Interview: Monty Bharali (Head-HR, DSTWS) shares his experience with the People CMM® in a BPO-IT context

Monty Bharali Photo-1Monty Bharali (Monty for short) is, as he says, forever 32 (not too old and not too young). He has worked with organizations like Satyam Computers before joining DSTWS. He has been a speaker at many conferences. He believes that his experiences on implementation of the People CMM® will add value to fellow professionals.

[Update: DST Worldwide Services, India was appraised and rated at maturity level 3 of the People CMM® in Aug 2011]

Q:           Please tell us something about your professional history/ background

A:            I did my graduation from the University of Madras and my masters in management from the Symbiosis, Pune. I joined Satyam (now Mahindra Satyam) in 1998 and left them after 10 years as the Head of HR for their Business Intelligence and Consulting and Enterprise Solutions teams. I joined DST Worldwide Services, India as Head – HR 3 years ago.

Q:           Now tell us about your organization, DSTWS

A:            DSTWS, India is a 100% subsidiary of the US based MNC, DST Systems (revenue of USD 2.3 billion as of December, 2010). The firm focuses on IT as well as ITES offerings, largely to the parent firm. Primary verticals of expertise are the mutual fund and healthcare services. Presently DSTWS India has close to 1100 associates based out of Hyderabad.

Q:           When and how did you start the journey with the People CMM® model at DSTWS?

Right from the time DSTWS India (in its present form) came into existence in late 2008, we wanted to work towards benchmarking of our people related practices. An Executive Management decision was taken in mid 2009 to pursue the People CMM® over the next 2 years with the target of being maturity level 3 compliant by mid to late 2011. The intent was to make sure that the  implementation was done in letter and spirit for each of the people practices of the model (up to process areas of ML 3).

Q:           What were the expectations in terms of what the model would do for DSTWS?

A:            We wanted the model to give us an edge. We wanted to be an “Employer of Choice“. We wanted a rounded approach to associates’ growth and development in terms of their career, competency, work-place support and long-term association with DSTWS.  We also believed that adherence to the model will make sure that these practices are sustained and welcomed over a period of time.

Q:           What preconditions/ foundation did you lay out at the start of the journey?

A:            An overall buy-in from the senior management – that people processes are not just about HR (in fact it’s not about HR at all), it’s about business taking care of the most important (quite possibly the only) factor that is essential to their existence, i.e., their associates .The acceptance of business leadership that people practices are an important part of their business was the most important initial prerequisite.

Q:           Please explain the extent of involvement of other executive managers in the whole implementation

A:            As stakeholders, the entire senior management group (IT Head, BPO Head, HR Head, Finance Head and the Country Head) was closely involved throughout the program. The group was in charge of validating, understanding and taking charge of various aspects of the implementation. Not only were they involved in driving parts of the implementation but they were instrumental in helping the HR team evolve and correct many of these processes to ensure greater usability and acceptability by people in the business groups. Subsequently, as it stands now, they have taken the responsibility of many of these systems/ processes.

Q:           What was the expectation in terms of the timeline for successful appraisal? Was that met? Did you have to extend it?

A:            While there was an ambitious timeline to complete the same by first quarter of 2011, we re-calibrated it to May-June 2011 (24 months) after the initial gap analysis. The final appraisal was completed in Aug 2011 (26 months instead of 24).

Q:           What kind of external expertise and help did you resort to? Did this help you?

A:            External expertise is a necessity when one is running an initiative like the People CMM®. Otherwise, one is blinkered by one’s limited experience of how these initiatives are run; external expertise truly helps in multiple ways.

  1. External experts bring in best practices and innovative approaches from other places, to give an example: our use of learning maps for competency development was significantly strengthened with external help.
  2. It also helps to have someone look at us from the outside and suggest areas where one may not see the obvious issues (being insiders, and having reached a comfort zone).
  3. External expertise is also useful for preparation towards appraisal in terms of a systematic approach, and planned collection and cataloguing of artifacts.

External expertise was provided by Prakash Hegde and Chinmay Pradhan of QAI.

Q:           Please do tell us about the key benefits experienced by DSTWS. Were they in line with the original expectations? Better? Worse?

