Sunday 18 November 2012

Softscaling

I always had a feeling that though western management models have been prominent in our business education, there is something about our Indian management, which is worth study by global managers. So I was happy to see a research briefing from MIT CISR, which is based on research done at five top-performing Indian companies viz., Airtel, Hero MotoCorp, HDFC, Tata Motors and Max Healthcare. The researchers have termed the strategy of these firms as softscaling, which involves combining the rational use of data to optimize business process efficiency with the empathic use of data to understand and connect with customers and other stakeholders. I would strongly recommend reading this 3-page research briefing, which is available online at http://cisr.mit.edu/blog/documents/2012/03/15/2012_0301_softscaling_agarwalweill-pdf/.

Thursday 15 November 2012

Customer-facing digitization creates the most value

In a recently published research briefing from MIT CISR, the authors have recommended that digitization of customer facing processes should be given higher priority than that of shared services and operations processes. Their recommendation is based on the study in which they assessed degree of digitization by examining 12 core enterprise processes in three key areas as follows:

  1. Shared Services: budgeting and financial management; closing the book; recruiting and hiring; employee performance; corporate performance
  2. Operations: supplier performance; fulfillment; logistics and supply chain
  3. Customer facing: identifying sales prospects; managing customer relationships; market testing; identifying customer needs
With a sample of two thousand firm, the key finding is that having more digitized customer-facing processes seems to help performance, particularly growth: firms with digitization of customer-facing processes in the top 25% had a median revenue growth of 9%, compared to 4% median revenue growth for the entire sample.

I agree with this recommendation but for a reason other than mentioned in the research briefing. I think digitization of shared services and operational processes can help improve profitability but to increase revenue, you need to enhance digitization of customer facing processes. My two cents worth!

Book Review: Super Freakonomics


If you have read Freakonomics then you will quickly pick up its sequel – Super Freakonomics. Like its predecessor, this book explains how microeconomics concepts get applied in real life. In this book, the authors have vividly shared findings of their own research and that of others to show how economic principles work in domains such as prostitution, terrorism, healthcare, global warming, etc. Simply superb!

Sunday 23 September 2012

Takeaways for a talk: Happy for no reason

Recently I attended a talk by my colleague, Anandkumar NC. He had given a very interesting title to his talk, Happy for no reason. In a very entertaining way, Anand shared some of the academic research findings and his personal experience for becoming happy for no reason. I had following takeaways from his talk:
  • Two myths block our happiness: myth of more and myth of I will be happy when ...
  • Three things rob our happiness: victimhood, blaming and feeling shame.
  • Plan the work and work the plan. Only plan and no work results into daydreaming! Work with no plan leads to nightmare!

Friday 21 September 2012

Notes from Book: Software Project Survival Guide

Written by Steve McConnell, an author of Code Complete and Rapid Development, Software Project Survival Guide is an useful resource for both aspiring and experienced software project managers. The templates and checklists discussed in this book along with a survival test are available on this book's web site. Here I am noting down some wisdom nuggets spread throughout this book that I found quite relevant for my current work:
  • Early in the project you can have firm cost and schedule targets or a firm feature set, but not both.
  • Involving users throughout the project is a critical software project survival skill.
  • The working software is a more accurate status report than any paper report could ever be.
  • Staged delivery is not a panacea. But, on balance, the additional overhead it demands is a small price to pay for the significantly improved status visibility, quality visibility , flexibility, estimation accuracy, and risk reduction it provides.
  • It's better to wait for a productive programmer to become available than it is to wait for the first available programmer to become productive.
  • The problem with quick and dirty, as some people have said, is that dirty remains long after quick has been forgotten.
  • No individual is a success who hurts the team, and no individual is a failure who helps it.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Book Review: User Stories Applied


This book provides good guidance on user stories. Actually the first section, Getting Started, is the one that provides enough details for learning to write user stories. Second session is about estimation and planning for user stories. Third section provides supplementary information about user stories in chapters such as “what user stories are not”, “why user stories”, etc. Fourth part provides a complete example case study for learning user stories. Final section provides two appendices: one giving an overview of Extreme Programming and other one providing answers to chapter questions. Overall, this book is good read for those who are planning to use user stories as a technique for requirements gathering and analysis during agile software development.

Sunday 10 June 2012

Book Review: Enterprise Architecture Planning


Published almost two decades back, this book provides a prescriptive approach that can be used to create top two layers of John Zachman’s Enterprise Architecture (EA) Framework (as published in year 1987). It provides a ten-phase process, which is phase-wise described in ten chapters. Each of these ten chapters describes the phase by providing steps involved. For each step, the author has mentioned the purpose, deliverables & tasks and guidelines. He has also provided sample documents for business model, data architecture, application architecture and technology architecture, as appendixes. This is a good how-to book for EA and hence every EA professional should consider reading this book.

Friday 8 June 2012

Book Review: Employees First, Customers Second


Written by CEO of HCL Technologies (HCLT), this book describes a new management philosophy for managing an enterprise in today’s world. The book has got five chapters out of which first four describe four phases of Employees First, Customers Second (EFCS) journey, illustrated with HCLT case. The last chapter answers some of the questions/concerns one would have about the EFCS concept. As its sub-title says, “turning conventional management upside down”, this book provides a contra view of business management, which would make you think if not get convinced. A must-read for every business manager.

