Peak Technologies: From Chaos to Success

“1The job descriptions of the employees were not to the requirements of the company; it was a mis-led idea. We needed to redefine the responsibilities to achieve our goals. We went too fast in getting something without realizing its consequences.” ---2Abhinav Mittal, Cofounder of Peak Technologies

Peak Technologies, a leading software company was growing by leaps and bounds. Its services and products were being sought after by clients from worldwide. Until this problem came. In anticipation of increased demand for manpower to cater to its growing business, the company failed to frame a proper job description for its newly inducted employees. Further in order to fill up the vacant positions the company did not even bother to give them a formal session of training and orientation. Because of this mis-management the productivity of the company started declining. Soon it was identified and the top management realized the need of a professional HR Manager to handle the crisis.

1- Times Magazine, September 2007. 2- Abhinav Mittal, Co-Founder of PEAK TECHNOLOGIES, is a leading businessman of India.

Top B schools are known for giving the world its future managers and entrepreneurs. When Abhinav Mittal and Varun Bhatia entered the hallowed portals of IIM Ahmedabad their eyes were full of dreams. 3Their days in IIM provided them the theoretical grounding, industry insights and mentoring from top faculty members to be capable managers and entrepreneurs .With constant motivation from their professors and in discussion with their peer groups they realized their sharp business acumen coupled with creative freedom .Realizing their inner potential, they decided to chart their future as entrepreneurs. During their summer internships at investment banks they realized that they are not suited for working in normal corporate setting with pre-defined work culture. They wanted to satisfy their quench of creativity and freedom. After many brain storming sessions they decided to establish themselves as entrepreneurs. When they looked for their business options they recalled their days in 4IIT, Kanpur. They recalled the pleasure they derived developing software as computer engineers. The awards and acclamations they received for their projects gave them the idea to couple their engineering and management knowledge together. This was the time when telecom revolution was also taking place in India with fast pace of penetration of mobiles in Indian life . They saw a business opportunity here by providing value added mobile services 5(VAS).They saw mobile not only as a means of communication but also it was a style statement, a geeks gadget, and source of information and entertainment. With their pre-defined set of target customers and market segment they entered into 6corporate world.

3- Wikipedia/Biographies/Peak Tech.html 4- IIT Kanpur, is a leading engineering institute of India under Ministry of Human Resource. 5- VAS or Value Added Mobile Services is a new feature coming with GSM & CDMA phones. 6- Forbes, December,2008. Pg-45-50. This was the statement made by the founders in a interview conducted by the Forbes magazine.

Peak Technologies: The Early Days

Peak Technologies was founded in 2001 in India at Bangalore by Abhinav Mittal and Varun Bhatia in order to deliver value added mobile applications .It was established with the help of a bank loan, seed capital from a 8venture capitalist and personal help from family with a total paid up capital of 50 lakhs. Very soon company made its name; had loyal customer base and brand recognition for its quality products. Its products included dictionaries, games, music players, video players, encyclopedias, anti virus software etc customized according to individual mobile models. The firm started with an employee base of 920 mainly consisting of engineers and a few MBA’s from premium B schools. The team was entirely built on the basic of personal contacts of Abhinav and Varun and internal referrals. All the employees had interest towards research and development of various software and applications related to mobile. All of them worked as a team and on a need basis defined designations and responsibilities for individual projects and the emphasis was on cross functional teams. The small size of the organization facilitated a culture which provided flexibility to take up the projects as per their interests.

The Chaos:
With the passage of time Peak Technologies clientele and the number of projects and product lines grew. Both Abhinav and Varun who was also

handling the HR department, felt need to hire more employees since the competition was high and they wanted to maintain their quality standard and brand loyalty So they chose to recruit through external recruitments like walk-ins and campus interviews. Considering the future needs to device suitable recruitment policies and retention policies they felt the need of HR managers.

7- 8- Venture capitalists are companies that finance projects of their clients with whom they enter into an agreement. 9-

When the new recruits joined the firm and started working on projects and on-going research they realized they were expected to work beyond set boundaries of job description. 10They were expected to take up the positions beyond research, product development and testing. They were also expected to develop customer connect and gather market intelligence. Some of them were able to assimilate themselves with the company culture but for many it was not their cup of tea. Unlike the projected image and promised job description they had to do works they had not expected to perform .This led to rising employee frustration. Their problems were enhanced when they realized there were no training and orientation programs to prepare them for the job. Unable to cope with the demands and contribute with their 100%, their morale went down. In the meantime other old team members were also affected by the laid back attitude of the new recruits when they found projects were not being done as they were intended to and could not meet the deadlines.

The Solution:
The low employee morale led to low employee productivity with deteriorating product and research quality. Many clients complained of unmet deadlines and poor quality of products. This put the company reputation at stake. They began losing both employees and they realized that they need someone more experienced to lead the HR department.

