Merce

Maintaining the spark in outsourced teams

  • The challenge

    Outsourced teams posted at customer site become, over time, more a part of the customer organisation than of our company. This impacts their culture, technical competence, and sense of belonging. The impact on culture and sense of belonging is easy to understand. The impact on technical competence may be less obvious. This happens because most work assigned to outsourced teams is routine. Organisations prefer to keep the non-standard and stimulating work for their own full-time employees.

    The customer too does not treat the contractor's team in the same way as their own employees. The basic facilities like the canteen, lobby and office facilities are shared by everyone, but the HR processes, the status boosts for a job well done, the rush of a new business deal, are often experienced by the employee alone. The HR Department of the customer organisation has no commitment to engineers on contract, assuming that the contractor organisation will tackle that aspect. But the physical placement of the engineer at customer site reduces the contractor's access to the engineer and their ability to manage human resources effectively.

  • Our solutions

    Rotate Rotating the engineer between customer-site and in-office assignments is perhaps the most direct way to break the deadlock. It is the most effective of all approaches. There are however serious procedural difficulties in executing this plan, specially for staff-augmentation teams, because such teams work much more closely with the customer than plain T&M teams. There are also challenges of a multi-locational company like ours. Our team members in Gurgaon may be at customer site but may not find it convenient to put in a six-month in our offices in Bombay.

    Train We try to organise training programmes for engineers at customer site, where we force them to break their involvement with their daily work and concentrate on some technical ideas and tools which are different. It is interesting that the value from such training programmes is only partly due to their technical content. The value comes as much from the ability of such programmes to pull engineers out of their routine. For our teams based in cities other than Mumbai, we send our seniormost engineers for a few days to conduct training programmes at their out-locations.

    R&R Organising events for recreation and relaxation is often very effective to foster team spirit and strengthen a "Merce identity" among our team members. We get regular opportunities to organise such events when one of our team members has a birthday. We organise a cake, some snacks, and a lot of good-natured humour for the "victim" right in the workplace. Customers support us for such activities when we conduct them in their premises for on-site teams; their managers often join in. Other less common events include company picnics and the block bookings for a much-awaited movie.

    Celebrate We have processes to celebrate good performance, based on customer feedback and achievement of milestones. We have processes to identify good performers in our team and celebrate their achievements with small functions and awards, making it a light and cheerful team event instead of a solitary pedestal for one officer. This helps our officers feel that their work is valued.

    Time off Even though earned leave is a part of the employment terms of all companies, special processes must be put in place to tackle leave for officers in on-site assignments for customer teams. The absence of an officer on leave directly impacts billing for the contractor. Therefore, to minimise this impact, engineers must be reallocated carefully and well in advance to ensure that the customer's work and our billing remain unaffected. The customer's managers must be given full visibility into this reallocation process, so that they approve each such incident. But the ability to avail of leave in chunks longer than, say 4-5 days, is a big boost to the engineer's morale. In this respect, we are superior to most Indian software services companies; they routinely deny long leave and cancel leave committed months in advance.

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  • Case studies

    Work we have done for other customers in various engagement models