The “I am too busy” syndrome

            By Sairam Bollapragada

The work/life balance issues have been plaguing the modern day work cultures and IT industry in particular. The imbalance has come in where people do not know how to manage the time and when to point in logical concluding points. It leads to an ineffective life as you find out that if you were truly being effective, then you will definitely have more satisfaction both personally and professionally.

The redone phrase talks about – “I am busy with escalations” and escalations are used for showing off the decorations that people who work only get escalations and not otherwise. Hence the busyness. But busyness has become a glorified stat -. A badge of honour. The new martyrdom.

I am busy

If you hear yourself talking like a “busy person” and not an effective one, then it is time to make some changes. If you have been claiming you are busy, people are already concluding that this person is not worth investing time and money with. There are various messages getting conveyed:

  • Let me manage my time first
  • I am as it is struggling
  • Please let me do my work first
  • I am really tied up to make my ends meet
  • You will never say I am free as my credibility is at stake
  • You don’t do anything extra or for free
  • You don’t seem to work hard enough
  • You might have free time but I am really constructively engaged
  • My time is precious and not yours
  • I am a busy person as I don’t want my boss to have another perception
  • …and many more.

The modern day knowledge worker (and we are all one) feels that the society must see him as somebody who is working a lot for the employer. Hence he LOOKS busy.

One of the modern worker was heard saying to his brother “..I am awfully busy so if you intend to speak to me, please call up my wife and understand from her my schedule. If I am not she will put you across to me!” The sad part of this entire stigma is the focus on relationships is being lost. The folks who cannot take the pressure of work treat their own work as a favour to the world.

However if you were building the impression that you have already arrived, you need to understand that these stances become deterrents to the long term relationships. In one of the instances, a person stopped calling on his relative for 15 long years as he was sick of hearing to the same statement everyday – “he is very hard working and hence busy”.

Some of the means and mechanisms to get this balance back in life for modern day workers are:

Make a list of your inner-beliefs. Prioritize what’s most to what’s least important to you. Next make a list of your outside commitments. Do they match? Are you losing anything by not doing something – be your own time-auditor. You are your own greatest stakeholder and there are no brownies on getting this one.

  1. Know yourself

Start seeing yourself for who you truly are—whether you like it or not, whether it’s politically or socially acceptable or not. You are who you are, so work with it – not against it. Success is not always a measure of BUSYNESS outcomes. The successful people are simply most organized, focused, efficient and set their priorities right.

  1. Develop your persona – offline

Your life is more an extension of your profession. Your profession is what should drive the benefits to better your personal life. When you cannot spend the good/bad/ugly moments with your family members, the entire purpose of your existence is lost. Nobody cares if you could not attend your kid’s birthday if you had a meeting at office and hence got delayed – every time. They learn watching the elders and this may become the most unwanted ROI when you need them in old age.

  1. Pay attention

I have seen instances where a couple or a family sitting at a restaurant are busy chatting – all by themselves – over social media. The idea of a family get-together and dining together is to connect. Connected they are but not to each other. I have known people who manage to get more than one cell phone to prove they are too busy. Some go to an extent as to when they call upon others for tea or meals, they speak less to the audience and more to their phones. The sensitivities attached to respecting other’s times can really make or break relationships – business or personal. I know of one of the most successful business leaders in IT industry, who would switch off his phone while meeting somebody and ask the visitor also to do the same to have a focused and meaningful conversation. The divided attention can spread you thin and inconclusive.

  1. Listen more

Many people thrive on bragging.  I am sure people have many brownies to mention but when you listen, you gather more ideas. Listening is another critical success factor which helps you to obtain others perspectives which widens your horizon of wisdom. Listen more and listen attentively.

  1. Don’t Overpromise:

One of the key components of effectiveness is to not over-promise. Humility is a wonderful virtue that lends itself to this kind of good behavior, and often leads to under-promising and over-delivering. That’s where you want to be and should be. Always under-promise and over-perform. It will leave you with loads of satisfaction, much gratified and successful.

Finally, one needs to be honest about their talent – at least to themselves! Being realistic about ones talents, interests, available time, connections(and we often get lost here with expectations), and  motivation can save oneself and the others around a lot of wasted time, anger, and money.

People want to believe in and reach out to the “best in people” not the “best people”. So the question you should not ask yourself is – are you PERCIEVED the best! You should ask- what is in me that the folks would reach out to me for?

