India's software majors boast of ISO and SEI
CMMi Level 5, and some hardware vendors boast of ISO certifications
too. Does that mean that India's IT industry is at the cutting edge
of quality? Or, is it just a mirage? Rajneesh De and Srikanth R
P find out.
has always been a contentious issue in Indian industry. In fact,
the inadequate attention towards quality has often been attributed
as a reason for India lagging behind in industrialisation against
global rivals. However, the opening of the Indian economy in the
90s brought about a sea change in India Inc's attitude. Indian firms
then realised the importance of quality as it enabled them to stand
up against global competition. The initial phase of the changing
scenario was marked by a spate of companies going in for different
levels of ISO certification. The second phase was ushered in by
the emergence of a vibrant IT industry, for whom quality consciousness
was always important. The cascading effect of the entire quality
movement has even led to the growth of an industry whose sole aim
is to deal with issues related to quality.
is the IT industry both software and hardware players coping with
this increasing quality awareness? What are the dynamics guiding
the entire process? A closer look at the difference in approach
between the software and hardware industry in this regard throws
up some interesting insights. In addition, even the approach of
Indian companies is quite different from MNCs. This is understandable,
considering that the latter are following only stringent processes
that are in place worldwide. On the other hand, Indian companies
are evolving their own processes as they realise that quality is
the most vital element as they plan to move up the value chain.
shows the way
Not surprisingly, the Indian software companies leading the quality
drive are all the usual suspects. Infosys, Wipro, Satyam, i-flex,
TCS all leading Indian software companies, are in the forefront
of the quality bandwagon. For most of these software companies,
attaining SEI-CMMi Level 5 has been considered as the pinnacle in
their journey to attain the peak of quality. As of October 2001,
India has 32 companies at SEI CMMi Level 5 assessment-and only 58
organisations across the world have acquired such an assessment.
The motivation for Indian IT software and services companies to
attain SEI CMMi Level 5 assessment dates as far back as 1995, when
Motorola's unit in India acquired this certification. The seed for
quality was thus sown, and the following years have been that of
‘Quality transformation.' The quality maturity of Indian software
industry can be measured from the fact that already 201 Indian software
companies have acquired quality certifications and 64 more companies
are in pipeline.
Sinha, senior vice president, corporate quality, Satyam Computer
Services, throws some light on why Indian companies are leading
the quality certification drive. "There is a perception that certification
is only for companies that need to prove their credibility in the
global market. Data from assessments conducted from 1997 through
June 2001 shows that 36.3 percent of these companies have been non-US
organisations from all over the world." Especially, the CMMi Level
5 assessment definitely proves the effectiveness of the process
implementation in a company. It has beyond doubt helped Indian companies
establish credibility across the globe, and this has resulted in
increased business for these companies. "Maybe, it has been the
biggest factor in helping India to emerge as a software superpower,
especially in the outsourced mode," feels Kiran Karnik, president,
Nasscom. Agrees S Deb, chief quality officer, Wipro Technologies,
"Indian companies had to build credibility in the outsourcing market.
So they focused on the quality aspect, which naturally would differentiate
them from ordinary suppliers. By doing this, they became the best
in the world in terms of processes and quality."
But does this mean that software majors of the world do not require
any certification to prove their quality consciousness? Looking
at the history of the real biggies of the US software industry,
matters such as process improvement have had little to do with their
success. In fact, innovation has often been attributed as one of
the primary factors responsible for the success of companies such
as Microsoft, Oracle, Novell, Apple, Borland and Adobe. Says TCS
vice-chairman F C Kohli, "Orthodox methodologies do not gel with
good enough software companies for one reason more than any other:
they are boring. Bored people do not work hard. They do not take
the initiative, and they avoid ambiguous problems instead of tackling
them with gusto. Software companies must take care to create an
exciting environment that fosters responsible heroism, and great
software will follow." The basis for this is that much of the most
successful software developed during the past 30 to 40 years has
been developed by small teams with typically fewer than a dozen
people, not large teams following conventional software processes.
is another school of thought that feels that the concept of "good
enough" software is an advantage for the US primarily because it
is compatible with their "cowboy" culture. This approach is less
successful in cultures that are accustomed to authoritarian management
styles and those that favour a group consensus over individualistic
decision making (i.e. European and Asian cultures). Maybe, this
has been a primary reason for Indian companies embracing the quality
route with such a passionate fervour.
this viewpoint professes that the focus on certification can be
harmful for a software company, since it imposes a regimen of discipline.
