayed relevant!

In my view, the probability of being replaced by an 'Algorithm' is higher than being replaced by another cheaper 'IT engineer'; for one algorithms are getting far more efficient, secondly they don't ask for a raise every year and then do mass sulking, searching for alternatives; thirdly they do not take tea breaks, cricket match breaks and similar such distraction; and most importantly, they are scalable up and down without the associated emotional drain that every manager goes through.

Now, I am not being fatalistic and predicting that all IT engineers would one fine day land up at their office to see an 'algorithm' or a robot sitting in their place, but lets face it, many will start to see this.
It will not be long before the exponential portion of the 'S Curve' of Systems Theory hits the large majority.

The big question is, what is the time-frame for that to happen, 2 years, 4 years? 

One answer is that it is inversely proportional to the pace of Innovation that we see, so not too difficult to see it coming head on!

All for this post. 


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Knowledge Worker (Un)Productivity - A Fallout of Indian IT Industry Growth?

Peter F. Drucker – the well-known management guru, his 1999 book, ‘Management Challenges for the 21st Century’, includes the topic of ‘Knowledge Worker Productivity’ as one of the critical areas for management and organizations going into the 21st Century.

Being the visionary he was, he correctly identified this, at that time not yet mainstream, problem area as one which would challenge managers across the world.

More than a decade later, we are faced with this issue specifically in the Information Technology Industry in India.

Here are some of the dimensions of the problem:

