Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Of Project Managers and Staged Shows

Days back I received an email from an acquaintance based in Mumbai. He informed me that he has joined as a PM in an e-learning company. To quote him verbatim, “I am having a gala time as a PM. The only thing I need to do here is to squeeze timelines so that we get the most out of these silly IDs and graphic designers.”

That didn’t surprise to me, largely because I had sensed this trend about a year back. The issue of squeezed timelines is not usually done by the outsourcing client but by the Project Managers within. The logic is simple – squeezing the timeline reduces development costs for the company and adds a feather in the PM’s cap that can be converted to a higher annual increment.

Consider the statistics (lent by a senior ID from Genpact). About 2 years back the average number of frames that IDs were required to churn out daily was 12-15. This number has now shot to 20-25 even while the salaries have not seen an increment by that rate. So even while clients throw a deadline of say 15 days, the project manager reduces this to 7 days even while the client is billed on the actual effort of 15 days, and maybe more.

Project Managers are also instructed by the management to escalate fictitious issues for IDs and GDs so that the conditions become conducive for them to leave the company. With an annual increment of an average of 25% companies discover that certain resources are a liability and their replacements can come at a lower remuneration package. However, for individuals who redefine themselves and are capable of shouldering higher responsibilities are not axed.

Even as you see those flashy growth figures of Indian e-learning companies, the underlying politics weigh far too heavily on the employee’s careers. For some rational and far-sighted ones e-learning today has come to be a makeshift arrangement, a platform, to launch their actual careers. Perhaps they see the e-learning as closely resembling the BPOs where numbers matter more than the grey matter. Is it this coldness that makes software professionals giggle at ‘e-learning?’ Who knows – the answer is best left unanswered.


BK said...

Thanks for this wonderful revelation...

Praveen said... that is the modus operandi?

Cooldude said...


prashant philipose said...

We have to remember one thing. Managers are rated on their ability to:
1. Take less than the stipulated project time
2. Use less resources to accomplish the same task

So in effect, we have managers who push resources (graphics and content) to do more in less time.

It is these managers who are identified as successful by the top brass.

Unfortunately, this creates a schism between the top brass and the resources. The resources usually dont mind putting in extra hours for a quality product or a crisis. But they eventually figure out that a "crisis" or a "fire" is being deliberately created so that more work gets done. This will help the manager's rating but ruin the resouurces quality figures. Naturally, the resources are suspicious of management and this creates a bad environment.
One of the side-effects is that good PMs,the guys who focus on quality, client satisfaction and employee morale, are rated badly. They are either forced to adopt the tactics of their more wily PMs or leave e-learning. In my experience, most good PMs generally leave e-learning as they have and move on to field where there is a greater differntiation in quality.

Now that I have diagnosed the disease, do I have the cure? Unfortunately, not.

Maybe thats another article for Asim.

Sushma Tiwari, Mumbai said...

Thanks for getting me the other perspective.

Keep writing. It helps.

Srinivas said...

Being part of the IT fraternity, I could not resist commenting on this one. The Project Managers that I have come across have been generally overheads and have never risen through the "doers" track. They hardly understand whats going on other than always chanting the "expedite project" mantra. I figured out that the best way to counter this sometimes worthless community is to set an example myself where I do more of "participative" management. I am always reminded of the scene in "Gladiator" where the main protagonist (who is kind of of Project manager if you may) receives respect from his army because he has been through the rigour himself and understand his sub-ordinates.

sheetal said...

Can we have some unique ideas to deal with such PMs? We should not allow such people to take advantage of our sincerity and hard working nature, right?

Surekha said...

Good observation.

Mukul Agarwal said...

hmmm...good observation dada