Process Improvement in Indian Service Sector The SSE-CMM Way

 | April 09,2010 12:12 pm IST

The Sleeping Goliath

The sunshine sector of the Indian economy - The Services - continues to dazzle one and all with its shooting growth curve. Services in India's GDP increased by 21 percent points in the 50 years between 1950 and 2000, nearly 40 percent of that increase was concentrated in the 1990s.

This boom was fueled largely by expanding sectors like communications, financial services, hospitality, trade and business services.


Surprisingly, in contrast to trends witnessed in China and other newly industrializing economies, the share of industry in India's GDP has remained constant during the high growth period of the 1990s, while that of services has risen astronomically. With opportunities, come challenges. Sustained growth becomes difficult to achieve, as productivity increments in the services sector are normally less robust than in the manufacturing sector.


The service sector revolves around two key pillars - People & Processes. The better the two Ps, the higher the productivity. In a nation such as ours, which is witnessing growth in service industry at such scorching pace, issues like industrial best practices, operational excellence and security take a back-seat. A myopic approach of defining business in terms of top-lines and bottom-lines shoves security in operations to the rear, but this costs us in the long run.


Security sensitive industries such as IT, Hospitality, Banking and Insurance have, thus, started sensitizing their workforce towards concepts like process improvement and security to meet present and future business requirements.


Security - The New Buzzword

Secure operational practices form the thin line which separates survival and extinction for industries which deal with non-tangible assets such as information or experience. Security is a serious customer concern, and if the present trends continue, it would be much worse in the future and may eventually drive out companies from the market that do not address it now.


The Indian IT industry has been riding the crest of the outsourcing wave, but incidents of security-related lapses have raised question marks about its sustained performance. Delivering quality product at cost effective price has been our core competence for long through our well-defined SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle) management practices and quality control. Security, however, remains to be integrated into the SDLC to improve this process.


Similarly, with sectors like banking and insurance which are highly sensitive to information security and other risks, molding one's business to incorporate secure best practices is imperative. This will ensure the customer's confidence in competence and the products or services offered.


The financial sector too forms one of the most critical sectors of the economy, and it is also the most vulnerable to security breaches. Now-a-days, with all transactions being made electronically, technology, the great enabler, has also made it easy to subvert the system for illegal and unethical practices. Risk mitigation and avoidance, therefore, must be included in the operational processes to ward of any mishap.


Similarly, with the hospitality industry, which needs to maintain high levels of customer security and privacy, establishing an aware and alert workforce and a competitive system to manage security remains a challenge.


The prevailing approach used by most organizations today is to build new solutions and adopt operational practices based on functional requirements, security invariably comes afterwards. Unfortunately, security cannot be separated from the product or operational process, if customers want to minimize potentially painful trade-offs among functionality, cost, schedule, and security. This flawed "build then evaluate" approach has lead to a perception that a secure solution is not a functional solution. Therefore, the requirement of a formal framework which would help integrate secure best practices into the operational processes of the organization.