Last week I was at a panel discussion organized by one of the large global IT conference producers, the subject of the debate, “Creating Leaders”; the panelists some CIOs and some aspiring ones. It was a great interaction between the panelists and the audience; everyone had questions and everyone also had answers based on their experiences. The best parts of the session were the stories as illustrations and examples of what works; stories are always memorable (See: The Story Teller CIO).
Everyone has their definition and opinion on what constitutes leadership and its development; the CIOs talked about the skills they look for in their teams to pick high potential performers. The key tenets were collaboration, empathy, articulation, communication, relationship building, partnering, business savvy, domain expertise, and attitude. No one talked about technology, educational qualifications or certifications; no longer critical once you are in the reckoning for the top job, these are a given.
On the other hand, the aspirers wanted feedback, coaching, freedom to take decisions, allowing them to fail, engage with business independently. They wanted to work with the CIO and on represent the CIO in business meetings. In essence, they wanted to get to the chair quicker than the CIOs believed they can. A healthy competitive spirit with young blood that makes you feel good; of course, with practiced restraint where required; failing fast is not equal to failing frequently said one wise CIO.
The surprise came from the audience when one of the CIOs who had evolved from the business made a point to the speakers on the dais and the audience. He talked about the professional expertise that came in the way of good going to great. The dialogue between the young turks and the business folks takes shades of impatience and arrogance; “you don’t understand, let me tell you how, here’s the solution and it’s so obvious …” it creates polarization separating IT, business, and vendors.
He berated the I-factor driven by T with the IT teams and stated that the when IT teams talk about them versus the rest, it creates an invisible rift between the stakeholders. He mooted the idea that IT should stop working with the “I” (me and myself) and start thinking in “we” terms which improves the possibility of success with shared goals and objectives. Each person on the table represents different skills and dimensions of the problem and solution; it is not possible to work without any and achieve the same success.
Everyone was numbed into silence for a moment and then spontaneously the room burst into applause; I do not do justice to his eloquence or story telling here, it touched a part of everyone in the room. Reciting from ancient scriptures and connecting to the current IT context, he implored the collective to shed ego and success will follow. Having created magic in minutes he took his seat and the conversation continued from where it had left off strongly influenced by the sentiment suspended in the air.
The power of success weaved into a story always creates positive energy; the message clear and crisp, the actions unambiguous, the leadership lesson complete, the panel concluded. As I left the stage only to be surrounded by some to seek personal advice, the thought at the back of the mind lingered on; what can I do to transform my team to We(T). We Team is better than I Team or IT; I need to tell this story to my team on what we will do differently. Quick, you too do that before the moment is lost!
A sparse gathering of smart people in a small room were discussing an important business hoping to change the outcome in their respective circles of influence. These were seasoned players in industries big and small across diverse geographies and line of business. It was crowdsourcing at its best and that gave rise to the expectation that the problem will indeed find itself vanquished. No, I was not the fly on the wall or a passive listener; I was called in to moderate the discussion.
When I joined the group, they had already listed down the facts and figures about the rate of success that they had captured from published research as well as search engines. Anecdotal references were discarded focusing on empirical data and reference case studies. They had also listed down challenges and issues based on their real life experiences. The consistent and clearly emerging message was how to get Business back into BI, while the “I” actually stands for Intelligence and not Ignorance.
How buy-in happens
One of the discussion threads went something like this: the CEO needed quick reports and analysis of business with the ability to drill down; he also expected the ability to slice-dice the data. The business head wanted control over her team and did not want the CEO poking his big nose. IT simply wanted to buy the best tools since they did not have control over the environmental and political factors. The CEO in a social meeting was sold on the merits of a frightfully expensive platform and that was that.
The tool was bought, the wish-list generated across different stakeholders top down, the scope defined and captured by the principal vendor, and the execution outsourced. The requirements were skewed in favor of reports and very few dashboards or analytical cubes and that was deemed okay; everyone agreed that the phase two will cover the rest. So with a lot of fanfare the project got started and everyone believed that the future holds a lot of promise.
