Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Honour and Indian IT

The Indian IT industry is an industry that depends more on individual effort than team effort.

Of course, the team is supreme, but it still consists of individuals and their heroic efforts which is distinct and different from a team effort. Not clear yet?

Lets say, a typical IT project done by an Indian IT services company consists of a hypothetical team of 10 members. Assume that there are two persons front ending the client. Out of these one is experienced (3-4 or more years experience) and one is a little less experienced (1-2 years). Offshore there is a lead of about 3-4 years experience or more, about 2 people of 1-2 years experience and the rest are freshers (5), with less than a year of experience. We dont count the managers, for obvious reasons.

Estimates are usually worked backwards, in fixed price projects. The sales guys have no clue on the work so they agree on a price on instinct (instincts uncannily meet their quarterly targets), the time and resources are worked backwards from that, which is usually too less to complete the job in most cases.

As it usually happens, somewhere along the way requirements are screwed up (scope creep, they say), nobody asks the right questions or if the right questions are asked the project goes into a spiralling cycle of "requirements incomplete" from day 1.

Why? Onsite tells offshore: Lets not wait for the client to give us full requirements, just get started. So they do, since onsite is the god. Somewhere along the way, client wakes up, submits a whole new set of requirements and the effort on the project is multiplied. Estimates go for a toss and delivery dates cannot be compromised upon or if new dates are given, it is still too less.

Now there are two scenarios. They manage to add more people (usually some rookies and if you are lucky, someone with experience ) or or they do not add more people. In either case, the teams head is put on the line. The threats may vary from "Your next appraisal will be screwed" or "Why cant you guys deliver such a simple thing".

In either case, the individuals survival instincts are touched. And each of them says, to hell with the account manager, I will see to it that this piece of shit gets delivered. Therefore, each one, fights to save his or her own honour. Fifteen hour days, all nighters, weekend work, working for 4 days without sleep, pizza for food, it all goes and the project is delivered. Sure, the team delivered, but why? Because each person fought for his or her own glory, like in a battle. In the midst of all this the fact that the sales chap screwed up on estimates is lost.

In the end commendations are given because "these people did more they were expected to do, sat late and delivered on time".

The stories of lone rangers fighting innumerable bugs through the night to deliver bug free code in the morning is something every software professional will empathise with.

As my friend says, it is these little bits of honour that add up to billions of dollars in revenue for the Indian IT. Without it, Indian IT would be nowhere.

1 comment:

anantha said...

dunno if thats a fault with just the Indian IT industry.

Have seen this happening even in projects that are totally done on-site by the Big 5 consulting companies...