Sunday 20 May 2012

Book Review: The TCS Story

Written by former CEO of TCS, this book describes history of TCS in very lucid manner. The author also discusses various initiatives taken by TCS to become top 10 by 2010. He also shares his thoughts about India's future. In certain sense, this book is also an autobiography of the author since he has shared important happenings of his life in this book. What I liked the most is appendix 1 in which his colleagues have shared what they think of the author. I strongly recommend this book to every IT professional.

Saturday 19 May 2012

Book Review: 97 Things Every Software Architect Should Know

This is somewhat unique book since it presents collective wisdom from more than four dozen architects. Each "thing" is presented in exactly two pages. This book is also available online but still reading it in paper book format is really more effective. I would recommend this book to both aspiring and experienced software architects.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Keyboard shortcuts to use during PowerPoint slideshow

I find following keyboard shortcuts quite useful during slideshow of my PowerPoint slides. You may also find them useful.

You must be knowing following shortcuts as they are widely used.
  • Advance to Next Slide - Mouse Click, Space bar, N, Right Arrow, Down Arrow, Page Down
  • Return to Previous Slide - Backspace, P, Left Arrow, Up Arrow, Page Up
  • End Show     ESC, CTRL+Break, Minus, END
But the following ones are not so much widely known:
  • Go to Slide -   ENTER
  • Black/Unblack Screen -    B or Period
  • White/Unwhite Screen -    W or Comma
  • Show/Hide Pointer  -   A or =
  • Erase Screen Annotations   -  E
  • Advance to Hidden Slide -    H
You may want to try out these shortcuts, which could help you remember those during your next presentation!

Book Review: say it with Presentations

I read this wonderful book by Gene Zelazny, Director of Visual Communications for McKinsey & Company, titled "say it with Presentations". I had read its earlier edition but the current edition is quite revised, providing a lot more content. The best part of this book is the checklist near the end of the book, which can be referred each time while designing a presentation to ensure a successful presentation.I strongly recommend this book to every one, who needs to make business presentations.

Monday 23 April 2012

Book Review: Engaged Leadership


Written by Clint Swindall, "Engaged Leadership" is a management book offering a framework for leadership style. This framework supposedly addresses a concern that 54% of employees are disengaged at work, as found in a survey done by Gallup Organization. The framework is depicted as a triangle containing four puzzle pieces. Three peripheral pieces are directional, motivational and organizational while the center piece is character core. Author offers 12 challenges that leader has to encounter in three areas: directional, motivational and organizational. He mentions following four challenges in the directional leadership area:
  1. Recruit support from the top 29 percent (these ones are engaged employees)
  2. Prepare the organization for change
  3. Let them know how they contribute
  4. Constantly communicate progress
The challenges in motivational leadership are as follows:
  1. Lead with positive motivation
  2. Celebrate small successes
  3. Encourage life balance for all employees
  4. Create a fair work environment
The organizational leadership area contains following four challenges:
  1. Identify and position the appropriate talent
  2. Build a bridge between generations
  3. Move towards real empowerment
  4. Establish a strategy to maintain success
The book is divided into two sections: fable and how-to. I found this format very useful since fable provides a good context to learn the framework and the how-to part reinforces the learning.

As far as framework is concerned, it does not provide any breakthrough thoughts or ideas. Since it is based on author's experience as consultant, the framework does not have backing of any rigorous research. One may also say that it is an old wine in new bottle! Nevertheless, some organization would find this framework useful for their leadership development programs.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Virtues of CHILD

While reading "If God was a banker" book by Ravi Subramanian, I came across this acronym, CHILD which stands for
  • Commitment
  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Leadership
  • Dedication
I would agree with the author that one should have virtues of CHILD!

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Book Review: The Coalition of Competitors

Written by a former president of NASSCOM, this book provides a sort of "official biography" of NASSCOM. Additionally, this book tells the story of Indian software industry, which is represented by NASSCOM.

First chapter of this book provides a quick overview of initial days of both Indian IT industry and NASSCOM. Second chapter covers Indian IT industry in 1990s before Y2K and dotcom boom. In chapter three, the author has discussed how Indian IT industry responded to three major events: Y2K, dotcom and 9/11. Chapter four tells BPO story as it got unfolded during first decade of 21st century. It also discusses other emerging services viz., Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO), Remote Infrastructure Management (RIM) and Engineering Services (ES). This chapter also touches upon how domestic market in general and Indian Government in specific, is opening up to use IT and how that present opportunities to Indian IT companies.

The author has devoted fifth chapter to describe the constraints faced by Indian IT industry. These constraints include crumbling infrastructure, shortage of suitable human resources, domestic political backlash and regulatory speed-breakers. Sixth chapter covers the role played by Indian Government in shaping Indian IT industry. It specifically elaborates industry-friendly Government policies/initiatives such as STPI and tax incentives. Seventh chapter then focuses on multiple roles played by NASSCOM over a period of time. Besides mentioning NASSCOM's contribution in the areas of industry brand building, providing unifying vision, lobbying etc., this chapter describes NASSCOM's structure and governance model. In eighth chapter, aptly titled as "crystal-ball gazing", the author has provided his outlook and vision for both Indian IT industry and NASSCOM. In final chapter, the author has elaborated how the mantra of "Compete, but Cooperate" as exemplified by NASSCOM, can be applied in wider context.

I found this book quite informative and would recommend it to every Indian IT professional.

Friday 30 March 2012

Book Review: The Long Revolution


The Long Revolution book written by Dinesh Sharma provides highly readable and informative account of the birth and growth of India’s IT industry. With around 500 pages, this book is a really a long book but would make you glue to it till its final chapter. I must thank the author because the book helped me learn history of the industry in which I have been working for last 15 years.