The impact on the stakeholders?
Through the discussion no one challenged the ask, no one sought to understand the impact of the multitude of reports on the stakeholders, no one challenged as to why the operational staff was not in the room to define what they wanted. The executives in the room blissfully proposed the metrics and data that others should be seeing, reality being far removed from the proposals. The few dashboards that were to be consumed by the CXOs changed shape based on assumptions of what they would like.
Running through the discussion I realized that this specific case had all the ingredients across the various representatives, so the solution could be broad-based to apply across. Good news is that it was not a technology project considering initial active participation from the business, however, they had disappeared post initial discussions leaving the baby with the vendor and the IT team. With the sketchy picture the solution was unwieldy and unusable across the layers of management and operational staff.
Back to basics
My submission to the team was to go back to basics and start asking some tough questions and not to proceed if the answers were not up to the mark. Their lack of enthusiasm depicted their unwillingness and inability; with some persuasion they agreed to plunge ahead. As we discussed the questions and the approach their eyes gained the missing spark; the conclusions were agreeable to all present as the best way forward. Here’s a synopsis; report is used as a representation, it could be a dashboard or cube too.
1. Why do you want this report?
2. How do you get this information today?
3. Who else could benefit from it?
4. What will change for you after you get it?
5. Which personal, group or company KPI (e.g. customer, employee, revenue, profitability) does it relate to? How?
As we closed the meeting, I realized that earlier some of these questions had got me into trouble from which I could extricate myself from with some effort. The project was however declared a great success and a case study by the company, vendor and the industry.
I believe that it is a better place to be; ignorance to intelligence is a difficult journey. Educate the business; don’t get bullied into accepting inane requests for reports that can be fulfilled by transactional systems. Someone has to drive it, why not you?
This is the first part of the series of articles on improper selling-tactics adopted by vendors while engaging with the CIO. Read the next part, How to accept a ‘No’. Also read: ‘How should vendors engage with CIOs?‘
Recently, I had interesting discussions with a couple of “technology experts” separately brought in by their respective companies to help us design the best possible solutions. There was no correlation between the two opportunities or the technologies that represented the solutions; the behavior of the experts representing very large companies was indistinguishable like they were twins separated in early childhood but grew up to mimic each other in their approach to providing a solution to an opportunity.
After months of “engaging” on various opportunities to create new innovative differentiators for the enterprise with many vendors, the narrowed down list comprising the two vendors decided to bring in their technology architects. They needed to hear the expectation from the horse’s mouth and clarify the requirement before proposing the solution. I do not believe the problem or the solution is relevant here but the overall approach, methodology and intent is the focus; so I will restrict to the human side.
Now when you have a set of experts in the room, the expectation changes; for the benefit of everyone I repeated the proposition and outlined the need and the want. Everyone nodded and the expert asked a few pertinent as well as tangential questions. Addressing them and moving on to the framework of solution design the patience level of my team started waning until the experts decided to present the final solution using a set of slides. Very quickly the dam broke and …
The experts knew the subject and how their solution works, its limitations in real life situations. The discussion and clarifications were to validate if the solution would fit in, which is fair. Having said this, the direction the dialogue took was totally different. Instead of working with the team to flesh out the solution, the experts started a sales pitch on why we should choose their solution! Any interruptions were brushed aside with an air of “I know what is best for you and let me tell you why”.
The relationship managers sensed the total disconnect and tried to intervene without success. The experts in overdrive mode bulldozed ahead ignoring body language and voices of protest. It took some effort to close the meeting which was making no sense or headway. Trying some steps in damage control, the account managers separately mentioned that they will revert to the team with options to take the initiative ahead.
With no acceptance or alignment of the solution a discussion on the Bill of Material (BoM) is a sheer waste of everyone’s collective time. The ROI or TCO matters only when the customer acknowledges that the solution is appropriate for the enterprise. You don’t sell until you know that your solution has acceptance and that it meets requirements and business goals. Was the need to sell so desperate that they risked alienating a reference customer or professional arrogance that consummates such behavior?