  • A very young workforce – Gen Y and younger, comprising, and rapidly growing in, the work-stream
  • Organizations focusing on ‘outcomes’ (or at least claiming to do so!) and not worrying about the means. However, as we will see, the ability to accurately measure ‘outcomes’  is itself a gap area
  • Lack of credible ‘Measures’ itself for measuring efficiency and or productivity of knowledge workers
  • Managers not trained to ‘measure’ productivity of their team members, nor being tasked to do so
  • These managers, who are themselves very young, are not able to challenge their team members on expected productivity or outcomes. They are usually not able to measure the effort and time it should take for someone at the team members’ level for specific tasks.
  • Rapidly changing technology / services / solutions etc. do not allow teams to establish a correct measure of productivity of the task
  • Use of ‘employee cost’ as a substitute or measure for Productivity. What is usually measured is overall ‘cost’ of a function, and whether it is over or ‘under budget’. Cost is managed by getting more ‘low cost’ resources to do the knowledge tasks. Going by what is discussed above, the budget itself is not set based on standard benchmarks!
  • Rapid Growth - In many, or most, cases, the organizations have grown rapidly, too rapidly, with business having grown for many organization irrespective of flawed processes, unproductive practices, people dependency and lack of structured tools, knowledge strategies, building blocks and benchmarks. This has given no incentive for, or time for, organizations to measure or correct processes or to focus on productivity. It is only when growth is slowing, and profitability is under pressure that most IT service organizations are looking at efficiency and productivity  
  • Individuals in a hurry to ‘Grow’ beyond the current role do not get an opportunity to build their expertise in one area to actually improve their productivity – and hence they measure others, mainly their teams and new hires, on the same, flawed, productivity norms.
  • Rapid, artificial, growth forced on by organizations compounds the above. In an attempt to attract or retain good people, organizations create designations and not really more responsibility associated with more capability or experience. Compare to traditional industry, a more senior designation means more experience and higher ability to guide, point out mistakes or gaps, and improve processes or outcomes. IT services industry is in stark contrast with hoards of people growing like rising tides raising all boats, of solid oak as also leaky ones!
  • The Mediocrity Vicious Cycle’ – each individual does not reach peak productivity in their task or maturity in their managerial skills due to lack of experience. But they rapidly grow into a people / team manager - and when they become a manager or a team leader, they are not able to measure or challenge their teams on productivity. As a result the team members, even though brilliant or intelligent, do not grow to or learn to operate at peak productivity. This vicious cycle repeats every year, with these team members becoming managers with an incomplete sense of productivity!
  • Lack of long-term mentoring and coaching approach in most IT organizations; again, both mentors and mentees are young and eager to grow up and out of their roles!
  • Compare and contrast that to the mature Manufacturing Industry, with its established tools, productivity norms, continuous improvement focus.  Individuals perform in their roles for a longer duration, learning all the tricks of the trade, being mentored by seniors, and then growing into the senior roles to pass on the knowledge and contribute to productivity improvement.  Every individual is trained to focus on identifying unproductive tasks on the shop-floor, with the knowledge that every few milliseconds shaved from a process adds to profits, with thin margins this has been the constant focus.
  • IT industry has No Industry wide initiative for comparison, or sharing data with others, for similar tasks. While this might be true for software development per se, but is not there for all other tasks and processes. Even in software development, the industry sticks to old measures, while pockets of developers within the same organizations might be at higher productivity!
  • To add to this there are unclear job or role definitions, or have not been changed with the changing times, there are lack of clear set of outcomes and means or processes for the outcome from the roles. The ‘Why you are doing this task or step is usually not explained’, even the ‘how best to do this’ is left to individuals to perfect themselves. The why part is critical for individuals to improve or eliminate that step altogether
  • Missing Job Segmentation as ‘pure Knowledge’ work or ‘Knowledge + Physical’ or creative work etc. and establishing outcome norms for different tasks in these roles.
  • Another key element is the very high level of individual distractions and intrusions in today’s IT workers' lives – easy and ubiquitous access to social media on smart phones, mobile-phone calls and texts – all these constantly invade a typical employee’s working time.
  • Compare and contrast to 20th century where a phone call meant a single shared land-line in the department at the office, people would call only if really required. And any call would instantly be known to all in the office, so there were really no time waster calls, casual chats with friends, parents etc.
  • Workplace initiatives / environment implemented to ‘relax’ employees; engagement initiatives to retain employees; but there is no measurement of negative impact on productivity through time-wasters. Employees can be seen off work, whether it be lounging in the recreation area or strolling out for coffee among other cool things. Many a times forcing their colleagues to waste time along with them, who might be in the middle of a thought process, a creative streak.
  • Research has proven that a break in a creative process, usually what a knowledge worker does, leads to a disproportionate time wastage where the brain needs to trace its steps back to where it was in the middle of the process. As a result the overall time wasted is high. Remember Sherlock Holmes, when in the middle of analyzing and solving an engaging and complex intrigue, he would refuse food for days, focusing entirely on the problem and possible solutions. Similar is the story for many a leading scientists, inventors and highly creative people.
  • E-mail, official e-mail itself, is another major distractor. Every individual in an IT organization is bombarded with a high level of email traffic, transactional in nature. This is but another form of verbal chatting, on the outside individuals might seem to not be talking with others, but a constant look at emails, on their computer screens or handheld smart devices is a major distraction and time waster.
  • Several simultaneous calls on speakerphones are another annoyance. Open office spaces don’t really help here!
  • With such a high level of distractions, the overall productivity suffers dramatically!
  • One only needs to take a look outside any typical large knowledge industry office during any time of the day – and do a quick math, there are at least 50 -100 IT knowledge workers wasting time, and multiply by wasted person hours to get an idea of the scale of unproductive time
  • Not so strong individual discipline – bowing to peer pressure to collectively waste time. Practicing the famed Indian culture trait of ‘not being able to say no’ starts at home, with colleagues and friends.
  • Flexible work culture – in many organizations, the ‘come in anytime and leave anytime’ culture could lead to slackening individual discipline, leading to consequences as above on time wastage.
  • In most cases, these productivity problems are acute where both the manager and team members are very young, and the experience or age difference between manager and team is too small. Mangers don’t seem to, nor want to check their team members’ approach or discipline, or in many cases are not able to, given the small experience difference!
  • Unstructured approach and lack of Process orientation in employees – due to lack of self -awareness as also lack of formal training on individual productivity levers, time management, among others.
  • IT services organizations have also not invested in Tools and Automation for efficiency improvement for tasks – while the industry outsources development tasks for leading productivity software or SaaS IT products globally, it shirks from investing in similar tools for itself!
  • There are more, but the above kind of sum up most dimensions of the problem the industry faces with productivity.


Solutions: Many Problems, yes! So what are the solutions to the above highlighted issues? 


These are not hard to come by, with a little self-help and something that organizations can do!