Any strict process can stifle software development, which after
all is a manifestation of creativity. Not everyone is however willing
to buy this argument. Says K Dinesh, director, Infosys, "A process
does not stifle/curb creativity, it in fact supports a natural way
of doing work. At higher levels of maturity, the time spent in fire
fighting and defect correction is much less and this time could
be used for more learning and creative work." Some say the discipline
and framework actually helps software professionals free their creative
energy for real development work. This happens because a lot of
things are automatically taken care of as a part of the process
culture. There is a conscious effort in the framework to share knowledge
and provide everyone with organisation-wide data. Adds Vivek Govilkar,
head-quality, i-flex, "Nobody would question the need for discipline
and framework in the airline or pharmaceutical industry."
that quality certifications do not stifle creativity in software
development has further takers. Argues R C Tripathi, head-quality
processes, Melstar, "Let us take the example of performing a dance.
Performing a dance is a very creative thing. But the dancers go
through a rigorous discipline practice and processes even to make
a small movement. Therefore, standards and discipline does not come
in the way of software creativity, rather it helps a team to systematically
build a product and enhance creativity." Discipline and framework
are not contradictory to creativity. The creative work of any software
developer primarily comes in the design. The framework ensures that
quality is part and parcel of any products and services the company
delivers. Says Suresh Lulla, managing director, Qimpro Consultants,
"The person creating the design always has the option of exceeding
the norm set. Elegance and excellence are encouraged by all good
systems. These systems allow for employees to suggest improvements
and most of them have had a very large contribution from the practitioners."
many big software companies have not gone for SEI CMMi, yet other
big names like IBM Global Services, IT divisions of Boeing and Lockheed
Martin, to name a few, have implemented these models in a big way.
Some of these companies have in fact contributed in the development
of this model. For example more than 10 divisions of Lockheed Martin
are at Level 4 or 5. And in many cases, the companies that may not
have gone for SEI CMMi Level 5 might have alternative processes to
maintain quality. The larger companies have their own process frameworks,
on which they have been working for many years. Their management
might not have felt the need to be evaluated on the criteria of
SEI-CMMi vendorship. As an example, Microsoft has recently publicised
MSF, as their framework for processes. Many organisations, not driven
by the need of certification, are finding it quite suitable.
there are many quality standards worldwide ranging from SEI CMMi
Maturity Level 1 to 5, PCMMi, ISO 9000, Bootstrap, SPICE, etc. The
costs of developing hardware or software (prescribing to a quality
standard) vary greatly, depending on the level at which processes
are already prescribed and documented. The emphasis must be on total
quality management, with certification being an important milestone.
ISO 9000 is a useful framework for guiding quality improvement in
a company, but it may not be an adequate measure of its quality
level, tools and methodologies. Quality is increasingly being seen
as an essential business tool rather than just a useful one. Total
quality culture as opposed to quality registration is more relevant
to the final services delivered. A greater focus on ‘product quality'
as a complement to ‘process quality' is the latest requirement.
The emphasis must be on total quality management, with certification
being an important milestone.
Quality Management (TQM) is a management philosophy and a way of
conducting business, which emphasises more sophisticated techniques
of continual improvement. The requirements of ISO 9000 stop well
short of the cultural environment that TQM is seeking to establish.
Indian companies are increasingly adapting to international quality
standards. Today, the world looks towards the Indian IT software
and services industry for quality and price-performance. Says Karnik,
"A World Bank funded study conducted as early as 1992 to discuss
Indian software strategies had concluded that more and more vendors
in the US preferred to get their software developed in India for
its quality and cost advantage."
It becomes evident that quality improvement by means of certification
ensures business for Indian software companies. Agrees Dinesh, "We
have close to 80 percent repeat business since attaining SEI-CMMi
Level 5. This only reiterates our good performance and the fact
that we have also been able to attract a large number of new customers
to our list of customers." Govilkar concurs, "World class organisations
realise the importance that quality plays in their bid to move up
the value chain. i-flex too realised this early and was the first
company in India to get SEI CMMi Level 4 certification in the year
1995. The quality initiative has paid rich dividends for us today."
The importance of stressing on quality has lead to increased productivity
and time-to-market. In the testing and rework area, the time has
been cut down dramatically. i-flex being a predominantly product
company has found that over the years the number of defects have
come down. Even Melstar has had significant success post-SEI certification.
In terms of business growth, it added 7 projects in the last couple
of months after attaining Level 3 maturity.
so much hype about CMMi Level 5, is it the peak of software development
maturity? "Not really," feels Sashi Reddi, CEO, NSTL (India), a
quality certifying organisation, who refuses to go gung-ho over
the fact that these quality drives imply that Indian software companies
are the best. "CMMi Level 5 or anything else is just one factor among
many that goes into creating a competitive advantage. To that extent
it does provide leverage. However, in the final analysis, once a
supplier begins executing a project for a customer, it is the quality
of that project that matters and no certification will matter. Once
the initial relationship is formed then actual performance is the
only thing of interest to customers." Even Sinha agrees that CMMi
Level 5 is not the be-all and end-all in the domain of quality.
