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Posted on: Monday, October 4, 2010 by Rajiv Popat

Straight From The Forefronts Of A Standard Consulting And Outsourcing Body Shop.

An acquaintance who recently moved from a small but innovative software development firm over to Infosys tells the story of how the organization runs. He starts the discussion by talking about the plush green and well maintained campus of Infosys.

Something even I have talked about before.

Then he moves to the overall process and some of the facts that emerge during the discussions are chilling to their core. Here are some highlights of the discussion to give you a quick idea of the process that powers Infosys.

Nine hour workdays

Infosys demands that every employee spend at-least nine hours a day in the company campus. The electronic cards record your in time and out time every time you swipe them. This person forgets swiping out his card on a day and gets an email from his project manager letting him know that this behavior is unacceptable and that he needs to pay special attention to these details moving forward.

Talk about working less.

Ties Two Day A Week

Infosys demands that all their employees wear ties in the office complex two days a week. They take this rule rather seriously. So much so that the security guards at the main gate have been instructed not to let anyone in without a tie on the specified days.

Talk about wearing what makes you comfortable.

Compulsory Internal Exams

Infosys demands that employees clear at-least two internal functional exams with a minimum of sixty percent marks. Your failing to do that prevents you from getting a promotion after three years. Promotions cannot be obtained just by giving kickass performance at your project.

Passing the exams is critical. If you do not study for these exams like young college going students and do not clear them your chances of climbing to the next level after three years of service are slim.

These exams are not Microsoft or Oracle vendor certifications and are internal Infosys exams which have no meaning outside of Infosys.

Monitoring Your CPU utilization

Infosys is working on a new system which will monitor CPU utilization of every developer to see how actively they are using their machines. Something that they believe will be a better indicator of if the developers are really working. Just spending time in the office premises apparently, is not enough. They need you to be slamming those keys at the keyboard and utilizing that CPU firing builds.

Internet Access Depends on Your Level

Internet access depends on your job designation and level. Level 300 and below for example are not given internet access around the clock. They just get internet for a couple of hours a day. Senior levels still have personal email sites like gmail blocked. If you are an engineer who is working at or under level 300 and are heavily dependent on Google for your work, you are basically screwed.

Selection Criteria And Client Interviews

Infosys still spends heavy amount of importance on school and college marks even while recruiting candidates with over five years of work experience. They also conduct regular client interviews where their engineers are expected to answer questions that their overseas clients ask them over telephonic interviews.

A huge number of Infosys engineers (in the case of this acquaintance this number was eight out of every ten) fail these interviews miserably because there is a huge disconnect between how much they scored in college versus what their clients expect them to know.

Not to mention of course that over the course of time these candidates figure out means to clear these interviews by collecting questions from folks who were interviewed before them and maintaining their own question banks.

Angry Employees

Even though this was not directly mentioned by the acquaintance after this discussion I set out to find the truth about the level of employee satisfaction and apparently stumbled upon countless examples of the employees venting out their frustrations and anger openly in the comments section of wall street journal blog and the Times of India blog.

All of these articles and the passion with which the comments were posted seemed to suggest that Infosys was not keeping the best of their employees happy either.

Automatons And The Programmers Bill Of Rights

Of course the point of this post is not to thrash Infosys per say. It is by far one of the best consulting body shops India has to offer. Having said that, the state of affair of most software consulting shops in India and around the world is tragic.

Maybe it becomes so hard to find programmers who cannot program because most huge organizations around the world aren't looking for programmers. They are looking for and breeding automatons who punch their time cards, wear ties to office thrice every week, clear three exams every year, learn up answers for client interviews and score high in their high school and college.

If you are a young and budding entrepreneur, Infosys and the similar breed of companies provide a perfect template of practices which you should put down in your "not to do" list.

As you grow your organization, do you also give in to the temptation of hiring and herding flock of sheep who obey your rules or do you have the courage for remaining small in spirit even when your organizational size grows slowly and steadily? If you are reading this and run an organization, remember this, you cannot "Out-Infosys" at being Infosys, setting rules and hiring automatons. If that is all you do chances are that an Infosys somewhere will outbid your business.

What you can do is be small, cater to a niche and hire smart human beings who have talent, individuality, their own opinions and the spine to say no when asked to wear a tie five days a week. Hire the best that you can get. Hire like the life of your organization depends on it. Once you have done that, try sticking to and honoring the programmers bill of rights instead.

I wish you good luck.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010 3:49:53 AM UTC
Nice Post.Makes an interestintg read.However,i suppose these big shops run coz they still can afford the best minds,give them the space to work..and it all depend on the individual's reaction to the practices in place.As an employee of a similar shop which i joined 10 yrs back,i got the exposure,assignments right from the beginning as the induction into projects were well monitored.Aply put,if you are good,you will do good.If you are God,nothing stops you from being so.All these cribbings come frm people who fail to make their own mark and prefer to remain lost in the plush greens of the office campus.

Also ,smaller consulting companies which slams big shops suffer because they hardly have a system in place to make room for and groom individuals.They tend to make the individual greater than the system and fail miserably.