In the current economic scenario the pressure to sell is evident on almost every company; that does not condone such tactics and behaviors; their pervasiveness scares me. I believe that vendors need to work with their customers to evolve any solutions and gracefully walk away should there be a stretch to fit their wares. It would be an undesirable situation where their key customer the CIO is not willing to come to the table or shuns these meetings. Maybe it is time to start exploring vendor-IT-business alignment?
In recent times there has been a hue and cry that Corporate IT systems still need users to be trained on usage and functionality; the underlying hypothesis is that if one can adapt to all the social media sites, shopping portals and various mobile apps, why do corporate IT solutions require formal training as well as guides for users to struggle through them? Why cannot the ERP, CRM, SCM, DW/BI and other systems be user-friendly enough for anyone to intuitively start using the application?
Making business apps user-friendly
Consultants, experts and companies have mushroomed claiming to help enterprises de-clutter and make friendly even the most complex transactional systems. They come in with variety of tools and review the problem from various angles and dimensions. These UX experts in many cases are able to create improvements with increased usability and thereby deliver the intended results. However, these have been limited to websites, portals and in a few cases custom and bespoke applications.
Over the last 20 odd years of the existence of enterprise applications, the change in the user screens has evolved with changing functionality and technology. From green screen to client-server and then onto the browser, the change has been not too significant even when you consider all operating systems and platforms. The top 5 enterprise application screens today have changed only to incorporate different buttons and tabs, and maybe with a drop down or look ahead search; the rest remains the same!
Then how is it that new generation applications have broken this paradigm such that they have been embraced across geographies, age groups, user communities, and consumers and corporates alike. What makes these Web and mobile apps so intuitive, easy to the eye and deft of click or touch? No one ever provides training nor does anyone ask for it. Have the big name vendors no interest in easing the pain of using their apps? I do not for a moment believe that they are immune to this phenomenon.
Inadequacy of efforts?
So I did my bit of research talking to the vendors attempting to unravel this mystery. Without exception, all of them acknowledged the problem and cited special interest groups, advisory committees and even empaneling of experts to solve the problem. I also got myself invited to a couple to ascertain the steps and direction, and with a desire to help. Using eye ball trackers, cursor followers, semantic parsers, and a horde of techniques beyond my comprehension, they attempted to sweeten the pill.
We all know that the gap continues to exist, the unrest with the user community increasing and the helplessness maintaining status quo. None the wiser after a few years of participation, I parted ways and started challenging my team and developers to create intuitive interfaces to apps. Easier said than done; while I did not like what I saw, with no bright sparks for improvement, the teams soon ran out of ideas and enthusiasm to pursue the nebulous goal. We did create some improvements, but they were nominal.
The problem and the opportunities
Only recently I had my Eureka! moment that the twain shall never meet, the usability mountain will remain unconquered for some time to come, and we will continue to struggle with training for every app, big or small, custom or off-the-shelf, that we deploy within or outside of the enterprise. The reason is obvious but not staring you in the face until you think hard about it and then some more. It will not come to you intuitively (at least it did not to me).
With tablets and mobile becoming mainstream compute screens and apps for specific processes connecting to corporate apps, the dependence on the conventional corporate IT solutions will reduce. Does this put off the pressure to simplify the usability of systems from the vendors? Yes and no; most have taken on the opportunity to create their own apps retaining the customer and the corporate security needs.
Corporate apps expect structured data inputs for business with defined boundaries and validated masters; they are input heavy and work in secure environments. Whereas consumer “friendly” apps mostly deal with unstructured public domain data which is viewed by many, input by few. The divergent needs keep them independent and their evolution following different paths. The CIO has to manage expectations at all levels and educate the enterprise on what reality will be for a long time to come.
A heated debate ensued between the two project managers, from the development vendor and the customer respectively on change in scope of the project. This was not a late stage discussion or changes requested during UAT; in fact, the project was just a week-old with the Requirement Specifications still being formulated. The key user who was also the subject matter expert sat through the charade wondering where she should step in. With no resolution visible, they all decided to go to the CIO for arbitration.