"The quality movement in Satyam is all pervasive. It covers not
only software development related processes but also areas like
business and support processes. Continuous improvement is being
achieved in process and product quality in every part of Satyam
using multiple quality models like ISO, CMMi and TQM." Adds Pramod
Khera, CEO, Aptech, "Level 5 is not the peak. It is the last leg
of the smooth road reaching the bottom of the peak, where one starts
climbing. There will be many other quality levels in the future
for a company to scale."
can also be a boost to the organisation in terms of introducing
new process automating tools like K-net, which help minimise the
project management time and also give companies very good process
assets. Many companies can look at the Six Sigma model too. Dinesh
reveals that over the last two years Infosys has successfully applied
many of the Sigma Six techniques like CFPM (Cross Functional Process
Mapping) to strengthen their processes. It has yielded them rich
benefits in terms of ample reduction in cycle time. They are also
creating Six Sigma champions within the company for institutionalising
measurements across the company. Six Sigma and SEI are complimentary
movements as far as Wipro is concerned. Says Deb, "Six Sigma helps
in eliminating causes of defects, thus improving the quality of
the products and services that we deliver. SEI CMMi Level 5 requires
continuous improvement. Six Sigma helps us sustain SEI Level 5.
We started our journey along the SEI path in 1994. We received the
first certificate for Level 3 in 1996 and then for Level 5 in 1998.
Our Six Sigma journey started in 1996, and both are going on simultaneously."
One pitfall of the SEI-CMMi certification is that it has no provision
for reassessment. This certainly leaves a scope for compromises
in the quality initiative. Explains Dinesh, "Once a company achieves
Level 5, it takes a while before it gets institutionalised. Until
then it is tougher to sustain it. Once a culture sets in, the advantages
and the gains are phenomenally high and it creates a behaviour pattern
where everybody takes decisions based on data/metrics. Having got
used that style, it is almost impossible to go back." Retaining
Level 5 is a challenge, since a company has to continuously innovate
and improve its practices at that level. Says Sinha, "Satyam ensures
that the SEI-CMMi Level 5 processes are implemented and continuously
improved. We use the "Voice of Process" for software process improvements
by conducting organisation level metrics baselining every six months
and identifying improvement opportunities." What should be the ideal
procedure followed to keep up the same quality post-certification?
The company should continuously add new processes, methodologies
and technologies to address new business areas and services and
improve existing ones. These are piloted and then transitioned to
all relevant areas of the company. As the company grows and new
organisational units are added, the quality movement is automatically
extended to all these new units. Every project should undergo a
review every month by the quality team. Corrective and preventive
actions should be identified and tracked to closure of projects.
CMMi Level 5 itself is a very big activity. Level 5 is an optimising
level. And an organisation needs to put its best efforts to maintain
Level 5 requirements. Says P S Madhukumar, head, quality, MphasiS,
"At MphasiS we have initiated many process improvement activities
like balanced scorecard, dashboard and we also started a GAP study
for CMMi-I model." At MphasiS, the strategic quality initiatives
are driven quite rigorously. Reveals Madhukumar, " Initially we
have defined the mission of our organisation. We have evaluated
the opportunities and threats for our company. We have also analysed
our strengths and weakness. After all these study we have come out
with a strategy, and based on the strategy we have developed goals.
And all these goals are tracked on a periodic basis and the necessary
corrective and preventive actions are taken."
The software industry in India is much ahead of its hardware counterpart
in the quality game. This is perhaps indicative of the position
of the two industries in India, where the hardware segment, especially
the all-essential manufacturing part barely has a discernible presence.
The most common certifications for the hardware industry include
ISO 9000 certification for quality, UL (Underwriters Laboratories)
for product safety and ISO 14000 for environmental certification.
However, most of the hardware industry in India has until now not
obtained certification. The reason is that one has to ship the server
or laptop to Taiwan or the US to get the computer certified. This
can be a nuisance to smaller hardware vendors. However, NSTL offers
some solace amidst this gloom. Says Reddi, "Now that NSTL (India)
has opened operations in Hyderabad, we handle all the headaches
of getting a computer certified. Our affiliate NSTL (Taiwan) is
the only organisation in the world authorised by Microsoft to conduct
the WHQL test (this is the industry standard for certification against
all Microsoft operating systems)." Another piece of good news is
that by using NSTL (India), the hardware vendor can pay in rupees
and does not have to deal with international shipping issues. "Now
that Microsoft is launching Windows XP, it is now even more critical
to get the computers certified. XP will give serious warning messages
if any component is not certified," adds Reddi. This can scare away
potential buyers and hence hardware vendors have no choice but to
look at getting their computers certified.
