Saturday, April 19, 2008

Freedom of Speech

The twofold policy of the West on the subject of “freedom of speech” is quite visible in their law making. One example is the holocaust (term generally used to describe the genocide of approximately six million European Jews during World War II) and its related legislation in the West.

It is quite surprising to know that the so called “freedom of speech” is quite restricted when it comes to holocaust. Only denying holocaust is explicitly or implicitly illegal in 13 countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Switzerland. E.g. in Austria, you can be punished with imprisonment up to twenty years.

It is even more surprising to know that the word denial means denying the following major claims:

  1. The Nazis had no official policy or intention of exterminating Jews.
  2. Nazis did not use gas chambers to mass murder Jews.
  3. The figure of 5-6 million Jewish deaths is a gross exaggeration, and the actual number is an order of magnitude lower.
  4. Stories of the Holocaust were a myth initially created by the Allies of World War II to demonize Germans. Jews spread this myth as part of a grander plot intended to enable the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, and now to garner continuing support for the state of Israel.
  5. Documentary evidence of the Holocaust, from photographs to the Diary of Anne Frank, is fabricated.
  6. Survivor testimonies are filled with errors and inconsistencies, and are thus unreliable.
  7. Nazi confessions of war crimes were extracted through torture.
  8. The Nazi treatment of Jews was no different from what the Allies did to their enemies in World War II.

Now if someone says any of the following, he/she can be jailed in many of the European countries:

  1. It was not an official policy of the Hitler to exterminate Jews.
  2. The figure of 5-6 million Jewish deaths is questionable.
  3. Holocaust is propaganda for the creation of a separate state of Israel.
  4. Some of the images of the holocaust are fabricated.
  5. The survivors of the holocaust are exaggerating the matter.
  6. And the most fascinating of them all is that if I only say that Hitler did this to everyone without specifically targeting Jews.

Now when the Muslims say that stop making fun of our beloved prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) the west claims that it freedom of the speech. But in case of holocaust denial…. It’s highly illegal and there are legislations available in many of the European countries.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Key Performance Indicators for Job Description

Imagine you are being offered a new job with a lucrative salary and fringe benefits; when you ask for a job description, the human resource department provides you a single page stating KPIs along with their current values, target values and the time frame. Surprised??

In a rapidly changing business world, one should not be surprised to see such kind of an attitude from organizations striving towards business excellence. As process management and improvement is making more inroads in daily operations of organizations, the need to measure and improve processes is very tempting.

There are advantages for using this approach:

  • One can eliminate biasness as now everything is quantified and if you are doing well it is visible to everyone.

  • By using this approach one can provide a consistent interface to employees so incase of promotion, the human resource department can add one or more KPIs to the employee portfolio of KPIs.

  • Now days the process management and improvement is a buzzword so by having such a distinctive job descriptions you can use that to attract potential clients.

But this approach can also have potential drawbacks:

  • The cost could be the primary factor as measuring each and every aspect of your organization can be costly and time consuming.

  • The data collection can be at the center of conflict as promotions are now tied to the results from the data collection and analysis process.
  • “How much you love your company or how loyal you are to your company”… try quantifying this! Sometime it’s very hard to quantify everything.

So probably, a mixture of qualitative and quantitative criteria is the ideal formula for effective job descriptions.

Balance Scorecard for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) Companies in Pakistan

Business Process Outsourcing in Pakistan

The phenomenon of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) is growing at a rapid pace. As the profit margins are squeezing and the competitive dynamics are changing rapidly in the developed countries, more and more companies are looking to outsource their business processes to countries like India and Pakistan.

According to Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB):

Pakistan IT Industry exports are estimated at US$ 1.4billion while the industry size is estimated at US$ 2.8 billion. It is significant to note that Pakistan IT exports growth in each of the last few years has been more than 50%

The above statement is a clear indication that the business process outsourcing industry growing at a rapid pace. Initially, the primary outsourcing activity in Pakistan was software development (As the name “Pakistan Software Export Board” suggests itself) but now more and more companies are focusing their attentions to other areas like customer service, medical transcriptions, financial services and many more.