Predefined, is it?
It was supposed to be a quick win project that typically delivers what everyone refers to as low hanging fruits. The project brief was a working model on a spread sheet of the solution to be developed. So it was assumed that the solution should be easy to create and scale up. The timelines and costs were agreed to and the vendor team arrived on site to finalize the project scope and integration points. So what could be the reason for the conflict? If something is working, how can requirement change?
The CIO heard the point of view from each stakeholder, the user, IT project manager, and the vendor. For the user, she had clarified how the model worked and what was expected from the system that the spreadsheet was unable to deliver; the IT project manager stressed upon the integration to various masters and the scalability expected of the solution; and the vendor project manager completed with a complaint that some of this was not in the original scope that was outlined prior to commencement.
So what was the issue asked the CIO? Wasn’t the current discussion to clearly define the functionality expected from the system? Where is the conflict in the integration definitions? Does expansion of the concept and explaining in detail qualify as scope enhancement? They had an advantage over a standard software development model that a working prototype was available. There was a discomforting silence for a while until they all decided to go back and close the discussion amicably.
So when I bumped into the CIO many months later, I enquired about his story from our last meeting. He mentioned that it had gone live but did face challenges in the initial days. This was discovered during deployment that the system needed elaboration. The functionality was evident common sense but missing from the system (I shall not get into the details here which my CIO friend explained to me to my surprise). He quizzed the team for the missing parts of the whole; the user said it was obvious, the PM agreed, the vendor did not.
State it explicitly
“It is not in the system since you did not ask for it.” Technically correct but does not solve the problem! So now that the system is accepted, deployed and support phase over, this is a Change Request and will have to be managed as such. The ineffectiveness of any argument was evident and the only recourse was to give in to the demand in the interest of the project and the business. That vendor has not been welcome to new initiatives since then; even the support has been moved to other partners.
My friend the CIO had no recourse! Do we? With the outsourcing trends taking the direction that they have, everything has to be now explicitly stated and included as a part of the Requirement Document. If you do not have an internal team of business savvy IT team members actively involved through the cycle such outcomes are quite likely. Invest in your team, keep them actively involved in the project and not just to manage at a high level. Keep a watchful eye open. Assumptions hurt; try “ass u me”.
In the last few weeks there has been a lot of publicity and visibility on the fact that CIOs are being or going to be measured on business metrics, many of which they do not control or influence directly or indirectly. This sparked many a debate on various forums that attract CIOs, and social media sites and groups that are dedicated to IT leaders. Not that anyone tried to contain it, the fever spread globally very quickly with reactions that spanned the spectrum of emotions.
Traditionally, IT was measured on three aspects: operational efficiency, budgets, and delivery of projects. The connected world also added information security. Disaster recovery and business continuity surfaced and made it to the dashboard. Somewhere business benefit crept in and then projects were also reviewed from a business angle. Regulatory compliance required significant IT support and thus edged in. But revenue, profitability, customer acquisition or retention, product availability?
How does the CIO influence any of these? Can better IT deliver additional growth? Will technology drive profitability? What can the CIO do to acquire new customers or retain existing ones? And what about product quality or availability? If cash flow is an issue, how will systems ease it? Competition has a better and cheaper product or a great marketing strategy, can IT or the CIO counter it in any way? If the answer to one or more is no, then why link performance or compensation to these measurements?
I know some of the CIOs, who have been there done that, evolved beyond technology and / or taken additional business roles will say that the CIO can indeed contribute and influence most of the measures above. This is achieved with systems that create operational efficiency, business process management, information visibility, business intelligence and analytical models, and even enabling new models of engagement with the new trends and hyped technology troika: Big Data, Mobility, and Social Media. Cloud and Outsourcing are passé; everyone has done it or is doing it.
