Ostrich-Minded Productivity is Among Us

Recently, La Presse reported on a major computer consulting company deciding to extend the working hours of its employees without being paid. The firm pointed out this will enable it to be more competitive and that this measure is a way to adapt itself to the policies of its competitors.

So, here we have one of the most important IT field players in Québec, who has enjoyed generous governmental subsidies and public contracts for many years now, telling us that to face the worldwide competition, it could not do anything else but reduce its costs and consequently reduce the salaries of its employees, by requiring a 40 hour week paid as a 37.5 hour week to improve its productivity.

Does this firm want to tell us that increasing the number of working hours would enable it to improve its productivity? This is not a certainty… When we reduce the production costs, by reducing the salaries, we mix up two distinct notions; production increasing and productivity increasing. Even though it permits an increase of the company benefits in the short-term, increasing the length of the working week is not a viable solution for the mid-term.

Rather, the issue should be stated as follows: knowing that the cost of an Indian engineer located in Bangalore is substantially lower than the cost of a Montréal engineer, is there a future for the production of computer systems in Quebec? Or shall we accept seeing these very specialized jobs being relocated to India (or elsewhere)?

An answer to this problem lies precisely in the productivity gains that we are able to generate. The goal here is to produce the same computer systems by using less human resources. We have to organize ourselves so that a 15 person Montreal team would be more efficient, more productive and faster than a 50 person team based in Bangalore.

How? By placing emphasis on the flexibility of the proposed solution, by using standards as general practice, by reusing code and infrastructure that have worked well in the past, in order to reduce the number of human resources and the amount of effort required to deliver a successful computer project.

The technologies that are now at our disposal make this approach possible. In those circumstances, why don’t the large services companies take up the existing available solutions that previously proved their efficiency? Because it is not in their interest to do so! The service firms are used to charge for the work they provide per hour. So, completing a project with fewer resources would have a direct decrease in their turnover as a consequence! This sacrosanct paradigm is the thinking of the past and we now have a duty to think according to the new technologies and the economical realities.

Let’s stop burying our head in the sand when talking of productivity!

The solution? To take a task-billing or a package-billing approach.

We have to move from a means-driven engagement to a result-driven engagement. It is the only way to find productivity gains as well as added value produced by the delivery teams. It is under this circumstance that we will be able to save employment in Québec and produce solutions of high quality with a competitive cost, in particular, regarding the overseas producers.

To conclude, relocating our computer employment overseas is not an inevitability. Also, we should not require our employees to work more or to reduce their salaries as long as we focus on innovation, seeking added value, and we adopt a working organization that allows us to promote the efficiency and the productivity of our local teams.

This approach implies a mentality and work organization change from suppliers as well as from clients. We have to pull our collective heads out of the sand to see the potential to bring us a new model of delivery organization and work billing.

To accomplish this we need to understand that it requires more determination and commitment to implement the desired changes than to choose the easier solutions: to reduce our employee’s salaries or export projects outside Québec.

– By Eric Le Goff


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