In order to sustain this growth of the BPO industry in Pakistan, we need to take a holistic approach towards BPO management. An approach which is linked with the vision and strategy of the company; an approach which not only concentrate on the financial perspective of the company (as most of the times the short term financial benefits are the driving force in company policy making decisions) but also concentrates on customer, internal business processes and employee perspectives; An approach which provides a rational ground for decision making.

The Balance Scorecard Approach

The balance scorecard provides the framework to make sure that you are measuring and improving the Critical to Quality (CTQ) aspects. It ensures that people and procedures within the organization are aligned with the both the short term and long term objectives of the company. By doing this, everyone in the organization is more aware of his/her responsibilities and contribution thus the motivation level is higher as compared to organizations where ad-hoc and short term decision making is part of the daily grind.

The balance scorecard concept was introduced by Robert S. Kaplan (Professor at Harvard Business School) along with David P. Norton in 1992. Since then the concept has gained a lot of popularity in the developed countries and more and more companies are implementing this as a mean to gain competitive advantage. This concept mainly focuses on the following four perspectives:

  • Financial
  • Customer
  • Internal Business Process
  • Learning and Growth

The financial perspective concentrates on shareholder wealth maximization after all that is the main reason for setting up a company. The customer perspective is concerned with the image of the company in heart and minds of its customers. The internal business process perspective is concerned with efficiency of the company’s internal business processes and the learning and growth perspective is concerned with continuously improving the intangible asset of the company (i.e. the employees) so that the company is always providing value for money to its customer and shareholders.

The above mentioned perspectives are generic and can be customized to the needs of the BPO organization but for now let’s assume the above mentioned perspectives.

Once you have outlined the perspectives, the next step is to identify leading and lagging indicator which will be used to measure these four perspectives. Leading indicators are those which provides an early indication while the lagging indicator are those which provides the information about the past performance e.g. increase in customer satisfaction index could mean rise in the company profitability. Here customer satisfaction index will act as a leading indicator for company profitability. Most of the financial measures (e.g. profit margin, sales growth) are lagging indicators as they report on past performance of the company.

For financial perspective, the typical leading and lagging measures for a typical BPO could be:
  • Return on capital (lagging measure)
  • Cash flow (lagging measure)
  • Customer payment window (leading measure); measuring the payment delay from the customer side. It can be very important when you are receiving a Lumpsum payment at the end of your project as delay in receiving payments can impact the cash flow of the company.
  • Risk rating of Pakistan (leading measure); different websites like, provides risk ratings (political, economic, etc...) for different countries. Any change (either positive or negative) can impact future business opportunities for the BPO companies in Pakistan.

For customer perspective, the leading and lagging measures could be:
  • Per service market share (lagging measure); one can use this to measure local as well international market share for each service category. By measuring both at local and international level it will give the company an idea about the nature and strength of competition in these two markets.
  • Per service customer satisfaction index (leading measure)
  • New customer acquisition rate (lagging measure)

For internal business process perspective, the leading and lagging measures could be:
  • Project turnaround time (lagging measure)
  • Number of complaints received from the customer (lagging measure)
  • Number of defects detected during review (leading measure); this will particularly be useful in service areas where the work done is reviewed internally before sending it for client review like software projects, financial outsourcing.
  • Service down time (leading measure for customer satisfaction index); e.g. call center operations

For learning and growth perspective, the leading and lagging measures could be:
  • Employee satisfaction index (lagging measure)
  • Number of employee training (leading measure)
  • Average number of complaints per employee (leading measure)
  • Average number of suggestions per employee (leading measure)

These are only selected set of measures as there can be many more which fits the particular needs of a BPO organization.

It is important to realize that a right order should be followed i.e. vision, mission, strategy and then performance measurement. Failing to follow the right order can result in poor post implementation performance of the balance scorecard initiative.