The best thing you can do for others as well as yourself is to be as realistic as possible about who you are, what you like, and what you are willing to commit to. They want to believe in you and will believe a lot of what you say so make sure what you say is real!!

Digital Workforce: Next Gen Engineers as Assets

Digital Workforce: Next Gen Engineers as Assets

By Sairam Bollapragada

The IT industry service providers are right now struggling with means and mechanisms to transform the existing workforce to adopt and adapt the Digital skills. As they keep stepping deeper and deeper, the journey seems to be getting more difficult and complex. The lateral folks resting on their laurels for long are finding it difficult to put their arms around the new technology and software engineering changes demanded as the industry as a whole seems to be suffering from inertia, built over more than a decade.

The technological advances in the past 2-3 years have been going at a phenomenal pace. The platforms, packages, penetration of Social Media, Mobile apps, transformation to Cloud, Analytics being used as a primary R&D tool for almost all domains, and latest being the IoT – all have brought in compulsive factors in each of the industrial domain. It now looks like no industry will survive without embracing technology.

Many of the technologies/platforms that we hear today in the IT industry never existed 8-10 years ago like Raspberry Pi, Xively, Thingworx, Mahout, Apache KafKa, IBM Bluemix, Osmosis, etc – and to add further to the pace, what we see today maybe just the 40% of what we will see in the next 5 years!!  The bright minds would be needed in every organization to drive the adoption and delivery of solutions using these technologies.

The Next wave of engineers who will come out by 2017-18  hold the key. When I speak to them on the transformations and new developments today, they seem to understand most of the emerging areas, thinking like professionals who are ready to learn, execute and conquer the new technological frontiers beckoning them. Many with right support of the campuses are ideating like never before. Many are taking on the mantle of becoming entrepreneurs and donning a techno-commercial hat. They are able to talk, like the typical maverick innovative thinkers. Though many would think that’s not what we want, I would contest that this is what is needed now. If we cannot think out of the box, the conventional approach will spell a disaster.

The IT Organizations (especially those in service industry) are running aggressive internal transformation programs, some in a focused and some on discretionary ways, but the attention and absorption being quite low, the grip on the handle is a suspect. Hence the infusion of the new blood to mix and rejuvenate the read-to-learn experienced folks will create the new organizations which will sustain the next five years, if not the decade.

The young engineering students pursuing technology to graduate in 2017-18 will have bigger challenge to close the gaps between what was taught in earlier part of the curriculum and what is being rolled out in the current curriculum. The following will come true in the next few years:

  1. There will be unprecedented collaboration between industries and academia to create unique products on mass scale. Both will come together to create a more vibrant workforce for facing the upcoming market competition and demands.
  2. Project works or internships may start assuming more significance as IoT areas would require more hands on than being limited to a theoretical exercise. Industries would demand longer duration of projects/internships. It would extend from 6-12 months than the current 3-4 months. The top students would get paid heavily by the Indian outfits.
  3. More internal labs and incubation centers would find places alongside customer CoEs, co-created between service providers, academia, product vendors and customers. All would focus to create innovative market disruptors and hence may unleash a fierce but healthy competition between the internal lines of business. Perhaps a mini Technology office within each delivery unit will be a need for the next 4-5 years.
  1. With the above, more patents are expected to be created and the IP creation will become a buzzword to swear by, more aggressively.
  1. Cloud, Mobility and Analytics will no longer be niche areas and every IT professional has to understand about few of these areas to decent levels of depth. Hence each delivery unit will need to have architects in these areas embedded into their organization.

With this being the futuristic scenario, the existing workforce will have quite a bit to bite and chew. The organizations struggling to wriggle out of the historical structures (especially ones where personality based organization structures have been a trend) would need to be dismantled. Every organization would need to re-incarnate themselves with a heavy focus on the next generation engineers playing a heavy role in the transformation. The quality of engineers will be focus and the pay packs are slated to surge up. Hence the intake may be limited to those who can walk the talk.

New roles or positions pertaining to IoT like IoT Node Experts, IoT Middleware Experts, Things Mobile Experts, Things Ux experts, Things Domain experts, IoT Security experts, IoT Account managers, etc will be soon found marking themselves high amongst the recruiters. Many may move to crowd-sourcing than outsourcing.

The screening of academia and staff will also play a vital role in the job offers as everybody would strive to get the best to stay ahead of the curve. Mediocrity will no longer be an option.

The same would apply to the existing workforce. Every experienced professional would find himself under the heat to learn the new technologies, new terminologies, and new methods of planning, estimation and governance. Those who don’t welcome the change with open arms and mind would find themselves fading away too soon. The timeframes for the reaction and change would be too short.

