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Outsourcing: Dr. Shami Khorana of HCL America (Part 6)

Posted on Thursday, Feb 17th 2011

By guest author Tony Scott

Tony: That is an interesting concept, being transparent for the benefit of employees, making sure that people feel included and valued in their work, and helping them to find their place in the global workforce. Obviously, if we look at the historical concept of how one manages a business, it was “command and control” – for a long time, nothing changed since the days of the Roman legions. We can go on down through the manufacturing model, and then to services, where people were treated as the equivalent of machines.

Shami: It is a very different kind of thing today; there is a big change happening now. The next generation that we see today they are a lot different from the old Europeans, and they are much different from people of my generation. I think the important thing is you have a different kind of workforce. And you have to organize your company to be able to take advantage of it.

Tony: And that workforce is not unique to India or the United States. It is a global phenomenon.

Shami: I think the new generation finds it much easier to integrate and communicate with each other than the prior generation, and they don’t seem to hierarchical in nature at all.  So, you have to be able to leverage that,  and you have to change your processes and ways of thinking. You can’t just say, “You will only have to access the following websites,” and “You will do this or not do this.”

Tony: I was talking earlier to the West Corporation as a part of this series. [see Tony’s interview with the West Corporation]. They are a BPO outsourcing company that does a lot of call center work, and they have virtual at-home agents. It is a complete blowing up of the traditional model of call centers, where you have a thousand people who walk into a building. They have people who are disabled veterans, for example. We were talking about how difficult it is to manage a dispersed workforce. But to be able to get to the point where there is no difference in having a person in western Nebraska or in east Africa, well, that is the key management issue, and we as managers haven’t quite achieved it. But West has started to take a look at how they can manage a virtualized workforce.

So, how do you build your processes if you have a team in region 1, another in region 2, and another in region 3; how do they seamlessly pass control from one to the other?

Shami: We have done a lot of work on this, and being able to manage a virtual flow was not enough; still this is pretty difficult, I would say. But you can use those concepts. And honestly, I think social networking is the mode through which people will innovate. Everything will be much more networked, and there will be people inside and outside of all your corporate structures whom you have to integrate in various time zones due to the virtualization of the workforce and the interaction you have across those virtual workforces.

A key question will be: How do you actually enable that and manage that so that those people could be sent anywhere, where I can always reach out and touch them? That ultimately goes back to the question of where the next innovation hub will be. Innovation hubs could be individuals who happen to be anywhere.

This is so exciting when you see the possibilities and you try to think what life would be like. It is hugely different. It is a fundamental shift in the economy – not only the economy but also in the way people interact socially, how people interact with work, and how people construe the difference between work and nonwork. For me, trained as an economist, all of these things are fascinating.

Tony: They are truly fascinating. Shami, thanks for sharing you ideas with us.

Shami: It was my pleasure.

This segment is part 6 in the series : Outsourcing: Dr. Shami Khorana of HCL America
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