Managing a Ramp-Up

As  the business grows it impacts the  talent base. This ramp-up is planned on the basis of the billable talents required to deliver the work volume. The process begins with taking a view of the entire gamut of deliveries required to sustain the business growth. All tasks and responsibilities are mapped . These tasks are drilled down to every single unit, to identify the parameters for measure. The service level agreement defines  the minimum standards to be maintained and time taken to complete each task . This entails the scorecards which are later used during the production. Here we review the areas that require attention while managing the talent base during a ramp-up.
  • Task – Skill identification and differentiation : Once the tasks are mapped, it gives a view of the talent required to deliver them. Often the tasks are grouped under a broad definition and later defined under different levels on the basis of the expertise required and the decision making involved to deliver them. This creates the skill matrix. Suppose, in a web development firm, the tasks are first listed including defining and designing the initial web architecture, identifying the standards, coding the pages, coding the different areas for each page , if required separately, developing any application tools, testing them, pre-testing them in the client environment, connecting with the server, connecting the home server with the client server, etc. Each of these task can be delivered by web-developers with the standard level of efficiency. But depending on their competitive edge, one might design it better than the others. They may be professionally equipped with more real time experience, consequently identify why a coding may go wrong in the client environment. This difference in efficiency will re-define the levels for delivery. Hence there would be a trainee developer, who would deliver on the preliminary coding, a junior developer, who would code the different areas of the page such as the tool bar, and finally a senior developer who would identify the client environment and customize the page.
  • Defining leaderships: The tasks delivered to the employees would require offering direction, managing escalation with higher understanding, making predictive analysis about the team’s production an finally managing follow-ups. This is defined in the industry on how many members in the production team with what amount of work would require a leader. Yet it completely remains a business decision to set the cap for hiring leaders and allocating them to the teams. The production may require a leader for every 15-20 team members. At certain industries the team may function under the self-managed models with no direct leadership but many leaders under the matrix structure. This has its own benefits and challenges. The benefit is entirely from a business perspective as the responsibility can be well divided into different areas and make each leader responsible for separate delivery. Though the challenges are primarily from the human stand point. This may create an emotional pressure on the team members who may not be able to handle follow-ups and directions from different leaders and feel stretched among them. This is balanced when the roles are clearly understood and a direct communication is set among team members and the leaders with clear demarcation of responsibilities. It would entirely depend on the business model and the budget set for hiring the leadership . The structure would be set with an equal distribution of leadership presence for the live and the remote environment.
  • Cost optimization: Planning a ramp up requires to initiate different processes. Consequently, initiates a range of investments. Hence budget preparation remains primal. Every area is allocated a budget depending on the business revenue. Areas such as HR and other support role are planned with budget based on different phases of the business life-cycle. The hiring would remain the fundamental activity in the first few quarters. Hence have the highest cost attached to it. Later it would require the organization to have a greater focus towards the maintenance of assets including the talent management and infrastructure and other intangible areas such as public relation activities. During planning, it’s important to identify which processes would be run internally and which need to outsourced. The processes which are core to the business such as induction and new hire orientation may not be outsourced as it requires the culture building, hence needs to be managed internally. Whereas sourcing of candidates- even a part of the technical training which includes the product training can be outsourced. Whereas on-the job training before the employee goes live, needs to be done internally. The outsourcing of these processes would increase efficiency and control costs when managed for a greater volume within a shorter duration. This even helps to set a standard for the process as maintained by the other centers of the organization. Outsourcing the non-core process is the most beneficial, if there is a talent crunch within the organization and there are lack of trained employees to manage the ramp-up. In the long-run once the processes are stabilized, these processes which have been out-sourced can be reviewed and transitioned to be managed internally by the company.
  • Planning phases of delivery : Activities are drawn with flow charts identifying the time line for each task. The phases would evolve as the set of tasks would move into other stages. Suppose if the increase in the number of employees requires a greater office space, it would be planned eventually. If the first quarter would add 100 employees, the office space required for each employee is 300 square feet depending on the industry and legal specification. The total office space required to accommodate every employee, will decide the property taxes. This transcends to many other such administrative activities , which can be either internally managed or outsourced.This needs to be planned with a slack period, so that if there is a delay in hiring or there is any other business transition, the cost incurred is not lost. Many such interdependent activities would lead to individual phases and each phases would be later linked with the completion of the tasks, such as the administrative facilities, arrangement of the office space coinciding with hiring will mark the beginning of the next phase. Here the new employees would be joining and the administrative team would manage the maintenance of the infrastructure.
  • Implementing the planned action : The success of the project lies in its  implementation. Each action followed with minimum deviations would entail the completion of project. Severe adherence to the legal and operational standards are of utmost importance to ensure that the project meets the audit standards scheduled later.
  • Identifying the gaps and Risk mitigations: This is ideally done during the planning phase. An intricate research with all the deviations is identified. The mitigations are planned with the guidance of experts who have executed such a program before. For eg: If a company is likely to ramp up in a new city, it’s important to include an SME with knowledge of local standards. The information available on the internet or other publications would not be enough to deal with the escalations that would crop locally, such as an ethnicity related issues or even the perception of the external business entity to the inhabitants. A ramp which I was a part of required an off-shore team to manage the project. An information that the notice board required to include the local language which was not shared. This was ignored for a considerable period of time. When the center was inaugurated and started functioning, suddenly there was a picketing around the office by a political group. This was a big escalation which required a great amount of effort by the organizational leaders to resolve it.  This could have been easily evaded had a local expert been made a part of the team. There was another ramp-up in an IT Park which had its own security standards for female employees. This was initially ignored leading to a security breach within the office campus .
  • Audit : The standards set by the legal governance and the industry defines the audit that would be required for the ramp-up. At times an internal audit may work. Though certain businesses may require an external agency to audit and certify the new center.There was a business organization which used to start offshore centers for companies from different countries. A part of their process included an external agency who would come to certify the center as per the legal standards locally and as applicable in the client’s country.
A ramp up defines business success. It requires all the teams to work in synchronization to ensure a seamless transition. Tell us how did you manage the ramp-up in your organization and share the bitter-sweet experiences. I am sure it had new learning for you which increased your business acumen. Share your learning points and your insights on the best practices.