It is evident that this piece of news has many people worried, and not all of them are CIOs; they are propagating the message that if I cannot control something, I should have the choice to determine if my performance is likely to be impacted. Fair point if the organization worked in perfect silos. In business and life uncertainty is certain and thus even the metrics that seem to be under control have dependencies – internal and external – which are beyond one’s power of influence.
Does the CEO control how the industry will behave? Can the CFO control interest rates or liquidity crunch? If the customer does not buy, what can the CMO do? Rhetorical questions? They are not helpless, but there is a limit to their ability to influence the outcome. They do play a role and they depend on the rest of the CXOs to work lock-step in achieving success. CPO (Chief People Officer) has to help hire and retain the best talent, CIO has to ensure information availability to key stakeholders for decision making and analysis. That’s what the C-suite is all about.
So if the CIO stakes claim to the table, it comes with a set of obligations and responsibilities; it comes with the territory; all CXOs are jointly and individually responsible for the success of the enterprise. It is not about “I have done my part and now you go figure”; I believe that CIOs should and does actively seek this responsibility and then works with others in shaping the future. The C-suite has to take this variability risk. Only then can the CIO aspire to take a position on the Board or become a CEO.
CIOs are a lucky bunch, whenever they have a problem of any kind, all types of help is available to them from various sources; IT vendors, system integrators, business school professors, peer CIOs, and finally management or IT consultants big, small, and even individuals, ex-CIOs, i.e. retired or in-between jobs. All of them bring different kind of experiences and solutions to the table; some with a genuine interest to help find the best solution, others with a vested interest to sell goods or services.
Recently when I moved to a new industry and assignment, there was a flood of offers to help from the entire gamut of consultants. Can we help you understand your new industry? Would you like us to do a diagnostic of the current situation? What about some help with IT strategy? Can we offer you some interesting research papers on the industry and its challenges? How are you planning to prioritize the various business pulls and pressures? Is there an IT governance issue you want to address? ….
Their insistence, persistence and perseverance created a few moments of shaken confidence! Did I really need their help to get started? I asked them for data on similar engagements where they had contributed to the direction and shaped the future for the CIO. My mailbox almost ran out of space! There were local and global case studies, customer references, engagement frameworks and best practices. I was surprised with some names of good CIOs friends, while others were predictable.
More than a decade ago as a newbie CIO I had gained some benefit from the consultants and IT advisory and research companies; they helped fast track my learning. But these references were amongst the best of CIOs. So I decided to call them to find out why they engaged these consultants; what prompted them to spend, and on what did they invest? Did they get any insights that eluded them or create a better strategy or help them in their success? Should I too get some of them on board?
The answers should not have surprised me but they did; the consultant brought credibility to the plan, documents on current status bench-marked to local and global metrics. The big name consultants were seen as the best options even when they put your words and common sense into fat documents and fancy presentations. Somehow the stamp of authority and approval made the difference to company management with higher acceptance. The CIO had validation of his/her choices and rub-off credibility from such engagements.
Now I am not averse to using consultants or industry experts in areas that need a different level of thinking and problem solving. To drive company-wide change across different stakeholders can always do with some help! I have had my share of good and mediocre; authority is not bestowed by the brand or the years, it comes from a deeper understanding of the issues and positive query; whereas the ridiculous ones tested endurance levels not to be recalled again.
In my current context I felt that whatever the consultants wanted to solve is what the company had hired me to do; that was my core competency and what I excelled in. By the time they came to the table I had most of the answers that had been discussed and accepted as the reality and way forward. I tested my hypotheses with a couple of big names; they acknowledged that I was on the right track.
Did I need a validation of my decisions? I don’t think so and neither did the rest of the business leaders who found the rationale and direction to be credible in its articulation. I believe that the use of consultants is finally a matter of personal choice influenced by the organization culture and the locus standi of the CIO. The past record of success internally or with consultants determines what works better. I think for now I will continue to stay away from them.