For individuals, we can start with self-discipline. Minimize distractions. Refuse to take or make phone calls to friends unless urgent. Keep an email free time; or better, keep email reading time slots and switch on email for that duration only.  Keep specific, measured, time slots for breaks. Keep a time for discussions and socializing – this can be immediately after lunch when the brain is not at its best for knowledge work.  Say NO to friends and colleagues that want to go out and need company, for a smoke break or coffee break. Practice some time management techniques - Pen your daily, weekly to-do list and tick it off; plan calls and meetings with colleagues in advance. Use email tools to segregate mails – all mails not related to current and immediate task or work should be auto routed to other folders. Show your default status as busy on chat messengers; free it up only in your allocated time slot to show green! Discourage ‘walk up and chat’ tendency. You can and should take a break once in a while, and then chat with someone who is also on a break. Breakout areas in organizations are created for this very purpose. In open office spaces, don’t take calls on speakerphones and discourage others also to do so.

For organizations:  yes flexible work places and work hours are good, but see it does not impede efficiency. Managers should be strict about individuals’ office time vs. their output. Teams and departments heads should be encouraged and trained to measure individual productivity and report on dashboards for all to look up to and beat. BPO organizations do this well for task-based work; it can be replicated for knowledge / creative work! This might be counter intuitive –that creativity cannot or should not be measured; but if we don’t, we have no benchmarks and measures to improve continuously!
Keep a time fixed during the day for organization messages and email blasts – on new initiatives, internal job postings, special offers etc. – anything that is not urgent to be released immediately should be clubbed together and released at the end of the day or at lunch hour, but all these together at one fixed time in the day.

Create a team or role for establishing productivity metrics for different functions and roles, and for different personnel at different experience level within these functions. Review overall productivity norms for different departments.  Share metrics with other organizations, both for establishing appropriate metrics as also for benchmarking.

Identify candidate processes for automation and Industrialization for productivity improvement. Actively invest in these. Make these as an organization priority. Task the function heads to work with their teams that perform day to day activities to help identify time wasters, possible process accelerators, candidate tasks for automation, interfaces and workflows for automation. Set aside targets for the team itself to define the blueprint or requirements. Rapidly prototype these tools and roll out for results and adoption.

Copyright 2012 Anurag Sharma

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Real 'Matrix' - The impending talent bubble in IT India

The impending talent bubble in IT India

Or ‘what will happen to the armies of agents ten years from now’? Those that are L1 skilled today, will many of they become the mass labor class of future? Will we have masses of 40+ old call center agents like we have in the west who we replace? Who will then replace these? Someone from other Asian countries eager to eat our IT lunch? Or, more realistically, someone younger from smaller towns in India.

We usually worry if we can afford to give 10 - 15% y-o-y raise to all professionals, and still keep our edge, and our margins? But a bigger worry should be what skills and growth are we giving to these to bring more value, to them and to the industry?
We should worry if this is a bubble waiting to burst. Remember Maslov’s hierarchy of needs. We are feeding the bottom of the need pyramid and neglecting the higher levels. Hundreds of thousands of call center agents and technical agents (L1 as we call them) are happy with their newfound independence to spend, to live lives of borrowed and temporary opulence.

IT Industry is targeting to hire more freshers to reduce costs. We will be able to find cheaper labor in India for next 20 years. but what will happen to the lakhs of employees? Will they work at lesser increments? Will we fire a lot of them to make way for cheaper workers? Or will they stagnate at a plateau of learning and salary. Not all can become managers or level2 workers. So we will have a vast majority reconciled to their fate of not growing and continuing as callers for the next decade or for the rest of their foreseeable careers.
Does this scare them? or does it spur them on?

But first, are they even aware of this?

Are we as the industry mapping their aspirations or alternatively are we creating a web of false worlds, a feeling of false euphoria, a mirage for them to be trapped in indefinitely. And we are investing in sustaining these mirages because this servers our purpose very well.
We could call this the real ‘Matrix’ with millions of real life Neos, Trinitys and others being kept happy in a virtual world, enticed to stay at status quo because it feeds our system. True, one can argue that we are giving them a job and career where they would have had none in the absence of this opportunity, but what we are not seeing is what will happen when these individuals don’t grow in their careers, en masse, collectively, year after year. We cannot and will not give them an alternative because it suites us and is our interest for them to not know the reality?

The problem is well laid out – but what is the solution?

The employees should be made aware, help them realize that they can move up the value chain and realize their true potential.
If we do this, what will happen? Will there be mass disenchantment and demotivation? Or will they not listen at all? We should attempt to communicate and make them aware, it means securing our future at some cost of the present today. Do we have the guts to do this? what benefit will it bring?

