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The IT and ITES space is in a state of metamorphosis. Evidence from employment loss for lakhs of IT professionals, falling campus recruitment and demand for IT & associated courses, closure of engineering colleges, reduced fees to attract enrollment for IT courses, falling remuneration for freshers and salary growth rate for the employed and lower growth rate and profitability of companies in the tech space are too stark to be ignored. The industry is undergoing paradigm shifts in terms of nature of services in demand, client expectations, employer expectations from IT professionals, shifting business models and associated demands on employee competence. Leading firms have been sensing this impending transition, preparing for it and leading the shift, for some time; using the same as a service offering differentiator for competitive advantage and higher consultant rates. This shift reflected in fixed price contracts, end to end service, IT / business consulting as against supplying techies on a T&M model. What was a differentiator, competitive advantage and premium service is now an imperative,; compulsive requirement for survival in the space.
One of the major areas for consideration is the key input that drives the industry: the IT and ITES professionals’ skills and competence. The leaders, recognizing this, are in a transformation mode in terms of the new role definitions, attributes of the key resource: the human resources, to effectively transform to the new paradigm.
Rediscovery to align with industry transformation
In sync with the reemergence, there has been learning and tweaking on all aspects of the industry: business model, skill set classification, role definitions, expectations, transition from a technical role carrying out mundane activities to a techno domain managerial role across levels, sensitivity to client’s output and outcome needs, business’ expectation from value delivered vis-à-vis task level achievement, as metrics for performance assessment and remuneration.
Transformation in division of labour, roles, responsibilities, competencies and expectations is on the cards. As against narrow areas of specialization that prevailed in early stages of the industry, transformation to a holistic / rounded role and sensitivity to client business needs, ability to deliver outcome; are the new rules of the game. Though this was brewing even during the early good times and used to be communicated through client delivery-expectation gap feedback, the service sellers’ market could afford to ignore it. No more now!
The IT specialist is now expected to deliver (holistic) value to the business of the client, a solution provider; which was considered an additional selling point, but is now an essential for staying in business. Clients and service providers are in a cost cutting and value generation mode, have recognized the need to upgrade skills of techies to enable them to appreciate and deliver clients’ business expectations from IT services.
What PCG offers
A team of experienced management professionals from PCG: MBA engineers with decades of consulting, industry and academic experience, who have worked in boundary functions, interfacing with clients, who understand business needs of clients, are offering training on management basics for fresh as well as in-service IT professionals. The program will equip participants to meet clients’ stated and implied expectations, move up the value chain, be on top of the client in professional interactions, help resolve business issues, engage effectively with clients, be able to demonstrate value to client and thereby demand enhanced fees for services provided.
Trained IT professionals will seamlessly be able to transform to high end IT / business consultants as against low end IT service providers. Such transformation will enhance billing opportunity / value for fixed price services. It will help the individual rise up the ladder; assume managerial roles and employer valuing him. The paradigm shift will transform the value perception from a pure IT techie to that of an IT consultant /professional.
The training will be imparted on fundamentals of management, even for those who do not have any formal management training, to equip them to be able to handle their roles effectively and seamlessly. A three tier training program is proposed (a) for freshers, on basics (b) for middle level team with 8 to 10 years’ experience on managerial competence for tactical level and (c) for senior management on strategic issues.
Training programs can be exclusive Organization based programs at client premises or for a group of companies at a common location or as public programs needing registration for anyone qualifying and interested. The duration proposed is: at junior levels of about 150 to 180 hours spread over 30-40 days, for middle level of 15 to 30 days duration of 75 to 150 hours, and for top level of about 30 to 40 hours. The program can be designed for group’s specific needs.
The training will have elements of class room training on basic concepts, quizzes and exercises, project works, presentations, team works, role plays, case studies. Industry requirements such as marketing, proposal preparation, client management, negotiations, project monitoring and management, financial aspects, HR aspects, risk analysis, contracts, will be given due weightage.
