At a Glance
"CGI appears to have found a great niche for what it is able to provide"
"Given the turbulent economy, CGI remains in a purchasing posture and is looking to buy, rather than be bought out"
"If you work on the cash-cow projects, career mobility is nonexistent"
"It takes several years before most people see their first promotion"
"Great, great culture"
"Was great when it was AMS"
Big and well prepared
CGI is a global IT consulting firm focusing primarily on five markets: financial services, health care and government, telecommunications and utilities, manufacturing, and retail and distribution. Its clients include 45 of the top-50 banks in the Americas and Europe, seven of the 10 largest global telecom carriers and major worldwide corporations working in aerospace, metals and mining, chemicals, and oil and gas. The firm also serves numerous retailers, government agencies and health care organizations. It maintains more than 100 offices in 15 countries, with 27,000 employees.
CGI operates through four practice areas: business process services, managed application services, systems integration and consulting, and technology management. Its service offerings are extensive, covering a broad range of information and process management, application development, testing, e-business, security, web hosting and business transformation. The firm has amassed a portfolio of more than 100 proprietary solutions.
CGI was founded in Quebec City in 1976 by Serge Godin. Quite young at the start (only 26), Godin would preside over 30 years of growth, including more than 80 acquisitions. He stepped down as CEO in 2006, succeeded by Michael Roach, but remains a significant fixture in the company through his new position as executive chairman of the board. Godin’s achievements were recognized in November 2007 through his induction to the Canada Business Hall of Fame.
In conjunction with Roach’s appointment as CEO, the company began to put more emphasis on strategic planning, new business development and overall expansion. The transition came during a difficult period in which revenue was declining and nearly 1,000 employees were laid off. However, the firm was able to bounce back somewhat after signing lucrative long-term contracts with Universal Insurance of North America (to manage business processes, worth US$75 million over seven years) and Cirque du Soleil (to provide IT infrastructure, worth US$130 million over 10 years).
And business continues to roll in. In March 2009, CGI subsidiary CGI Federal announced a $135 million, five-and-a-half-year contract to provide maintenance and enhancement for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The firm's role will be to update the systems' Medicare Advantage and Part D systems that handle data and transaction processing shared by government agencies, plan providers, pharmacies and retirement plans. It's not the first Medicare contract the firm's won, either, in addition to a $25 million contract to work on the Medicare appeals system awarded in February 2009, CGI picked up a five-year deal valued at $15 million in October 2008. Working with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, CGI Federal will provide maintenance and operational support for the Centers’ health plan management system, and ultimately convert it to a new technology architecture. Elsewhere in the health care industry, the firm signed a three-year deal with Medi-CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield in September 2008 to provide business process outsourcing services.
Calls are coming in from the financial services sector, as well. In June 2008, in deals collectively worth US$80 million, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited and BMO Financial Group each extended for seven years their contracts for use of CGI’s Proponix global trade platform. Proponix offers data management and reconciliation for multiple variables in global trading.
CGI automatically sets itself apart from competitors on its technology alone, offering more than 100 proprietary solutions and holding 25 U.S. patents. Some examples of its breakthroughs include: Momentum and AMS Advantage, both enterprise resource planning solutions designed for government agencies; CACSÂ® Enterprise, a collections system tailored for large organizations processing a high volume of accounts; ACLS Enterprise, a lending system allowing real-time processing of retail consumer credit products; eFluidTM, a customer relationship management and customer interaction system; Identicate, a security application that scans for identity theft; and Sovera for Human Resources, Health Information Management and Patient Financial Services, a document management application that converts paper documents to electronic images.
Wherever it’s needed
The firm doesn’t discriminate when it comes to global delivery, allowing clients to opt for on site, onshore, near shore, offshore or some combination of those. To strengthen its U.S. onshore delivery capabilities, the firm unveiled a new facility in December 2007 called the Southwest Virginia Technology Center of Excellence. Located in Lebanon, Va., the facility was praised by Governor Tim Kaine as being “an anchor of new economic development in the region.” The center can support 235 software developers and will improve the cost-effectiveness of CGI’s onshore offerings. To coincide with the opening, Donna Morea, the firm’s president of U.S. and Indian operations, presented the college of Virginia Tech with a $100,000 check toward the establishment of two separate scholarships for the school’s engineering and business programs.
CGI can lay claim to a number of awards and honors. In August 2008, it was named the best fit integrator by the Center for Digital Government. The firm was cited for its elegant designs and strong work teams in the areas of finance and administration. In June 2008, AT&T gave it a supplier recognition award for its reliability and excellence in service to the company and its affiliates. CGI has also appeared on multiple best-of lists. In 2007, MediaCorp Canada ranked it among Canada’s top-100 employers (out of 47,000 total); the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals placed it No. 12 out of the 100 best outsourcing providers; InformationWeek listed it as a top-100 global services company; and GovernmentVAR included it in a breakdown of the Top 100 Government Integrators.
The firm also makes the grade when it comes to industry certifications. CGI’s India-based software centers operate at CMMI Level 5, the peak quality rating as determined by the Software Engineering Institute. The firm was additionally the first North American IT company to achieve ISO 9001 certification for its project management framework. ISO 9001 status, as set by the International Organization for Standardization in Switzerland, recognizes a company’s commitment to disciplined business processes, and requires quarterly internal audits and assessments by an external registrar twice yearly.
A very good year
It's not only awards that the firm was celebrating at the end of 2008, however; it also showed a strong financial performance for the year, posting a revenue increase of 5.3 percent, up to $3.71 billion (that's Canadian coin, mind you). The value of new contracts signed throughout the year, meanwhile, increased by almost 30 percent, up to $4.15 billion, an increase of around $1 billion on 2007's totals.
