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Issue 61

Exiting the corporate stereotype

Epure Cristian
IT Development Professional Applications @ Siemens
MANAGEMENT

What is a stereotype? A stereotype is a concept that puts a limit on reality. Stereotyping is represented as a negative paradigm, often present in the context of short-term decisions without a broad vision of the future.

How is corporate stereotyping seen?

Corporations, generally those working in the IT field, have well-defined processes as a result of many years of analysis and testing of various techniques. Processes within a business are typically divided into three categories: primary, support, and management processes.

Primary Processes - Operational Processes

Direct customer engagement in the process is the most important aspect to ensure continuity. Primary processes consist of: marketing, sales, purchases and production, representing the core of the so-called VC ('Value Chain' - a suite of business activities to deliver a quality product or service).

Support processes are processes that help, support main activities, operations, and employees. The main processes are quality management, information security, task planning. (e.g. preventive actions, corrective actions, internal audit, etc.)

Management processes - Perform a set of interventions by which a manager makes predictive decisions, coordinates, organizes and controls various employee activities to achieve the objectives of an economic unit. Following these processes, the well-known stages that have the role of achieving the finishing touches of that Business are born:

  1. Establishment of objectives - specifically targets the employee and his / her evolution over a period of time bilaterally agreed. These objectives are aimed at achieving the project objectives as well as personal development - soft skills and technical skills.

  2. Forecasting and planning - providing and preventing various activities by analyzing various factors (trends, budgets, objectives, policies, etc.). In the Software Development Business, these measures give rise to the so-called "Proof of concepts" through which an individual or a team can develop functionalities with "cutting-edge" technologies.

  3. Organization

  4. Communication

  5. HR

  6. The decision - is directly proportional to the dose of complexity of the environment. The more dynamic the organization is, the more difficult it gets.

  7. Control - Evaluate the established targets to track to what extent the expected outcomes have been reached.

Fig 1. General organizational trend

How do we, as employees, find our identity?

Experienced IT companies manage through these processes to streamline their workflow and increase productivity, but also limit the employee's decision-making role. Establishing a set of rules and designing individual targets according to employee's capacity is the prevention of Business risk events, such as product non-delivery, high software development costs, or intra-team conflicts on the back of poor communication between individuals. Risk management is designed to reduce the risk that a company exposes itself to.

The role of the employee in the management decisions of a product, especially of a software product, must have an equal share in the management hierarchy. As Scrum and Kanban succeed in involving both the customer and team members in estimating, implementing, testing and delivering a product (a complete software development cycle), companies should also follow these concepts at the macro level. Although Risk Management provides for limitation actions that pose a risk for higher productivity, it often happens to cost too much for undue quality. A false statement, but nevertheless valid in management decisions.

When the market trend is outsourcing, Risk Management is often not taken into account because it is assumed that the contracting firm has all the feasibility studies and has the management processes implemented, so it assumes all the risks of product development. "Outsourcing" is usually priced per hour, so any unproductive hours do not bring profit to the subcontracted company. From this assertion we can conclude that risk management = non-productive hours, unpaid hours. False! Effective Risk Management includes the development of prototypes with the role of anticipating different directives, anticipating performance issues or inefficient design. A non-technical manager can not understand the need for such, in his view, "unjustified" costs, because, from his perspective, productivity means continuous delivery, at a questionable quality.

Employees as managers?

I mentioned earlier that employees should be included in management decisions. Through the experience of software developers, testers and, in general, technical people involved in development processes, an anticipation of different events is easy to achieve, especially through "unproductive" actions. (Why do we call them unproductive? Because they are often not paid by customers). If we refer only to the product, different processes can be created to guarantee quality. The resulting actions consist of specialized training to improve technical skills, prototype development with technologies, new "frameworks" and recreational activities to increase productivity. Although they do not seem correlated at first glance, they become vital in the life cycle of a product that will be wanted and maintained. As a concrete example, if development starts with wrong architectural decisions, changing it while in production, without having a set of predictions, will be carried out with exponentially higher costs than if you opted for actions of risk prevention starting from the planning stage.

Fig 2. "Cost of change curve" (http://www.agilemodeling.com/essays/costOfChange.htm)

Companies should have a broader view and not only be product- and customer-oriented, but also oriented towards a collateral development of employees, which is distinct from project activities. Productivity is a notion that can not be standardized, regardless of managerial efforts. Productivity should not be seen as a goal but as a result of new processes adopted by companies, mapped on the style and complexity of each Business. New, non-standard processes should be defined in discussions with teams that have different styles and modes of work. By creating the opportunity for someone to assert himself, even in a general meeting within a team, that individual's self-confidence will increase, with a positive impact on productivity. All new processes that aim to improve a workflow must be measured, implemented and tested by employees and managers with bilateral agreement; modules that can be extracted from each process must be parameterized in order to compare the evolution of the various factors over time.

What do we do with employees who don't find themselves in stereotypes?

A stereotype can be defined as an "immutable" object. In other words, a stereotype can not be changed, just replaced by another stereotype. This concept comes from functional programming and describes the behavior of some types of objects that can not be changed after they are created. There are individuals who distinguish themselves not only through team involvement but also through their desire to change and introduce new concepts. What framework can a company create to meet the need for change? First of all, the company needs to understand this need for change in a rapidly evolving digital era. The occurrence of monotony is often encountered in people who are in continuous development, aiming at personal evolution. Monotony can affect productivity and can induce an irreversible disinterest in the management decisions of a company. In most cases, communication is the key to solving these problems. Some conflicts, be they internal or individual, may unfold through discussion. Following these discussions and the identification of a problem, the company is obliged to generate a concrete solution. Solutions can be diverse, from soft-skills training to hardware acquisition, to meeting individual hobbies. The solutions adopted by the company are not for one person alone and are an example of support for the rest of the employees. This strategy also promotes a good image of the company, which thus presents itself as full of potential that does not treat its employees as a mere resource.

Conclusions

Businesses have standards for all processes that have proven to be effective in most situations. However, there are cases of Complex Business and various people that don't fit in certain stereotypes, and in this case, adapting the processes or mapping new ones is necessary.

Employee engagement in managerial decisions is a trend that is increasingly being adopted by companies in the industry, thus wishing to diminish all the risks involved in developing a product.

People's own identity must not be lost simply because they are employed. In a Smart Business, a person is not seen as a resource, but as an "added value" brought to a product, a registered trademark, without which the quality of the product would no longer the same. This concept should be embraced by as many companies as possible if they want to survive in the IT market by delivering quality products.

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