The program will lay emphasis on individual development, confidence building, emotional maturity, communication and soft skills, tolerance for ambiguity, entrepreneurship, social intelligence, distilling reality from hype. Faculty will be practicing Engineer- MBAs with managerial / consulting / training experience in the IT and non IT industry. Faculty will also comprise trained experienced counsellors for participants to interact at a personal level.
Know Your Enemy With-in – The Void Between Knowledge and Competence
Disconnect between knowledge and performance has been a subject of debate for long. Conclusive evidence on relevance of education for success in life and the correlation between individual professional growth and academic performance are still elusive. Undisputed however are instances of achievers in career, business or profession who had either been dropouts or mediocre in their academic achievement. So are cases of poor fit between academic performance and success in real life. Such reality drives one to surmise that academic performance or (its surrogate) knowledge alone does not lead to success in life and academics in isolation is not an essential prerequisite for success.
It is important to demystify the role of complementary individual factors (skills, capabilities, traits, attitudes, mind-sets and achievement orientation, tolerance for risk and ambiguity, legacy factors, cultural context) that play a role in determining achievement in whatever one pursues. Success only relates to goal achievement and does not stray into the area as to what goals are worth pursuing or considered laudable. We need to delve into factors that drive success beyond certified academic achievements.
Training is essential to bridge the void between knowledge of management gained from formal management programs and real world demands on practice of management. It exposes limitations to application of concepts in isolation in the context of accelerating obsolescence of management theories. Recognition of obsolescence is essential across the spectrum more so in the transforming tech industry. The intent is not to belittle value from education, but to sensitise graduates and practitioners on nurturing an open mind, on continuous learning and applying knowledge with contextual sensitivity. The course is aimed at practising and aspiring managers, entrepreneurs and anyone, to introduce them to the practice of management and its finer nuances one encounters in day-to-day life.
Every human being is a manager irrespective of his/her social /economic status and the profession he/she is in. Simple, but not-so-obvious messages are considered essential to practise what is learnt in formal schools, though many of these learnings would have been put to use unconsciously in our daily grind.
Our educational system fails to address critical elements essential to effectively put into practice, the knowledge acquired from an undergraduate /graduate program. Students of formal programs are handicapped by having no one to ask, not knowing what to ask, even feeling diffident to ask for fear of ridicule; until they are confronted with situations the like of which will be illustrated in the training.
The syndrome of holding back genuine simple questions by students and admonishing the one raising the question by the teacher hasn’t died down in our social milieu and educational system. Regressive educational system and medieval mind-set of the teaching community offer space for mentors to bridge the gap between knowledge and practice. Real-life situations are visualised only when one is confronted with or when they are presented in a no-holds-barred manner; not presented as gift-wrapped knowledge in classrooms. When people try to apply knowledge from formal education innocently, gaps between the tool and its effective application, surface, as surprises.
Formal education rarely addresses all possible variants in real-life situation for which a tool (set of tools) is expected to be applied. Formal education largely addresses theory, principles, concepts and their mechanistic application in near-ideal situations. Real-life situations are never ideal, but are open systems notorious for complexity, cacophony, unpredictability and inconsistency.
Questions such as what mix of tools to use, where, when, how, how much, how to tweak the elements, when not to use despite theory suggesting to the contrary, how to provide for situations that the theory doesn’t cater for and intelligent use of knowledge, are rarely addressed.
Such gaps in our education are generally filled in by a mentor or a coach, on the job, during apprenticeship, who interprets situations for the intern, in the context of the theory. He / she also extends the comfort and confidence to carve a judicious just-in-time amalgam of concepts, apply them, interpret the outcome and continuously tweak to arrive at desired results.
This free-wheeling dialogue is what the training will attempt to achieve, to give the participant a sense of what to expect and how to handle it. The role of the program is essentially is to be a coach, mentor, a counsel not a lecturer on theory. This is not a replacement for text books nor can a text book replace it.
