It is 5 am and a System Administrator before taking the dog to walk, quickly logs on to his computer to check if all the company networks are working prim and proper. A few miles away at the same time, his analyst colleague is meticulously going through the calibration results of a statistical procedure that she left to run through the night to fine tune a sales forecasting model. Meet the ‘IT heroes’ for whom work is passion and they put in significant hours of work beyond their office time to get the work done. It is likes of these people that tasks get completed in time to exceptional standards.
Such off the office hour work is not documented; it is done because the professional in question is ready to run the extra mile out of love for her job and commitment to her company. The management experts term these work processes as ‘shadow processes”. These processes, though tiny, are important as they drive the IT workflow as small booster rockets. It is akin to a violin player tuning his violin while he waits for the cab to take him to the concert venue.
Taking our story further, it so happened that a part of the process in which our System Administrator or the Analyst friend are working on is proposed to be outsourced to an East European country. A process due diligence is done and the bid document prepared which details out the workflows for the vendor to make a cost estimation. However, the researchers miss out on the tiny tasks which our committed IT hero friends do. There is no documentation of their early morning half an hour work before they get ready to come to the office. That half an hour work (shadow process) before the day starts, though small is very critical to how the process flows through the day at the office.
The vendor bids based on the process flow document provided to him/her. Once the work unfolds, the shadow processes come to haunt. No one had told the vendor about those tiny processes which our IT heroes pitchfork in.
IT outsourcing vendors charge for all the work they deliver to their customers and are right in doing so. The tiny tasks which our IT heroes were doing become visible only after outsourcing. The vendor contacts the client with a list of these tiny tasks which his employees have to do to keep the process running. The standard refrain from the client is “Come on Viola! , these are trifle work, you should not be charging for them at all”. The clients do not realize that unlike the IT heroes in their ranks, no one does work free of charge. This is the tipping point at which many outsourcing relationships begin to falter and eventually fail.
Heroes should always be lauded, their loyalty and commitment is unquestionably a company asset. However, the shadow processes which the heroes incubate needs to be properly documented. This will help the heroes baulk the statement of Scott Fitzgerald, “show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy”.