A:            Multiple benefits were experienced both in terms of organizational improvement and organizational branding by us. The key benefits are:

  1. All round improvement in people processes especially those concerning Performance Management, Competency Framework, and Competency Development. The most wonderful part is that, now business extensively drives and uses some of the people processes.
  2. As an employer, especially in a niche space, it is a great comfort for potential hires (especially from the best IT firms) when we say that we are operating at ML3 of the People CMM® .
  3. We’ve been able to use this result for branding through press releases, client communications and participation in industry events.

Q:           What kind of organizational transformations did you observe during this journey?

Monty Bharali Photo-2A:            The transformation was both dramatic and extensive. We moved from taking our first steps as a process driven organization to an organization with institutionalized people processes. All round performance management, transparent compensation philosophy, HR being an integral part of business planning are no longer aspirations, they’re now a reality. Planning for talent acquisition, development and retention today has absolute credibility because business has clearly seen benefits. Additionally, some of the automated systems were created and matured during the journey (like Credence, the performance management system).

Q:           Were there any false steps that you had to undo, retrace or roll back?

A:            Our interpretation and understanding of process areas evolved during the journey, and hence the implementation underwent considerable modification. Some examples:

  1. Our understanding of Workgroup Development (a process area of the model) was limited to cross-functional teams having an objective. It was only later  we realized that we had to run cross-functional teams like any other project – with milestones,  detailed plans, tracking, and formal closure.
  2. We had to make several minor changes to our processes and templates to ensure that the inter-linkages are tight. For example – are we using the same competency definitions during hiring as well as later for existing staff? Or, how accurately are we assessing the competencies during the hiring/ selection process?
  3. Introducing “effectiveness” measures across the board – For example, how are the learning interventions resulting in competency development? How are they linked to overall organizational performance?

Q:           Does the rest of the organization view the HR function in a different light now? In what way has that changed?

A:            HR was always been a fairly integral part of the business in DSTWS, India. What we clearly see as changed is the perception of HR as a value adding group, instead of just an internal service group. HR is now seen as supplanting business with initiatives like business dashboards, competency databases, and participating actively in RFPs.

Q:           You have two major components of your organization – IT services and BPO. In what way was the implementation of People CMM® different in these two parts?

A:            At the outset, we believed that being a reasonably small (or at best mid-sized firm of around 1100 people), we would want the entire organization to be covered as part of the implementation. The greatest challenge faced was the diverse demographics – average age, average tenure, understanding levels, and cultural acceptance of initiatives across these two groups. The approach therefore needed to be nuanced to factor in the differences.

We saw this trend in the entire competency related process areas, career development, and workgroup development process areas.

One advantage that we had in IT part of DSTWS was that most of the people were familiar with CMMI® and knew what to expect, what was the logic, what steps needed to be followed. In case of the ITES (BPO) part, while there was great acceptance of the concept, it took long to establish the “how” parts. That aside, in DSTWS, India, both BPO and IT got closely involved in each and every activity. In some initiatives like creation of the competency dictionary and learning maps, both the units competed with each other.

Q:           Would you be aiming for ML 5 now? If not, why not?

A:            We would be firstly looking to maintain our ML3 for a while and incorporate some strong practices of mentoring and performance alignment from ML4 and ML5.

Q:           How do you plan to sustain, change and improve?

A:            Sustaining is the most challenging aspect of the People CMM®. Since it’s not directly related to delivery to customers, it’s easy to take your eyes off the ball. We plan to sustain by continuously doing internal audits on the implementation (we will take the help of the ATMs and the internal quality team). Additionally, we also plan to engage external consultants to guide us through both the compliance as well as improvements before the re-appraisal.

Q:           In your assessment what elements are likely to slip, if you don’t keep a close watch?

A:            The greatest risk lies with making sure workgroup development, competency development, succession planning, and competency based practices  are sustained.

Q:           Is there anything you would like to tell/ convey to the readers?

A:            Yes, there is — Don’t do P-CMM® because you want a certificate for HR. Get involved because you want to truly become an organization with the best people practices. Get involved in P-CMM® after convincing all stakeholders that P-CMM® is people related practices and not HR practices.

Finally, have fun along the way — for everyone who believes in people practices there is a lot to learn and a lot to share in this journey (and it’s not a short journey).