The position was soon filled by their longtime friend 11Sandhya Bose who was their class mate at IIM and was presently working as an HR manager in 12HCL for the last 2 years. She had 10 years of industry experience. Refer Exhibit 1 for a brief of her career profile. She was known for her unique and innovative style of working which had helped in building a strong employee base at a leading software firm in India. Sandhya wanted to extend her previous experience in conjunction with the HR theories and tools she learnt at IIM. Since Peak Technologies provided an environment for free hand creativity and flexibility she decided to join it as an HR manager.

10- 10th October,2008, Times Of India. 11- Sandhya Bose, an alumni of IIM Ahmedabad is a leading businesswoman and entrepreuner. (Rich N Famous magazine.) 12- HCL is the 5th largest IT company of India with operations in over 30 countries. 13- 16th May 2008, The Hindustan Times.

Exhibit 1 Company worked Wipro Technologies Satyam Computers Royal Sundaram Position Associate for 1 year Asst. HR Manager for 5 years Sales Manager for 2 years

Peak Technologies: The Career Stage Approach
Her first task at Peak Technologies was to design a job description which provided the employees a description of their role and the scope of their jobs while simultaneously facilitating the culture of flexibility to employees so that they do not get pigeon holed in a very specific job description. She gave it hard thought and thought of an approach she had read of a few years ago called the career stage approach to job descriptions.

The basic idea of the approach was to study a job and then write broad descriptions of the broad job elements a job involved. These jobs and job elements would evolve as one’s seniority in an organization grew. For example the job of a software developer could broadly be divided into the following job elements: Software design and architecture, ensuring quality and
15 14


customer partner engagement.

The various levels of impact of these job elements for various seniority levels are given in detail in Exhibit 2. This approach ensured that while employees had an idea of what their role and responsibilities broadly were, while not being too specific so that they had the flexibility to move from one project or product to another seamlessly as per their interests. She designed these career stages interacting with the employees to know what their jobs looked like at various seniority levels conducting focus groups throughout the organization. She then developed the career stage description draft and got it verified from the employees themselves and made the appropriate changes.

14- Coding is a specific business process in writing a software language. It uses platforms such as JAVA, SQL etc. 15- Customer Partner Engagement is a component of Customer Relationship Management .

Exhibit 2
Software Development Engineer Scope of the Role Senior Software Development Engineer Principal Software Development Engineer Partner Software Development Engineer

Software Development Engineer Features Highly directed subsets of feature areas. Examples include porting existing feature areas, globalizing existing feature areas, or developing a highly directed subset of a feature area

Senior Software Development Engineer Feature areas More than one feature area. Scope at this stage can also include a highly complex feature area, compo nent forming a small subsystem, or a simple product.

Principal Software Development Engineer Major product A major product or highly complex feature areas forming a product, a large subsystem, or a simple product line. May also be a major contributor to the product line.

Partner Software Development Engineer Product line A product line generally representing a business group, a highly complex system, or architecture underlying a product line.

Areas of Impact: Software Design and Architecture Makes Develops a Develops a appropriate complete scalable design tradearchitecture architecture offs for a for feature for the feature areas product or complex subsystem Ensure Code Quality Writes unit Advocates Ensures that test and fully for and leads code reviews leverages the team coding disseminate automatable standards expertise, system for a and ensures reinforce feature that feature team areas comply standards, with them and improve the coding and design skills of the team Customer/Partner Engagement

Leads a scalable architecture for the product line

Implements quality improvements into the product line

Software Development Engineer Solves customer/part ner problems in a timely manner; accounts for the performance, operation, and serviceability of the feature

Senior Software Development Engineer Uses customer engagements and analyses of quality issues to improve the feature areas

Principal Software Development Engineer Addresses end-to-end serviceability and quality issues for the product or complex subsystem

Partner Software Development Engineer Implements quality improvements into the product line

Once the career stage description was signed off from employees and both Abhinav and Varun; she posted it on the online employee HR bulletin board. 16She then started training the employees to use these career stage descriptions for the following: Recruitment: They would recruit employees for the specific skill levels as were defined in the career stage description in the exhibit. This made the recruitment process more uniform throughout the organization.

Also, they were better able to explain and pitch the role to the job candidates Orientation and Training: Now that Peak Technologies had a description of what a job looked like at a specific level it was easier to design orientation and training programs for employees at a particular level.

Peak Technologies: The Way Ahead
The career stage approach to defining jobs for this high tech organization was successful in providing basic role clarity to the employees of Peak Technologies while giving them the

16- Aaj Tak, 13 December, 2008.

17- BBC News, India Online, 15th December, 2008.

flexibility to move across projects and product lines. As Peak Technologies grew bigger they started getting bigger projects and they had more complex product demands. The have started international operations from their 18Houston office. Now as the organization grew bigger they had more roles than the basic software developer role. They have more specialized roles like user 19interface designers, content publishers, and code testers. Sandhya is now looking forward to her next challenge to design similar career stage descriptions for the new roles. Abhinav and Varun stood behind her firmly seeing the initial success to her approach to job descriptions.

18- Peak Technologies had opened their 33rd overseas office in the city of Houston in USA on 20th February, 2009.

19- Interface Designers are web developers who develop the Graphical User Interface (GUI) of the software platform to make it more user friendly.

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