My friendly Board Member who has also been my mentor for some time now always brings up very interesting points in discussions. I have always enjoyed talking to him as he challenges conventional wisdom with his way outside the box ideas. Being technology savvy, discussions with him tend to be not just at a high level but at times I have to explain why one solution scores over the other. In one such meeting he brought into the open a dimension.
Selection of a tool
We were discussing a new predictive analytics solution and its adoption in the industry not just locally but globally. With no competitor locally using such a solution, with bright eyes, he started drawing the end game that he wanted us to reach; the dimensions were simple in their representation but complex to execute, requiring multiple data sources and algorithms that would challenge most. As the big picture unfolded, it had me and the team scared and excited about the leap forward for our company.
Using a formal matrix for evaluation of the solution is normal for IT; functionality, roadmap, customer success, ease of use, scalability, investment, and industry-fit are some of the parameters. He helped us refine the list discarding most of them considering every solution scored a tick on them. It then came down to a few that focused on strategic intent and investments by the vendor. E.g. How many customers has the vendor invested in to enable them to succeed?
Thus the discussion was at a different plane working on the methodology, plan and shared success criteria that had direct linkage to business outcomes. I could sense wariness in the business, IT and vendor teams on the perceivably risky proposition. What if the solution does not work? What if the industry changes shape or direction? What if business users don’t use the end result for decision making? How do we enforce the models that the solution recommends? What if …
Playing it safe?
Success and failure rates of IT-led projects have been a statistics that scares every one; the reasons have not changed much over the years since I read about them first–more than 15 years back. So there was some hope with a project endorsed by Board Member, but then the big question was if we can sustain his interest over the 18-24 month period in which the end outcome would be measured. We decided to raise these questions to moderate expectations and ended up inviting trouble.
Why are you all so risk averse? How would innovation happen if everyone wanted a fool-proof solution that someone has used in the past? Why are you always looking for precedence? Early adopters always gain a competitive advantage even if it is short-lived; in most cases, the followers get lesser benefits. If you keep working with a view that we don’t want to get anything wrong, is there a guarantee that you will not? And not getting it wrong does not imply that you will get it right!
Doing nothing wrong would mean that status quo is the best place to be; trying something new is always fraught with risk. I am not implying that we take undue risks on new untested technology solutions. To get something right requires collective buy-in that CIOs seek for most projects; the marquee CIOs take a lot of calculated risks, and yes, they do face failed projects more often than others. However, they more than make up for them with their successes.
Inertia is not a good keyword for IT and CIOs; they should seek unexplored avenues to make a difference. I believe that we all strive for success and in the same vein we have a phobia for failure. The obsession to always succeed may result in a dull and boring existence that is disconnected from real life and business which has to compete every day in a new competitive environment with uncertainty. I tend to agree that doing nothing wrong does not mean that you are getting it right!
The front page of a business newspaper carried an interview of some of the big 5 IT services company CEOs that had me engrossed as these industry captains shape the direction for the industry, influence decision making and are consulted by global CEOs on IT strategy and direction. Thus the interest was high to gain from the collective wisdom as they talked about their experiences with global CIOs, decision making process, budgets, successes and finally their perceptions of where CIOs could and should be.
There were some clear messages:
- The global economy will continue to remain under pressure for the next couple of years
- Outsourcing deals will be smaller and of shorter duration as IT budgets will see a lot more rigor in the discussion
- Talent shortage will squeeze growth for IT companies and Cloud computing will keep the hardware industry challenged.
- The CIO-role will change again with technology evolution–the difference between the good and the challenged CIO will widen.
A vested interest?
They outlined the differences on how CIOs across geographies and industries outsourced core and non-core activities to focus on what matters, i.e. you guessed it right, the business. But then they also mention in the same breath that CIOs that did not outsource remained challenged to align the IT objectives to business. Whether it is remote infrastructure management (RIM), or application maintenance, and everything in between, the message was clear, outsource or perish, get relegated to reporting to the CFO.