Monty Bharali Phato-3Monty lives in Hyderabad. He may be contacted at

Monty recently presented the DST People CMM® experience at the SPIN Hyderabad conference/ tutorial.

Monty’s is also available on LinkedIn

Thank you, Monty, for sharing your experiences and insights!

Other related posts uploaded on the same blog:


The views presented above represent the personal views of Monty Bharali and are in no manner reflective of the official views of DSTWS, or AlignMentor or any other organization, community, group, or association.

I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here.

19 thoughts on “Interview: Monty Bharali (Head-HR, DSTWS) shares his experience with the People CMM® in a BPO-IT context”

  1. Great insights, Monty.

    One of the unique facets of your journey was how the entire leadership team was synchronized and committed to ensuring that at the overall direction level, employees across the IT and BPO units had a consistent “DST” experience, while factoring in the nuances specific to each.

    And the manner in which the entire PCMM initiative was managed as a typical project, with an eye on milestones and goals and impacts, could be a great example for other organizations embarking on such a Change initiative.


    1. Hi Prakash,

      indeed, PCMM was a journey of transformation, and transformation necessitates intense involvement of all layers of management especially senior management. Before we started our journey, we were very clear in our minds that the leadership needs to understand, appreciate and buy – in. To that very purpose, we actually had a general overview with the entire leadership spread across an entire day before we actually jumped into the actual first steps of the initiative.
      If we call ourselves a truly global services organization, then truly this initiative just like any complex project needed to be managed, observed, corrected and bettered upon all along the way —- and of course, QAI had a very big part to play in it. Thank you guys.

  2. Hello Rajesh, Monty, discussion. From Prakash;s interview we understood the Consultant’s perspective, whereas we got an internal perspective from Monty. Its great to see how the top management consistently support the PCMM program which is extremely vital. Interesting insights in terms of the areas of external intervention and sustenance strategies.

    Thanks guys for a wonderful interview!

    Look forward for more.


    1. Thanks Srikanth, its always encouraging to be in the company of like minded folks.

      I truly believe, people practices will be the cutting edge when all other inputs into any organization are more or less of a similar quality.

  3. Hi Monty – Thanks for nicely outlining the challenges of P-CMM from an Implementer’s standpoint in a small organisation – Ramesh

  4. I would totally agree with everything Monty said – as it is so typical of successful implementations of the practices embodied in the People CMM. I would differ with Monty only on one point – and it is not that he is wrong – but that others may find value in different implementations – and that issue is the use of outside consultants. Some organizations find it useful to have outside consultants help with the implementation, others find that these consultants are useful to helping guide gap analysis to identify pain points and then to help do the benchmarking appraisals, preferring to invest in internal resources for implementation. That is truly a decision that is a resources and capabilities management question for the organization. Either way, it is crucial to develop that capability to deploy and manage using higher level practices to enable the continual improvement of the organization and its capabilities.

    Best Regards,
    bill hefley

  5. Dear Dr. Hefley,

    In our case too in the longer context of sustenance, its been the internal resources who’ve been and in the future will be the pillars of implementation in DSTWS, India.

    We’ve attempted to build a pool of internal practitioners with reasonable understanding of the model. We believe that to make sure that the momentum which is built up leading to the assessment isn’t squandered, there has to be continuous internal involvement – of HR associates, of associates from the business teams, and internal auditors ( if available ).

    In our case ( especially since this was our first assessment ), we’ve decided to make sure we intermittently still get checked upon by an external consultant, just to keep us honest – but like you very correctly advised, this is an organization specific reality.

    Thank you for the words of encouragement, means a great deal coming from you.


  6. Great to read about the business benefits of using the people CMM to improve people management processes. The benefits described are clear and real. I also agree that managers and HR should collaborate to make it a success. Thanks Monty for sharing this with us!

    1. Thanks Ben for your kind thoughts, truly when the business works together with the business enabling groups, we can experience the real business benefits of good people practices, we at DSTWS, India are priveleged to have these beliefs in the organization.

  7. Dear Monty … great reading your experiences… To me the biggest takeaway is your last answer … on HR Certificate org v/s best practices in the org !

  8. Thanks for the interview covering the People CMM. This is useful as we are also trying to implement the model in our organization.

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