8.3 Case analysis


8.3 Case analysis

At the inception of outsourcing, there was a conflict between the sub-cultures of the respective organizations that made up the embryonic Gowing company. The existence of these groups, in particular the RDC staff, was a major factor in the inception of outsourcing. The managing director of Gowing was keen to ˜weld together a coherent organization through what he called a ˜sociological experiment :

Let me tell you about an interesting sociological experiment. I ended up with a mix of people, a bunch of RDC people, a bunch of ex-PJ people and some people from Hellenic. So I ended up with three different sets of people from different walks of life with different views of life .

These differing organizational realities stemmed from a fundamental difference in opinion about the nature of the software development process. The ex-RDC employees who had developed the original system represented the most significant sub-culture. Ex-RDC programmers, who represented a relatively informal culture, initially wholly staffed product B. Their informal dress style (sandals, open -necked shirts, in some cases long hair) clashed with Gowing management s desire for a formal style (business suits and tie). Relationships among RDC staff were less reliant on abstract systems, processes and documentation, and more on personal trust, kinship and tradition. These relationships were perceived negatively by Gowing management as existing in the form of ˜a kind of brotherhood . The ex-RDC developers viewed software development more as an art than an engineering activity, preferring to give less attention to the ˜less creative tasks of documentation and use of methodologies. They preferred ˜hands-on programming involvement instead, which they considered to be enough for the task. Used to a low-surveillance management style, RDC found that their approach clashed with the moves to a highly disciplined approach at Gowing. As Jones said:

In the RDC side of the organization, there was a certain arrogance about the way you design systems. And basically it was totally informal. There was no acknowledgement that project management, systems development methodology and standards were a good thing and so on.

The potential for the use of Indian programmers and structured development methods was seen by Gowing management as a way of facilitating change, improving control of development processes and aiding the creation of a ˜corporate ethos that could ensure the long- term survival of the organization. A key feature in this seemed to be the Gowing management perception that the Indian developers were ˜more compliant, traditionally skilled, and less aggressive than their British counterparts. This cultural feature was recognized by the Chennai team. According to the Eron Human Resources Officer from Chennai:

India is not a very assertive culture; Indians tend to go along with what other people say, especially with authority figures. When coupled with geographical separation, it becomes difficult, especially at Gowing.

Sahay and Walsham (1997) discuss how Indian managers and developers tend to be members of different social systems arising from both work- related and non-workrelated systems such as intellectual groups, local community and family. Managers and developers in the process of creating agency and making action mutually intelligible, that in turn can potentially either reinforce or change social structures, draw on various rules and resources. Often, these rules and resources are conflicting; for example, the work norm of efficiency clashes with the family norm of helping a relative. There is thus constant tension and contradiction in the creation and articulation of agency. The caste system and norms of hierarchy often seen in Indian family relations are structural conditions that can be drawn on by Indians both implicitly and explicitly in developing agency. The caste system has contributed to value systems relating to status, power and relationships. Partly as a result, social relations are often seen to be hierarchical among Indians: people show status consciousness. In India, social relations exist between groups of a particular social standing. According to some writers, hierarchical structuring is so ingrained in India that it is often easier to work in a superior “subordinate role than as equals on contractual terms (Sinha 1988).

Bringing Indian staff into the UK context physically and ˜virtually , because of the split teams , redefines and extends Sahay and Walsham s framework that was limited to structures within India. This situation of globalization presents a complex merging of social structures. For instance, a senior Indian project manager in his late 40s who had worked extensively in the UK and the USA managing software projects, while based in the UK, expressed the following opinion about Indians:

Most of our guys are submissive in attitude. They are shy. In India, you mingle exclusively with people of your own social standing. In the UK, that doesn t exist. Our programmers behaviour changes when they come to Britain, they tend to be submissive even if they are authoritarian at home.

This theme of perceived submissiveness was repeatedly expressed, emphasizing the importance of incorporating norms of hierarchy into a structural analysis. The highly aggressive, competitive style of Gowing may also have contributed to the Indians preference for accommodation rather than conflict and for their adoption of a more sub- missive posture . Many of the Indians working on the Gowing account were born into and follow principles of Hinduism that stress the virtues of contentment, absence of materialistic desire and stability. These teachings tend to oppose the dynamic striving for success and unlimited consumption that capitalist systems like that at Gowing emphasize . With regard to hierarchy, Roland (1984) states that in Indian work relations the superior is seen to be ˜kind and the subordinates ˜submissive . A consistent theme from many interviewees in this case was the Indian desire to please and to avoid confrontation. According to Gowing s Product Manager: ˜When presented with a piece of work and asked if they can meet the deadline, the Indians will always say yes , even when it can t be done.