Indian hardware manufacturers, networking major D-Link has taken
a lead in obtaining quality certifications. Currently, it holds
ISO 9001, 9002, 9003, 9004 besides 14001 certification for its environment
protection efforts. Says Anand Mehta, marketing manager, D-Link
India, "At D-Link, quality is the pervasive element in all our products.
We have invested in most advanced automated manufacturing facilities
and implemented rigorous quality control programmes. D-Link's commitment
to high quality standards has been attested with ISO 9002 certification.
The ISO 9002 certification is a matter of great pride for us. We
take even more pride in the fact that our products have very high
reliability factor. We have very low rejections, which speak volumes
about our dedication to quality."
are just a handful of Indian hardware companies that have invested
heavily in manufacturing. Most companies import the bulk of components
and are merely doing assembly work in India. If high quality components
are sourced and well-trained hands perform the assembly, the final
product could be comparable to global ones. "Of course, rigorous
quality checks have to be carried out on components as well as the
product at every stage of manufacture. The quality management system
for a hardware company must have a strong process orientation,"
says Vinnie Mehta of MAIT. So what is the best way for a hardware
company to maintain a quality regimen? A total quality pyramid should
be in place incorporating production team, quality assurance team,
and management. The intricate processes of manufacture should be
continuously monitored right through the manufacturing cycle, with
an emphasis on getting it right the first time. Quality control
procedures include a burn-in period for finished products and production
reliability audits. Error avoidance and course corrections must
be ongoing processes, forestalling the possibility of deeply embedded
errors resulting in major losses. Constant and ruthless testing
ensures products that stand up to the most demanding working conditions
in the real world.
manufacturing facility in Pondicherry also caters to a strict quality
regimen. Says Manoj Chhura, country manager, manufacturing, IBM
India, "Our manufacturing facility in Pondicherry complies with
global standards. We ensure that no product leaves the manufacturing
facility unless it meets the requisite quality standards. Quality
certifications facilitate business growth, but the real focus is
to ensure that there is consistency in the quality of our products."
But what is the advantage of a good quality process for a hardware
company? Good quality parts reduce wastage during manufacturing
and also reduce the need to rework products. It brings improved
efficiency and productivity to the product and service organisations.
Also, in the event that products do not meet requisite quality standards,
there are possibilities that they may have to be withdrawn from
the market and this could result in a huge loss.
Indian hardware companies compare to global ones with respect to
quality? Fundamentally quality has to become ingrained in the work
culture. There are islands of excellence in the Indian hardware
industry. But a more pervasive adoption of quality culture is the
need of the hour. The gains from adoption of a quality culture could
be manifold. The benefits of technology gains are not so immediate
or apparent. However, over time, a systematic work culture would
help distil the cause and effect in operations, paving the way for
continuous improvements. Says S Rajendran, GM-marketing, Acer India,
"In terms of the Acer experience, we have witnessed a four-fold
growth in productivity gains." Today quality has become an integral
part of any organisation. Adds Rajendran, "It would not be wrong
to state that quality today is a hygiene factor in the business
world. The clear demonstrable gains can be enumerated as consistency
in operations, bringing in a measure of predictability in operations,
keeping a tight leash on cost, meeting expectations of customers
both internal and external and enhancing the brand promise by ensuring
an enjoyable experience in any stage of interaction with the organisation
pre sales, sales process and post sales." V Ganesh Nayak, head,
quality, Compaq India concurs, "Customer satisfaction and quality
are considered very critical for Compaq in terms of customer retention,
increasing market share and improving the efficiency of internal
processes. Part of the senior management's salaries are linked to
the CSI (Customer Satisfaction) index."
the slow pace of India's economic reform recent figures show the
economy as a whole growing at a rate of six percent it will take
some time for India to transform itself from a country with comprehensive
state control of industry to a free-market economy. As in any state-controlled
economy, job padding is pandemic, so a large cultural shift needs
to be completed before productivity in the Indian economy approaches
that of western nations. And quality in quantity, many feel, should
be the major driver in this process. With more than 175 software
companies having ISO 9001 certification and nearly 50 companies
boasting of a SW-CMMi Level 3 or higher ranking, India Inc. seems
on the right track with the numbers game.