Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Idly Vada Sambhar - The Software Bench...

I am sitting on bench…
Any object in the vicinity I just want to wrench!
I feel am just not doing anything useful…
Just want to write my last email in this company and do the needful…

The scene is the hot canteen of one of the many software companies in the Old Mahabalipuram Road in Chennai. Our friendly neighbourhood characters Idly, Vada and Sambhar are idling around late one typically hot morning. Idly and sambhar are engaged in their usual debate on software companies when Sambhar interrupts…

S: Stop shouting you two now. Look there – it is the first tired lot coming into lunch at sharp 12:00 noon. They must really be tired…

V: You moron… Or rather moroni… Or whatever it is for a female moron… These are not the tired souls. They are the ones on bench madam. I tell you these guys on bench have a whale of a time. I mean they have as much time as anyone else in the world… To do nothing!!!

I: Don’t say that. I am sure they do something useful with their time.

V: Yes they do… If browsing the internet and reading through all the fun blogs really sounds useful for you!

S: Actually that is true too! I had such a good time myself when I was on bench. I would catch a shuttle and come to office only around the first coffee break. I would be the first for lunch! I would catch an evening shuttle back.

V: See I tell you…

I: What are you saying? They do a lot of meaningful things too. At least quite a few of them… Like helping out guys on project with work that those guys have to finish… Or acting as back-up for some work where we are deliberately billing the client lower… Or one of those types of work…

S: Yeah I was helping out a few guys on projects when they were too busy with all the gone-wrong deliverables!

V: Yeah yeah that is all fine but what percentage of the folks are actually onto such stuff versus the amount of people who are just hoarded by all these delivery guys just in the hope that they will get some project some day. Thousands! Just thousands hidden across the system… But then they also probably realize that you cannot utilize them in any project cause they are hardly useful except for a select few…

I: But look at the important point there - as you yourself are saying - bench is important for any S/W company. Given the nature of the increasing project demands from existing clients and new clients, how else do you think they staff these projects?

V: If you want to staff your projects with crap, then I would go in for the bench.

I: What do you mean? The bench has a lot of good people as well I am sure.

V: Ho Ho Ho… Good joke. Listen – if there are 30% resources in every company on bench offshore, we are talking big numbers man - Tens of thousands of people given the current numbers of these companies. A lot of these bench folks are the thousands who have just finished training. Given the short supply of real quality folks, none of the project managers will remain quiet if their best folks are on bench. No way! They will only release the not at all performing folks first. Then they release the so-so folks. Then if the project is really coming to an end or they do not have any visibility for new projects from the same client, they release the best resources with great reluctance!

S: Don’t say that. I was on bench for more than 4 months before they put me on some testing project. I am not a bad resource. This is so mean of you vada.

I: As usual, you want to give a really bad picture right? What about the innovation that happens? What about other important improvements that these resources on bench do…

V: Now what is the last greatest innovation or improvement that any of these software companies have done? Have they really changed the rules in the game in maintenance or testing or development or anything related to it? Nothing right? What on earth are you talking about innovation?

S: I used to do a lot of innovation, like finding out new techniques to act busy. To impress my manager, I would now and then stay late, and of course keep watching some movie or hearing some song on my i-pod! Acting busy is a skill you have to develop…

V: The fact of the matter is that the bench is a storehouse of resources not wanted currently by anyone!

S: So am I doomed as a not-wanted resource if I am on bench?

I: That is not true. There are situations when the company does not have as many projects as it would like to have. I am sure every company goes through these phases every year.

V: Maybe true! You see they have spent so much on you, they might as well hold on to you and not bill you than let you leave! Hence this glorified notion of “We maintain a strong bench to staff upcoming projects” whereas the true sense they must be thinking is “We do not have current projects where we can staff you” or “We think you are too dumb but we have recruited you, hence we may as well hold on to you”…

S: No I am not dumb. If this is a veiled attack against me vada, then I am just not going to talk to you from now on.

I: You are talking about the people who are really not self-motivated. If there are employees who are motivated enough, then they can take up a lot of work when they are supposedly on bench as well. They can attend a lot of trainings and use this time for innovation…

V: In which case the best guys never attend these trainings because they are never on bench…

I: There is a very easy solution to it. You can make sure that “bench” is not considered as doing nothing by making sure that everyone in the company has sometime on bench every year or every two years – which means they are not put on any billable role or client facing role for that time. It is extremely important that people use this time to create innovative products, develop new tools, learn new languages. Because bench has a different connotation now, people think it is just time for whiling away or staying idly. I think the software companies can make sure that this changes by enforcing bench period on everyone and creating an atmosphere where people have clear goals even on the time they are on bench. Then the whole focus on innovation and new tools as well as training will increase dramatically. Bench will no longer be seen as an idling away time.

V: Well well you are talking about things that are not going to happen…

I: Lets see I am sure a lot of people would be interested in making use of their time in a lot of useful ways…

S: OK now – you guys I don’t care about what you say, but for me, this is how I look at it…

I am sitting on bench…
Wondering whether to learn German or French…
Trainings, new languages, new tools – my hands are really full…
Thank God my company has provided me the time to do something meaningful…

2 comments:

prabha1912@gmail.com said...

Really a good one! Motivates to learn new things!

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