The above quotation indicates a general perception that the Indians feel a desire to please, especially in a situation of hierarchy that involves a sense of duty to the family and one s superiors. Sinha and Sinha (1990) make the point that in India, failure in one s role would bring shame not just on oneself but on the family as well. Our interpretation of the Indian developers was that their intentions were not simply ingratiating behaviour. More pragmatic reasons for the perceived submissive behaviour of the Indian developers relate to their supplier “customer relationship with Gowing. The structural controls in the form of the service-level agreement contained deliverables, reporting mechanisms and penalties for non- conformity with the contract. Eron staff lacked any significant trade union protection and the service agreement stated that Eron employees could be sent back to India if Gowing found them to be unsuitable in any way. In addition, the Eron team in Britain were working in a foreign land, dealing with accents that were in some cases alien to them, facing the uncertainty of immigration requirements and the absence of social and informal support groups which they would typically find at home in India.

The ˜traditional skilling of Indians that was of interest to Gowing reflects the emphasis on discipline in Indian schools with traditional drills, rote learning approaches and mathematical skills forming a large proportion of the curriculum. As a result, many Indians tend to be mathematically adept and disciplined in their thinking. The use of a structured information systems and project management methodology can be seen as power resources being used to control and create an organizational reality in accordance with the wishes of Gowing management. The Eron-structured systems development methodology formalized work arrangements at Gowing. According to Jones:

I could import a whole load of people who worked to methodology, project plans and were traditional in the way they worked. So they would sit there and wait for a product manager to bring a specification. If the product manager came over and chatted to them and then said ˜Can you start now? they would say ˜No, not without a specification . He would say, ˜What s a specification? They would say, ˜You ve got to write down what you want . So he would go off.

The introduction of this structured methodology embodied by the Indian programmers helped to oust the RDC programmers from Gowing. The Gowing management perceived the RDC group as a counter-organization because of their relaxed , informal and undisciplined style of working. To quote Jones again:

Now we have got a rock of discipline right in the middle of the organization. So unless you ve got the specification in here you won t get the code out here. Unless you put a test plan in, you won t get anything out.

Clearly the ˜rock of discipline referred to by Jones was imposed by the ˜drilled Indian programmers together with their documents and devices, including structured methods of analysis, design and project management. The use of the structured methodology when embodied by the Eron Indian developers contrasted with the established development style of the RDC staff. Jones comments reveal his motivation:

The RDC staff didn t think we would, but we rolled the Eron methods into their product area. So that has meant that the rest of the organization has had to bend to the methodology and work this way. And that s how it works now. Even people who wouldn t do it in the past now subscribe to it.

The rigid structured approach encapsulated by structured methods of analysis and design is reminiscent of the ˜mechanistic organization portrayed by Morgan (1986). Software development and management were perceived by Gowing management as a machine-like process, where the programmers resembled replaceable machine parts . Importantly, the Eron staff at Gowing were trained to ˜work to specification which inevitably enabled greater control for Gowing management. This view was reinforced by metaphors in language used by Gowing management that included references to Tayloristic organizations such as Burger King as representing the pinnacle of a service organization.

Much has been written about the limitations of structured methods of analysis and design. However, their potential use as instruments of control, surveillance and coercion is of particular interest here. Winner (1977) defined technology as consisting of artefacts , techniques and methods of organization. He goes on to point out that a technology may contain assumptions and can be used to further the interests of those controlling it. Similarly, Latour (1996) in his Actor Network conceptualization, posits technology as a ˜non-human actor that carries the inscribed assumptions and interests of the technology developers and speaks ˜on their behalf in other situations. In this case, the methodology with its inscribed assumptions of structure and discipline is used by Gowing management as a resource of power to control organizational actors. Again according to Jones:

By getting this formal lump of formal process in the centre of the company, it has spun out. I can safely say now that everyone here subscribes to the idea of how systems are developed here.

It is worthwhile examining in more detail how structured methods were used in this case as a power resource to facilitate change. As discussed earlier, Eron brought the accredited quality methodology into Gowing. This is a structured development and project management approach that is similar to the traditional systems analysis life-cycle with products, deliverables and forms in keeping with many structured approaches. Wastell (1996) has argued that structured methodologies reflect a metaphor of the development process as a rational technical process embodying a rational engineering approach to system development. Baskerville, Travis and Truex (1992) also make the point that structured methods for IS development are based on scientific principles and thus embody a reductionist paradigm . In this way methodologies facilitate a control dimension by providing a coherent framework within which walk-through techniques, audit procedures, quality control, and inspection procedures can be incorporated (Ahituv, Hadass and Neumann 1984). This is especially significant as some of the Eron team were located in Chennai and were separated across time and space from their Eron colleagues based at Gowing s offices in Britain. The ˜virtual India-based part of the Eron team had no communication with the Gowing staff in Britain and their only contact was through their Eron colleagues. Such contact also meant task- focused specifications and the subsequent return of completed code; their virtual presence meant that they could not witness the impact or result of their work at Gowing in the UK.