Three rounds and you’re out (or in)
Insiders describe their firm’s hiring process as a fairly laid-back affair. It generally consists of a standard "three interview rounds after an initial HR screening" for experienced hires. One source reports that his "first round was a phone interview with HR," while the "second round was a phone interview with a team lead." The third round, meanwhile, "was a face-to-face interview with project staff," followed by a fourth and final round with a director and VP. A cohort, meanwhile, reports a similar experience, adding that "the interview had no case study questions, just a lot of the typical questions such as ‘why CGI,’ strengths/weaknesses, consulting and working with clients as well as other experience-related questions."
For college hires, meanwhile, CGI recruits "in schools near the office. Then the recruits go to CGI for one afternoon for a series of interviews." A recent college recruit describes the process thusly: "I had a 30-minute phone interview, followed by a half-day of interviews consisting of a lunch with a recent hire, Q&A with an HR rep, two 30-minute interviews, and then a wrap-up session with the same HR rep."
OUR SURVEY SAYS
CGI insiders describe their company as a "fairly relaxed" place to work: "The culture here at CGI is business casual with regard to office atmosphere, not exclusively the dress," says one source. Indeed, the relaxed concept appears to apply to everything from flexible scheduling, when possible, to a collaborative culture. "There is an understanding that people are expected to deliver and contribute to their projects, but at the same time people are relaxed, friendly and helpful," a consultant states.
The only time the firm's employees seem to stiffen up, in fact, is when there are clients around. Not only does dress code switch to "business/tie at the client site," but the culture "can be intense about meeting some client deadlines."
"If you do not like IT consulting, then CGI is not the place for you"
As the header suggests, those thinking of applying to CGI need to be aware that the firm expects a high level of technical knowledge in all positions. Further, one insider has the following counsel for job seekers: "Do not take a job here thinking that a nontechnical role will be strictly business processes/operations-oriented, because it is not." While that may suggest something of a dependence on people with technical rather than "soft" skills, sources say "most co-workers are a pleasure to be around during work and after work hours." It also means that the firm is "not too hierarchical, as employees are usually respected more for functional and technical expertise than for their title."
That outlook is perhaps a result of the fact that some employees believe there is "relatively low career development" at CGI. On the promotions front, insiders report that "if they come, they seem to come around the six- or seven-year mark," albeit "with exceptions." Those exceptions are perhaps why one employee describes the promotions process as "fluid and flexible," pointing out that "some people get promoted from consultant to senior consultant in three years, while others can take 10 years." In short, CGI isn't an up-or-out kind of place. And even when the "ups" do come around, we’re told they "do not necessarily come with raises."
Maybe you’ll get lucky
CGI seems to be similarly reluctant to dole out either training or mentoring to its employees. "There is no formal mentoring program after the employees first few weeks, and the training is limited, though CBT training is plentiful," one staffer reports. According to a consultant in New York, at least part of that is down to the individual managers: "Certain managers are great to work for and are great mentors, while other managers are just there because they are old timers within the company but have very little leadership and decision-making skills."
A tough balancing act
As with most consulting firms, working hours vary "depending on the project," which of course is another way of saying they depend on the demands of the client. "If you end up working on a large engagement on a client site," says one source, "there will be virtually no work/life balance since you will be asked to work long hours." Not only that, but "more than likely you'll end up losing your vacation time."
Still, for the average CGI consultant, work/life balance is constantly in flux, with one source perhaps summing it up best with this description: "Overall, I am able to balance work and life. I have been able to be a volunteer coach the past few years. Most years, I was able to make practice once a week. One year, though, when I was on a project with a demanding client and a strict deadline, I didn't make practice as often as I'd like."
Similarly, the need to travel "very much depends on the project that your are on," as well as "your experience level." An insider points out that "for many projects that have long term engagement with clients, CGI has a permanent presence on site." That’s good news if that site happens to be near your home base, not so good if it's in a different state.
The firm expects its consultants to stay billable, and doesn't seem to tolerate slackness. "The only time I'm not billable is when I take vacation/personal time off," says one consultant. "CGI does not believe in having employees on the bench. If you're benched, you're given two weeks to find a new assignment within CGI. If you don't find one, you will be let go."
Sources tell us that the company is similarly mercenary when it comes to bonus payments. While the general perception is that "compensation is fair and within the market," respondents say "CGI does not give signing bonuses," although there are occasional exceptions for "some new college hires." And, apart from 401(k) matching and a stock purchase program, CGIers don't report much in the way of extra benefits. "There's supposed to be a profit-sharing program," says one, "but most employees have never received a penny from it."
On the diversity front, meanwhile, CGI employees don't say much, but what they do say is generally positive. Apparently, "CGI does as excellent job of promoting women into leadership roles," a fact verified by an insider who reports that "there are a large number of women at the team lead, manager and director levels." Not so hot, however, is that "there aren't many women at the VP level," while "there are no women on CGI's board of directors." A consultant in New York, meanwhile, believes that "most minorities [at CGI] are of Asian descent."
Hoping reputation will speak for itself
CGI consultants seem to be relatively upbeat about the future, especially in the public-sector realm. Says one respondent, "Among public-sector clients, CGI has a decent outlook. However, due to the current financial state of the economy, there are very few private-sector clients left on CGI's roster." As for broadening its prospects in the future, we’re told the firm relies on the quality of its brand to drive further business. "CGI does not do extensive advertising, but rather relies on the quality of its work to win new contracts and renew existing ones." Let’s hope for the best!
1130 Sherbrooke Street West
Montreal H3A 2M8
Phone: (514) 841-3200
Employer Type: Public
Stock Symbol: GIB
Stock Exchange: NYSE
President and CEO: Michael E. Roach
2010 Employees (All Locations): 26,000