The program will chronicle evolution of management theories, touch upon transitions in management concepts over time, contrarian views on some of the much celebrated management theories and models, management as an open system and the significance of soft elements (organisation and individual levels) as much as the hard elements. It will address the issue of employability and complimentary traits expected of graduates.
A compendium of drivers of success and failure in goal attainment, it attempts to expose individual thought processes guiding actions and less discussed, but intrinsic and practised. Thought processes make people who they are. It is a distilled essence of mind-sets, situational experiences, observation, analysis, learnings from practice.
We believe there are no short cuts and smart tips to achievement; only hard conscientious effort. The program aims to open the participants’ mind to unravel the self, others and the environment around, come up with own ways to achieve one’s goal. Strategies to goal achievement vary across individuals, each devising methods in harmony with the self and contextual factors. There is no one right approach, there could be many. The intent is to expose the possibilities and the mental blocks we carry in decisively choosing a path, that impede our progress. Self-awareness helps overcome self- inflicted roadblocks to reach our goal.
The program may sound hilarious and radical; aggressive, and challenging practices masked as espoused idealism; a deliberate attempt to expose participants to realities, guiding one into actions considered essential. Recall the adage: what they don’t teach in Harvard but essential to apply what is learnt in Harvard.
Education systems dwell on solutions with an implied caveat: everything else remaining constant. Real world elements neither surface as standalone nor are they constant. They exert considerable influence over everything around, multiplying the complexity. The earth doesn’t stop turning around its axis for someone to execute a meticulously carved business plan.
The intent is to expose and recognise the turbulence we encounter every day and significance of the mind behind the matter, in handling the shocks. The program conceptualisation has gained from handling several assignments for management students from universities across the globe the author has undertaken, decades of management consulting practice, association with management education, management students, employers and those employed.
We have witnessed highly accomplished people driven from their state of holistic comfort to one of drudgery, due to extreme disconnect between their illusions and the ways of the real world. They live in a world of their own making with an artificial shell around them, to seek comfort and avoid interaction with the real world with its variety, uncertainty and imperfections. The belief that retreating into a shell will relieve the individual of the effort to understand, are, at best, illusions. There is a need for developing coping mechanisms to deal with the real world. Withdrawal is never a solution to a problem. It helps in denial and, at best, a short-term relief, but not a solution. A solution is found when we take the bull by the horns and handle the problem as a challenge, not as a nuisance that vanishes if we deny its existence. Some primitive communities with low worldly exposure carry the notion that not discussing an issue will make it disappear
The program will have experience sharing among participants to boost ones’ self-confidence, remove stage / audience fear, learning from others’ experience, dispelling guilt and shame from notion of failure, pre-empting reinventing the wheel and shortening the learning curve. Experience sharing relieves participants from the discomfort of exposure of ignorance or seeking help on difficult situations.
There is near unanimity in the perception that, a void exists between what is taught and learnt and what one experiences in the real world. A fresher realises the swings between what he has learnt and the practices he is confronted with, in real organisations. The tools and tricks he has learnt do not seem to work the way he has been made to believe. We attempt to expose some of these anomalies in a participative mode, with the intent to introduce the reader to this void. It alerts the participant to be on guard while using tools and techniques, the need to carry a fresh mind, not to take theories as absolute truth and true for ever. Most theories get revisited, challenged or rewritten as fresh concepts, fresh considerations emerge and new practices evolve. The practitioner needs to be alert, to challenge his own understanding.
Driven by compulsions turning into opportunities for learning and the brazen courage to question popular wisdom, the objective is to share the experience, in order that it may be of value to others, avoid same mistakes, can anticipate and be prepared to handle situations better. It is about what one could expect while traversing this path, how one could handle the turbulence and discover your real you. There is no one right trajectory to success. The choice depends on contextual factors, emotional traits of the individual traversing the path and competence to steer through.