The loading of entry level technically strong guys will create a healthy competition to learn and excel. This will lead to refresh in the organizations both technically and the amalgamation will constitute new organization, just not the structures.

Hence the organizations would need to create leaders who are solid technically, have demonstrated technology management skills, and can lead the organization into the next wave. The organizations would depend on these visionaries to create this amalgamated organization between the old and new breed, to deliver the best of the hybrid race to ride the digital tiger.

The Digital Era Learner: re-wiring your skills

by Sairam Bollapragada & Riyaz Mulla

Continuing the streak from the earlier notes on skill demand , the Digital Era is characterized by imagination, speed of change and integration – of technologies, experiences and disciplines.

The one quality or competency needed to survive in such an era would be “Learnability” – the ability to learn, adopt (and not just adapt) and re-learn. One may argue that this has always been the case with the human race but the speed, intensity and novelty is at a scale never before demanded in human life.

That sounds a little dramatic (isn’t it?) -so let us look at it in some detail and also see how learning and learning systems need to adapt. Just like the IT professionals and others are assuming that the HR and L&D departments would take care of their learning, the story will be actually entirely different. In the span of the IT careers, this wave is going to challenge every engineer to re-craft and adapt oneself to fit into the fast developing future market demands (– very much like the video below).

(please see : https://www.facebook.com/InspirationLifeSkills/videos/1146290182056242/_)

Let us begin with imagination – today success, rather survival, of business depends upon their ability to imagine a user experience. Implementation is the easier part. So you have aggregators who hardly own any physical infrastructure having tens and hundreds time more customers than traditional, brick and mortar organizations who had perfected their business models over the ages simply because they have been to imagine and tap into a customer experience.

And you have IT and Telecom companies applying for Payment bank licenses and professional networking organizations buying out eLearning companies simply because they could imagine a user experience which was till recently not considered as part of their domain.  This is not a first instant and everyone will have at least a few such examples in their businesses.

What this means to learning is that we have to become essentially multi-disciplinary to survive. A Project Manager can no longer rest on strong process skills of managing scope, time, cost, quality and risk. There was a culture earlier where a pure project manager was in demand to plan and execute deliveries without getting into the nuts and bolts of the technology. To do the job, a PM only needed to understand multiple domains, new estimation techniques, different business models and their contractual and commercial implications, new tools and governance models and so many things more.

On the changed scenario of SMAC/IoT, there is too much being said about speed of transformation so we will not delve into that. What it means for the leaner in the digital era is not just that one has to learn new things continuously, but that the utility of is learnt is also short-lived, comes with an expiry date. Which means that one has to not only learn a particular tool or technology but also has to keep oneself abreast of industry developments, market trends, futuristic research etc. It is like the stock trader who has to trade in a continuously volatile market – you can’t pick your ten long term bets and go to sleep assured.

And finally it is about integration – of bringing multiple technologies, products, platforms, devices, people, domains, organizations, business processes, country and trade regulations etc. together to bring that one seamless user experience to that runner whose wearable fitness device detects an abnormal heartbeat and sends a message to an ambulance to reach the location of the runner, keeps the local hospital informed to prepare an ICU bed, sends the complete medical history to the doctor on duty, contacts the insurance agency to arrange for cashless admission and sends an alert to an immediate family member to rush to the hospital. Extending the scenario further to a smart city, further adding to the speed here would be instant availability of PHR (Patient Health Records) for quicker diagnosis initiating on-need medical insurance processes.

Is it possible for one person to architect and implement such an application or platform without learning on the aspects of Medical, pharma, insurance, emergency action aid, etc? Thus a learner of the Digital Era must gear up to learn about complementary skills which he needs to procure or collaborate, the technological, business, cultural and regulatory sensitivities of collaboration and the ability to integrate, dismantle and integrate at continuous pace. Most importantly one has to learn the art of networking and building relationships beyond a sphere of influence.

Continuous Learning thus isn’t just about classroom lessons – whether brick and mortar or virtual, whether self-paced or in groups. It is also about learning by the minute – watching videos, reading informative blogs while commuting, subscribing to e-newsletters and research papers, attending seminars and symposiums – mostly on own cost and time, crowd-thinking: joining relevant forums and having conversations with new people across age groups, professions, cultural background – basically as diverse as possible. Availability of sandboxes and lab environments is highly critical now, rolling up sleeves and dirtying hands with new technology – till something works – for sure. Undoubtedly, it is an iterative process with infinite loops and variations.