Huh? Now that is simplistically stretching a facet of the CIOs role to create a perception that outsourcing can be equated with strategic intent. If you don’t outsource, then you and your team is busy with things that do not matter to the business and thus you are likely to remain alienated. Was there a vested interest in the words from these CEOs who have been struggling to grow their business? Some had taken over from ousted CEOs with a clear mandate to bring back the old days of high growth.
Time to introspect!
While I am a proponent of outsourcing and have partnered with IT service companies big and small to give away the technical or operational activities, in my experience there have also been cases of outsourcing not delivering to promise. CIOs connected with the pulse of the business draw the line on what needs to be given away and what should be retained. The company’s focus, perceptions of core, and finally the financial health determine what operating model should be adopted by the CIO.
The CEOs went on to talk about CIOs need to engage their stakeholders on what matters. People in a glasshouse do not throw stones at others. My plea to the same CEOs is to introspect a bit before preaching to their customers, the CIOs. The sales heads of the same companies want to engage with the CIO on nitty-gritties of technology that even the next level in the IT department rarely gets involved in (OMG, I saw a data center). They do not practice what they preach. A few CIOs I met the next day agree!
So what separates the good from the challenged? I do not for a moment believe that it is as simple as outsourcing operations or infrastructure or total outsourcing; a good CIO is a well-rounded leader who manages people and perceptions while ensuring that the delivery of promise is consistent with quality that is visible. S/he communicates effectively in all situations and is able to challenge business and IT partners/vendors in a discussion on the right solutions to business problems enabled by technology.
Is this the finite list? No again, there is no checklist that determines the difference; you have to find your balance.
Recent times have seen some distinguished CEOs and leaders biting the dust literally when some untruths were discovered in their resumes, a clear case of unnecessary padding. A few did not possess the qualifications they professed, some had not been to colleges they put in there. These are not run of the mill average Joe kind of people, they are in high offices and have shaped the future of many. It created news for a short while, and then everyone moved on relegating the tainted ones to oblivion.
To expand the team, I recently started hiring fresh and experienced talent and was flooded with resumes. It was a task to navigate through pages of hundreds of eager professionals looking through spell check errors, acronyms that I have no clue what they mean, grammatical goof ups, and multiple formats that challenged me to find information in a maze game. These were not freshers, unexposed to corporate culture; they included experienced professionals with decade-plus behind them.
I did not challenge the veracity of the information presented even in cases that stretched conventional wisdom, though annotating to explore further in the interview. I discovered that IT folks are largely truthful and sometimes too much; if they have been on a project that involved a leading edge technology, they will ensure it catches your attention. Only on digging deeper you realize that their role could have been just testing or documentation; or maybe peripheral and not technical or functional.
The conscientious mentioned every project, every assignment, and every new company even if they spent only a few months in each; though the interesting ones were the gaps which during the interview were explained in shy and embarrassing tones. They believed that if you join a company and realize that it was a mistake, don’t mention it; skip the experience that does not reflect well on your resume. No mal-intent here, just that not always in interest of keeping an abridged and concise representation; just to put the best foot forward.
So how to get the real person out of a few pages of history including education, experience, achievements, personality, potential, technical skills, and what have you. There are umpteen reference websites that offer to teach the art of interviewing and getting the best out of the person sitting across the table, the potential candidate. The intent though not adversarial is to assess everything possible about the person in the typical less than an hour spent, lateral thinking and what not.
I am not sure if this would make sense, but it is not just the responses to the questions that help us in the selection process, there is a lot more. The first few minutes have already decided the way the interview goes; subconscious mind or body language, you already know if you will like the person. The resume and the detailed planning are then thus pointers to the discussion. I have rarely seen a situation where the candidate was able to swing it around though many did not live up to initial expectations.
Coming back to the moot point, why do people manipulate resumes? Is it just to look better than who they are or a desperate urge to get something that is not rightfully theirs? Is it misplaced self-esteem or belief of personal value? I don’t know; everyone probably has different motivations; do they realize that in the end they are really undermining their integrity and the way people see them? Or has the value system changed in a way that we are comfortable with little lies if they go unnoticed?