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A case for Quality

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DQW Bureau
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Whenever an event of earth-shattering consequence occurs, there is a tendency to ask: "Where were you at the time it happened?" Americans normally recall where they were when John Kennedy was gunned down and Indians inevitably remember where they were when Indira Gandhi was shot dead.

As for me, here I was entertaining two US clients in Pune when we heard news of the WTC attack. As the evening progressed, there was a transition from disbelief to shock to relief as our guests discovered that their family members, one of who actually worked near the Pentagon and the other in the heart of the WTC, were safe. A few days later, at a weekend in the tea gardens of Munnar, I was amazed to find that there was very little awareness of the tragedy among many of the plantation workers in that idyllic part of the world. But almost everybody had heard of computers and some even had a son or nephew doing a computer course and working towards the great international dream!





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The lesson it taught me was that even in times of great worldly concerns, the show does and must go on. We must seek lessons from adversities and build new opportunities.

Lessons to be learnt

The first, of course, which every company CEO, professional and industry analyst is discovering is that we are clearly in uncharted waters and the immediate future is difficult, if not impossible to predict. The second is that while the intelligentsia is agonizing over likely scenarios for international relations, international business and the world community at large, the vast pool of citizenry, at least in countries like India is blissfully unaware of the magnitude of the event or its ramifications, having survived many droughts and floods and earthquakes which have wrought even greater havoc in their more immediate surroundings. And last, there is still optimism about the future, to be tapped and strengthened as the world continues to fight the old battles-against literacy and poverty!

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The information technology sector in India will of course be affected, first by the ongoing slowdown and the recession that have now been precipitated by the tragedy and also by the added reasons-geographic proximity to the battle ground and patriotism towards local providers, that will weigh on CIO minds in their considerations of outsourcing. But these are transient phenomena, which a strong and sustained quality response can and should overcome as the industry picks up the threads with its clients. This is the challenge that industry chieftains and policy planners alike must successfully take up in rebuilding the confidence to address the 'IT is India's Tomorrow' dream.

Industry imperatives-quality rules!

In a situation where low-cost options from Ireland, Hungary, China and Philippines will become even more attractive to global CIOs, the Indian advantage has to be quality-in products, services and every professional who now waves the India IT flag. In the software sector, with new SEI CMM level 5 companies coming to the fore every week, the time has come to win the war against emerging competition through high-quality processes and better quality people. In a market flush with opportunities, it has been all too easy to take 90 percent quality as sufficient and this could well be the time for software engineering process practitioners and quality evangelists to come down hard on errant programmers and project managers and get 100 percent levels of quality in all their spheres of influence.

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There is no better place to implement quality than in the domestic sector. Successful software exporters have been staying away from the domestic market, complaining about the lack of client awareness, difficulty in getting signoffs and the perpetual need to write off the last 10 percent when the client refused to let the project finish gracefully. Most CEOs will agree that there has always been a lackadaisical attitude towards resources deployed on projects at home. This has led to clients responding less than professionally. This might be the opportunity to significantly improve quality in every software project, be it for export or domestic purpose. Perhaps, the industry segment most in need of an overhaul is computer education.

While the slowdown in computer education has had one welcome effect of getting the fly-by-night operators of small undifferentiated training centers to shut shop and flee in search of greener pastures, giants like Aptech, NIIT and SSI have also felt the heat. With one look at the financial analysts, the set of responses has been....

  • To cut down on advertising and resort to more local direct marketing efforts.
  • To sign up more franchisees in an attempt to improve the return on capital employed in the business.
  • To focus on international expansion while the slowdown continues on Indian shores.
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While all this may have a palliative effect on short-term performance, there can be no getting away from the need to improve system quality. As less students pass through the portal of computer training institutes, it would be a good idea to focus on the learning process and revitalize the curriculum to ensure conceptual learning rather than package skills. Course designers in corporate offices of training companies should look at this lull as an opportunity to effectively integrate distance learning technologies into the training material to ensure that course delivery becomes as faculty-independent as possible. A number of redundant software professionals may now find it worth their while to take a one- or two-year training sabbatical, so this may be the right time to significantly improve the quality of manpower at training institutes across the country.

Ganesh Natarajan (The author is deputy chairman and managing director of Zensar Technologies and the global CEO of

Zensar)

Source: www.dqindia.com

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