The future workforce is going to be a world of nervous, eager, excited, confused people. Many of them would also be passive and would prefer to lie back and watch.

In the ever changing, fast paced technological scenario where hiring multi-skilled and talented workforce will become inevitable, it is difficult to predict too much in advance. However, one thing which will not change now will be the need to learn continuously. The skill gaps will be too much of a risk glaring at the employability and hence the Learnability of all will be challenged!

A ¾ th of the companies feel that the gap in the skills is holding them back from the digital transformation. Very few of the companies are yet on the bandwagon which are making conscious efforts to train their workforce to adopt to the digital needs. HR is often left out of the participation to develop those skills. Learning modes will shift to Gaming, Competitions, Technology incubation, hackathons, and many alternative methods. Four of the 10 pain points faced today are related to skill gaps. A third of the IT team members fail to keep their skills current.

Every business unit should do an intense skill-gap analysis to understand where, how and when their existing workforce need to take up Digital skills and what upskilling efforts and/or investments would be needed to meet upcoming demands.

Hence the strategy for moving from Industrial era to Digital era will be like:

  • Moving FROM managing the teams TO leading the teams from the front
  • Moving FROM hiring the best players for your team TO rapidly assembling and disassembling the teams
  • Moving FROM Specialized domain expertise (SME) TO Digital skills embedded into every role
  • FROM following a need based skill upgrade for your teams TO pro-actively upgrading the team skills
  • For professionals, personally up-skilling rather than waiting for the companies to sponsor their trainings and learning will be the key to survival
  • Certifications would assume significance right from the school curriculum.

Companies like Microsoft, Adobe, and others have started running certification programs for school children from class 6th onwards. Hence the next gen is getting to know the basics quite early and that too under the direct umbrella of top brands. They would know at an early age what many of us even don’t know now and hence be ready to be taught a lesson or two by the next gen!

Conversations with clients lift the brand and relevance in the market- AT EVERY LEVEL. This calls for a cultural change in the corporates.

The increase in customer demands for the same budget is also fuelling the change in the corporate culture as ever. Dell has completely adopted Social Media to succeed. They see that as the future way of doing business. Dell is also created their twitter profiles of their customer service and support – DellCares. The intent is to help clients real-time with personal touch.

Referring to NASSCOM’s data points at ILF2016, we can expect 50% increase in the digital technology based jobs; of the 4.4 million jobs created in Big Data in 2015, 66% were unfulfilled; and 500% increase in key digital business jobs by 2018 is expected. All this indicates that we need to embrace Digital skills in an exponential way.

Digital/IoT is all much more about Customer experience. Forrester conducted CX index suvery of 299 brands in mid-2015 and found that 2.3% have improved, 69.2% remain same and 28.5% have gotten worse – all this while it is known that 86% of the clients say they are ready to pay a premium for great customer experience.

The Digital wave is just not impacting the IT folks and engineering folks. It is impacting anybody and everybody whose occupations are touched by it. One of the many examples is Marketing and Sales folks. The amount of campaign that has gone digital through social media has been enormous in the recent past. All marketing and branding techniques used earlier have in many ways got dated. The Digital Marketing dovetailing into the Digital Strategy of organizations is compelling the marketing and sales teams to pick up their game and play to win at different level. Those harping on their past glory are getting left out.

The irony is that more than 85% of companies feel that by digital transformation of its employees, they would create USP. NO!! They need to fast realize that It is their survival at stake. Around 54% of them are not yet convinced they need to take to this roller coaster which will shake their inertia. Even today, more than 80% of the training budgets are spent on developing and honing traditional skills and not the emerging ones. In the midst of all this confusion, more than 60% organizations refuse to realize that the traditional training methods need to be replaced.

The three most demanded skills in order of priority as per the market is Mobile, Analytics and Social media. Knowledge of Cloud is a given ICT skill that people should know.

Some areas where large scale ITC focus are being predicted are – 4G/5G, Ambient Intelligence, Artificial Brain, Atomtronics, Augmented reality, cryptocurrency, IoT, 3D optical data storage, Machine Learning, mobile collaboration, Optical computing, Speech recognition, 3D ICs, Ubiquitous  computing, Quantum cryptography, wearable computers, Cyber sciences, Android/gynoid, swarm robotics, UAV, etc.