These are some of the questions that beg an answer, and not too soon enough!!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Managing across the digital divide - or how to manage teams largely comprising the “now” generation!

Key points: the way the ‘facebook’ generation works is radically different. It is a different ballgame to manage this generation as against earlier ones.

Some of the areas this generation is different includes:

  • Direct and upfront – don’t hesitate to mince words
  • Confident (sometimes overconfident)
  • Know it all (or at least they think they do)
  • Don’t know what they don’t know – but it does not matter
  • 2 year experienced behaves / knows more than what a generation ago a 10 year experienced knew
  • Don’t really think they need to have gained practical experience in something to be an ‘expert’
  • Wide not deep
  • ‘Demand’ not request
  • Global perspective
  • Know what they want (at least for now)
  • Really don’t care what they want or need in the near future (forget long term future)
  • Very ‘transparent’ with each other – everyone knows what everyone else is earning, who thinks what
  • Open – want the world to know their every thought, every move, what they did last evening, this morning, this instant…
  • Are networked like never before – rightly said the facebook generation, know their friends of friends of friends… and can read what they are doing this instant
  • Use technology like never before – don’t hesitate to spend more money on a mobile-phone than their parents did on, say, a two-wheeler
  • Arrogant - don’t know the meaning of humility. Being humble is a sign of weakness for them
  • Question ‘why’ and ‘why not’
  • They think rudeness is a strength
  • Have not seen a downturn – is difficult for them to adjust to a thought that life could also be tough on them

The above constitute amazing strengths, and many chinks in an otherwise good base to build on.

Given the above context, let’s see how difficult or easy it is to manage across these people.

Those who have been managing teams which started work in the old millennium and have not worked with a large number of fresh pass-outs, have not experienced the direct, sometimes blunt, challenging approach of the ‘now’ generation.


Many of the earlier generation have grown up believing in not answering back, in being reticent, humble.. for them the approach comes as a surprise and, sometimes rude, shock.

How does one manage this generation?

Acceptance of their being different – For starters – don’t ‘manage’ them. Work with them. It will be good if one accepts that it would be easier to mould to what this generation is, than to comment / complain that they are different, to cry that “they are not what we were when we were their age”, “they don’t know what we have gone through and they will never go through the same to reach where we have reached” etc etc . This soft sentiment is wasted on this bunch.
Accept that their drivers are vastly different from what yours were, or perhaps are.


Get Involved, but give them their space – show involvement, be involved in their activities, but don’t get too close if you are not in their generation.

Understand – make a conscious attempt to understand why they are doing what they are, their drivers, what triggers them

Anticipate – you know what they will do on a particular stimulus or input. Anticipate and prepare your response.

Do not show them the moon – they are way too smart to be taken in by sweet words and promises, they will read through it. It is better to be upfront and blunt with them than to be circuitous.

Coach mostly, don’t be highly directive – they have a habit of independence, use it to a combined coaching - learning advantage. Give them their space to learn.

Let them be creative, but manage it - let them explore their creativity, let them experiment where they can and where it is not too risky, maybe sometimes even if it is a risk. But be careful, and keep a tab, their overconfidence could be leading them to think they know more than they actually do.

Be direct – subtle hints don’t work here, they will probably go unnoticed. Be direct in your feedback. Use facts, not probabilities.

To be continued....as we learn more

Copyright 2010 Anurag Sharma

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Failure of leadership - Does 8% growth mean anything to the 600 Million Hungry Indians?

If anything it could mean their hunger grows by a proportionate percentage!

The headlines screamed at us this week – India has achieved 8% growth!

Buried somewhere in another article a few weeks back in the same leading business daily were these figures - 600 Million Indians still go hungry each day – most of them eat not more than one meal a day, most of them eat nothing on a given day in a week.

While we are succeeding as a nation pounding our chests with 8% growth in recessionary times, these 600 Million human beings still go hungry.

If this is not a collective failure of leadership of our nation then pray tell me what is?
In fact, this is a collective failure of all us educated, well-fed and prospering, Indians.

Many of us would have received our annual increments in the past few months – many would be cribbing the ‘inadequacy’ and comparative less increase than others. Just keep in mind that the only increment that these hungry 600 Million get is in their hunger.

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