When relating this analysis to Foucault s theorization, power was seen to be exercised through the discipline of individuals. There was a control of time using project management methodology, and a control of space by separating part of the Eron team which was in India and was not present to witness events. This control of time and space was combined with processes of standardization and surveillance of drilled individuals (Indian social structures that emphasize hierarchy) coupled with the use of routinized structured methodologies, which contributed to creating an agency that was interpreted by Gowing management as drilled submissiveness. The regime of truth manifested by structured methods is functionalist, and treats the development process as a reductionist, technical activity. Outsourcing development to Eron thus presented Gowing management with a new set of allocative and authoritative resources in the form of Indian developers. The Eron approach was seen as the ˜best way, legitimized the demise of the RDC developers and contributed to the wider utilization of the structured approach within Gowing.

The mechanization and division of labour brought about by the process was rejected by the counter-organization of the RDC programmers. This was in part because they perceived that the bureaucratic and rule-bound nature of the Eron approach helped to increase the control that Gowing management had over the development process. The standardized documentation helped to make the surveillance process transparent and visible. The transparency enabled Gowing management to determine whether the sub- missive ˜drilled Indian programmers were conforming to the prescribed procedures. Thus the methodology facilitated a division of labour across time and space and systematization of practices that allowed knowledge to be stored, systematized, disseminated and exchanged.

In an organization such as Gowing where the main ˜product is software, the Eron methodology helped to disassociate the Gowing management from the RDC methods of development described disapprovingly by Jones as the ˜design on the back of a cigarette packet . Instead they oriented development towards the Fordist production or assembly-line approach. Methodologies of this nature promote discipline among developers by specifying a structure for the development process and thus the transparency of work for surveillance. When coupled with the compliant nature of the Indian developers, the formal process of software production was laid open to Gowing management.

We now consider the context of globalization and how some of the power, control and cultural issues can be better understood within this backdrop. It is important first and foremost to consider some of the aspects of globalization that are reflected in this case. On the face of it, globalization provided Gowing with greater options in time and space to hire programmers to do their software development. As reflected in the quote below from Gowing s Product Manager, these global options were used by Gowing in a way that represents a commodification of labour : ˜I don t care who does this work. It could be David Jones. It could be someone in India or it could be you “ I simply don t care. I just want it done.

At a deeper level, the course of events at Gowing provides an interesting example of the processes of globalization demonstrating some mutual and bi-directional effects. The effects of globalization are often discussed in terms of the impacts (quite often negative) that Western culture and management methods have in other cultures, a process that in recent years has been intensified by the effects of mass media. For example, the work of Ritzer (1995) identifies a burgeoning ˜McDonaldization of society, a thesis that essentially rests on a critique of the increasing pervasiveness of supposedly scientific, systematic and arguably dehumanizing managementmethods. Other authors (e.g. Beck 1992) have been critical of the exploitation of developing countries for cheaper labour costs owing to the ease of shifting production facilities overseas, and with it the ˜redistribution of risks . The implication of IT in the processes of globalization has led some authors to warn of the implications of ˜electronic sweatshops involving greater control and surveillance of workers (Attewell 1987). Others discuss the ˜cultural imperialism that rests on the assumption of cultural convergence created by ubiquitous Western mass media bringing images, symbols, products and entertainment into developing nations (e.g. Hall 1991; Martin 1995).

The Indian software analysts were trained in the rigorous ISO accredited methodology. The effect of globalization involved the disembedding of this Western-derived methodology into the Indian context where it was embodied by the Indian developers. The embodied methodology was then re-embedded into the British context by the Indian developers when they commenced work for Gowing. A similar example of the bi-directional effects of globalization is demonstrated by another case study of software outsourcing to India by Japanese firms in chapter 9. In this case, too, the Indian programmers, who typically have had prior software development experience with North American firms, were seen to bring in structured software development methodologies like the ˜waterfall methodology to the Japanese firms. The Japanese approaches to software development typically do not involve extensive documentation but rely more on discussions and personal face-to-face contact. The introduction of these methodologies is creating some disquiet within the Japanese firms; their managers are feeling rather uncomfortable with the changes that are being instigated in the move to written work. They describe the Indians to be ˜too Westernized and are contemplating changing the offshore outsourcing model to an on-site one where the need for written communication could be minimized.

A further effect of globalization manifested in this case concerns the two- thirds of the Eron team located in Chennai which was separated across time and space from their Eron colleagues based at Gowing s UK office. The India-based part of the Eron team had no communication with the Gowing staff in Britain and their only contact was through its Eron colleagues through task-focused specifications and the subsequent return of completed codes. The difference in time and space was significant because the India-based team was not made a party to any events taking place in Britain. Gowing management was presented with very different social structures, circumstances and global options than might have been experienced using a local outsourcing company based in Britain.

The general point being made through these examples is that GSW provides interesting examples of the nature of local “global interaction. Globalization effects are not necessarily going to be uni-directional from developed to developing countries, as in the traditional model, but increasingly local events will shape global structures . Future studies of GSW will need seriously to look at these local “global relationships and how they influence, and are also influenced by, the processes of GSA growth.