Unfortunately, it is found that IT fraternity, especially folks in app development/support, tend to get married to the product suite from a vendor  and don’t show inclinations to move across the boundaries set by the product vendor (hence the dearth of Enterprise Architects). Going by the predictions, EA will be inevitable and people would need to skim across vertical solutions and be adaptable to understand, appreciate and learn the other skills as well.

Looking at the gaps, we can say that ”The speed of the change will matter”. Hence Learnability –  by all means, whether personal or through sponsored channels, will hold the biggest key!

About Authors:

Sairam Bollapragada:

Sairam started his career as a scientist in the Indian Defence R&D and has been in the industry for the last two-and-a half decades. He is passionate about incubating new technological advances in the IT sector and brings to table his technology management and IT delivery experience to table. He has taken to writing to blogs in the recent past and expressing his thoughts and opinions at https://itservicesdelivery.wordpress.com/…….for his profile, pls refer : https://in.linkedin.com/in/bsairam.

Riaz Mulla:

Riaz is a Trainer, Facilitator and aspiring Writer. He heads Functional and Virtual Training for Tech Mahindra and is passionate about building new age learning ecosystem. The inherent dichotomy of human drama fascinates him and he is grateful life has given him the opportunity to make a profession out of his passion. He has one published story and is about to finish his first novel.

The Compulsions of Transitions – Human Factors

By Sairam Bollapragada

It is well known fact that Transitions are ridden with risks. However, many times, in order to demean the risks, the transition manager tries all the tricks and ticks in his bag and rightfully so. The outcomes are important and a successful cut-over with least pain to the continued service delivery is the key. However, there are many factors which are outside of the control parameters of a transition manager – majorly attributed to the client organization. Let me jot down few points for consideration here….

Transition is seen by many employees as an opportunity for benefit out of chaos.  It could be to address the work-life balance, diversity, importance, move-up-the-ladder, etc. There are several agendas from various stakeholders that add complexity to the entire process. The client may view transition as an opportunity to weed out the non-performing employees while the incoming vendor would look at reducing the pain of hiring best people who are high performers and can make the transition journey almost a cake-walk.

However, one should also appreciate that the employees, at this point in time, undergo lot of stress with the trauma of risks arising from potential job-losses. This has to be very skillfully handled else the best are always the first to leave and leave behind the mediocrity with lot of risks to the success of transition. Knowledge is the obvious key.  The failure of companies to recognize that an Organization is community of knowledge workers (esp in IT industry) who can be positively or negatively influenced has thrown a spanner into the plans.

Intelligent Communication plans and patterns can be critical to the success of creating a positive environment and help transition to definitely succeed. It is psychologically proven that people tend to be poor performers due to stress and depression. Regular positive notes and communications assuring the best to the employees is a must and should be planned that way.

Similarly strategizing the action plan- majorly with the timelines plays vital role. One of the examples of bad strategy is dismissal of an employee during transition. It could be disastrous to the trust of employees and may not prompt them to share their skills or useful insights into the work they might be handling and this can impact in a huge way.

Another strategy that can go wrong is trying to make changes at several layers at the same time. These organizational transformations should be kept disassociated from transitions and if it becomes so inevitable, must be kept at minimal.  There is hardly any mitigation to employees at all levels resigning from consistent pressure during transition. Many employers don’t factor the crisis of confidence before the business goals they have set out to accomplish. Again, as mentioned good people leave first.  This can impact our transition plans severely and it can leave the transition manager crippled if it happens even before you have commenced transition. Then the knowledge is gone and you have nobody to fill in.

 

Potential cures:                                                                       

A Transition manager should insist on getting his counterpart role to be positioned in the client organization as well so that some of the client dynamics can be handled.

The transition managers must work towards getting an understanding of the ground reality during due diligence to sense the hostility of the situation. If there seems to be silent rejection, please advise clients to plan for the open houses and soothe the situation. Open interactions help situations to ease.

However, sometimes, the fear of loss of job and change can prompt employees to turn hostile and aggressive. Even when offered a job, there is no guarantee that the offer will be accepted. This requires employees to be handled with kid gloves.

Sometimes, the connects to the client-employees can really open doors to knowledge bases. This is worth giving a shot and of course with the consent of the client management. It also helps to open communication channels, especially with the critical employees.

These are not exhaustive list as there can be multiple ways to handle sentiments, emotions, security, job-satisfaction, and all other human factors that can impact transition. However, the risks associated with the re-badging or HR transition should be assessed and mitigated cautiously. The same is discussed in another blog at my site called “Re-badging – Some Dos and Don’t’s”.