Finally,quality comes with a price tag.Trust me,Infosys will make no mistake in that.
Sahana Dev
Friday, October 8, 2010 4:02:16 PM UTC

providing some quick responses and reactions:

> I suppose these big shops run coz they still can afford the best minds, give them the space to work

Depends on perspective and the big shop you are talking about. True for Microsoft, Good and few others. These are “organizations”. But most “body shops” run because they can hire cheap automatons and keep them busy with maintenance which no smart engineer oversees is willing to do at the cheap prices these shops offer.

That could be another way of looking at it. I am not generalizing here or saying that is always the case.

Just telling you that it is a matter of perspective and how you look at things.

> As an employee of a similar shop which i joined 10 years back, i got the exposure; assignments right from the beginning as the induction into projects were well monitored.

Possible that your approach with Wipro was good and that you are doing amazing work there, but that does not make every big organization out there great and every employee who cannot tune to their rules is a moron.

> Nothing stops you from being so

Exactly. So let’s make every one wear a tie, punch time cards and attend meetings three hours a day. If they are good nothing will stop them from being so. Let’s treat them like Automatons. Yeah. Right.

You can take some of the most productive developers and screw their lives just by messing up their environment. The whole argument you are making works perfectly for lousy managers. It is not an approach I would recommend you or anyone to take when working with other developers.

When you are running an organization you want to hire the best and then provide the best environment to your employees.

You don’t do that by making them work nine hours a day, making them wear ties three days a week, making them punch timecards and then saying if they are good they will remain good.

> Smaller consulting companies which slams big shops suffer because they hardly have a system in place to make room for and groom individuals

It looks like you missed the whole point. It wasn’t about the size of the organization. It was about culture and trust. Microsoft is big and I did not see a lot of these stupid rules in their campus during the time I worked there. I have worked with multiple other really big sized companies around the world which are really awesome so your trying to thrash the small companies is off point.

Frankly I also don’t understand how asking someone to wear ties two days a week and swiping nine hours a day on a time card synonymous to "grooming" and "mentoring".

> They tend to make the individual greater than the system and fail miserably.

Really? Turns out that Individual is greater than the system.

But wait. In a perfectly process oriented CMM Level 5 certified world, I was not supposed to say that. Was I? Well, I just did. And you are just going to have to deal with that. #grins.

The whole process over people is lousiness we as engineers are taught in engineering colleges when we were being trained to become Automatons. I've been a process engineer on a RUP for a project, where my job was to reverse engineer the process and documentation to bring it in synchronization with the code that was being developed. I have also been involved with multiple other large RUP implementations.

Having done that for over a year in my life and I know how lousy BDUF is and I know the credibility of the whole process over people argument. It is clearly not one I want to get into right now. #grins.

It takes a little bit of conviction to come out and say it, but it’s true for all the so called BDUF projects I have seen failing in my life.

> Finally, quality comes with a price tag. Trust me. Infosys will make no mistake in that.

And that is because they are Infosys? So great and awesome that they cannot possibly make a mistake? Correct? Seriously. If Infosys was genuinely worth their salt they would be visiting this posts, tons of others out there, taking notes and fixing things that any programmer with three brain cells and a pinch of creativity can say are downright stupid. Listening and changing is how big companies remain profitable. They do not remain profitable by ignoring problems.

Either way, I have spent enough time in my life trying to plug people out of the Matrix and have learnt that plugging out those who do not want to be plugged out can be risky. #grins.

The last thing I want to do is start a 35 comment mail argument restating everything I have said in this blog for the last couple of years and it clearly looks like this discussion is headed that way so marking this comment thread as #EOYBD.

The idea that small can be innovative and profitable is a different lifestyle than what you might have lived or experienced so far and you are entitled to your share of views and opinions. Peace.

On a side note if you feel like taking the plunge: There are hundreds of small companies out there having the best of human minds in software development and making dents in the universe. 37Signals is one of the companies that feels strongly about the topic too. There are many others out there which are making a difference. But then, like I said this post was not about big or small.
Saturday, October 9, 2010 2:51:01 PM UTC
quite quick and mashed up.A couple of thngs i find too common in ur posts.Quotes frm Seth Godin and software development frm 37 signals.I think this automaton fomula caught ur fancy from seth godin's latest-LinchPin?And i am sure 37 signals did the same to your narrowed perspective.##big Grins

do you thnk u r the last programmer doing wonders or writing a utility program makes you feel like on top of d wrld?#####grins

Repeating my lines...If you are..if you are god..nothing stops you frm being so..

I MEANT -- be it a CMM5 or a small innovative firm per se,it depends on the individual's capability to get noticed and get the best out of the infrasructure available out there.Adding a tie to the attire will make smart engineers look smarter..!!!

wrd of advice: dunnot jump to conclusions frm wht u hear or what u feel.The wrld is a big place..every rule has its place...out of matrix becums a rule when practiced for long # grins.

lastly,this was one of ur least reasearched topic of blog.Disagree to it.Out of the matrix!!!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012 7:50:03 AM UTC
i agree with contents of this post, but keep in mind that Infosys is a behemoth, it has more than 100,000 employees, coming from variety of backgrounds, working with many customers located in other side of the world.

Therefore, these rules n regulations can be seen as a way to manage such a large number of educated but diverse workforce.

Remember that companies like Infosys provides huge facilities - unheard of earlier - Variety of Food (not free), Transport facilities from across the city (not free), Training, Sprawling Campus etc.
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