Sustainability in the Digital World: Do’s and Don’ts

By Sairam Bollapragada

While the entire humankind is going ga-ga over the word Digital, there still seems to be much struggle around organizations in creating a Digital transformation blueprint/value and adopting the same quickly.

This note is an attempt to bring to table salient features of becoming Digital relevant in true spirit and deeds. Let us take the points, one after the other:

  1. Goals and Objectives: An Organization should ask itself if they have a dossier which explains to all its employees what Digital means to their business. It is not mandatory that all aspects of Digital should mean something to you. Pick the relevant ones which are critical to your business and get started on the transformational journey.

 

Organizations should get aligned to their clients (both current and potential) on how they can leverage your Digital capabilities to strike a chord with the digital needs of their clients as well. Hence the sales teams should understand the needs and current capability. In fact they should be the first agents of the change to bring to table the digital market needs and hence what we need to nourish as capability.

 

The upskilling is the next most important action. Since the entire demand is moving towards Digital, your upskilling plays a strategic role. The two cannot be misaligned considering even the short term requirements.

 

  1. Adaptability: Your strength to react to the changes in market demand is very critical if you need to be seen as the early adopters in the market . Understanding the market conditions and demand fast, acting to invest in a skilled workforce faster and be the first implementers is essence – which all sums up to reflect on how Agile you are as an organization. You may have to ruthlessly clear the clutter or legacy clingers who can become a challenge to the road to transformation. This will also help your perception in the market and make your sales teams to approach the market with that much more confidence. Unless you up your risk antennas, the conviction will be missing in your commitments. The challenges are greatest learning tools which prepare you to handle bigger commitments. Hence create a risk taking culture that thrives on innovation and experiments.

 

  1. Change Management needs to be carefully crafted out of a network of sources which should become your strongest source of drivers in enhancing your objectives of Digital transformation. Change. When inevitable has to bring in objectivity to avoid chaos. In the Digital space, it pays you richly through both internal and external partnerships. Co-creation is a critical component of this Change process. Please refer my earlier blog: https://itservicesdelivery.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/digital-transformation-looking-outside-for-a-change-agent/

 

  1. Congenial Work Environ: The culture of clinging and hugging often seen as threat to change, is led by folks who don’t want things to change as it reflects their insecure mind-set. Millennials must be provided a platform to bring in fresh ideas through their out of box creative minds. They don’t carry any baggage and hence you can almost always expect a fresh bag of ideas. Once you encourage such an environment, ideas will flow automatically. Let the owners of execution incubate these ideas and convert them into compelling propositions for their clientele. The more fresh ideas you take to clients, the more your probability as being perceived as a leader in the space. Remember perception management is also very critical across the ecospace. Strategic initiatives cannot be allowed to be held ransom to the feudal mind sets of folks obsessed with large teams. The question then to them is – how would you embrace the upcoming digital twins in your workforce.

 

  1. Focussed Teamwork aligned to Objectives: In the services business of annuity, we seem to understand a lot about value creation. We try and demonstrate through our PIPs (productivity improvements), CoD (Cost Of Delivery), etc. However, with the advent of Digital and Automation, the client’s expectations have gone exponentially wild compelling all service providers to think radically different. Hence the above point 4 holds that much more water. Most persons facing the client needs to come across as your digital brand ambassadors (if not all). The approaches you position to the clients should prove your thought leadership. Often the rift between what is sold and what is delivered leaves a bad taste with the clients. This is a true reflection of what lack of orchestration within the teams. Hence your need to align all the teams to speak one language of offerings-capabilities-capacities to establish credibility.

 

Last but not the least, every Digital customer is looking for uniqueness in the solution being delivered. So please be very cautious before you replay a plethora of offerings while you showcase your might.

VUCA in the Digital world!!

VUCA in the Digital world!!

By Sairam Bollapragada & Rajesh Mohandas

Across the globe, all are now connected in unprecedented ways. This is both a boon and a bane, where we live in an era that is transforming and setting stage for the next revolution. Times when we were disconnected and every country operated in silo the challenges were limited to the internal affairs and the near border conflicts only.

With technological advances where today we look at a bright and secured future on one hand, on the other hand the unrest continues and is growing bigger day by day, conflicts, civil unrest, terrorism, ransom ware, cyber crimes, etc… are now integrated into our daily life.

The digital reality is shaking up some of the beliefs and compelling us to move to a more knowledgeable IT economy what with automation and AI which were limited to books, have finally come to the open challenging how that can transform every space of the life. Soon all white-space is expected to be filled with cognitive behavior and techniques. Automation is forcing re-wiring of skills for many of the IT workforce (read : https://itservicesdelivery.wordpress.com/2016/04/11/the-digital-era-learner-re-wiring-your-skills/ ) spelling end of the careers if not done.

Hence one can relate to the 4 key parameters of VUCA : Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. Each of these factors are challenging the order of the day stuff and hence the need to cope with the same in the turbulent times.

The compounded problem statement with external influencing factors from market pressures, competition, shareholder expectations, stakeholders, are strong indicators, to the fact that the leaders will need to be hard wired to resilience.

The role of the leaders managing workforce, will be crucial and critical in shaping the digital future of any organization.  Most of the requirements to support a digital environment are not about the technology per se, but it is also about creating the environment to re-skill, create flexibility to be agile, adopt to changing demands, and groom the right talent for a safe digital future.

Let’s take each of the parameter at a time to see what it means in Digital world:

(V) Volatility: The nature and Dynamics of change that is blowing across the landscape mandates catalysts to adopt to these changes. The legacy of efficiency and productivity will no longer continued business anymore. Disruptive innovations are indeed unsettling dominant industries in today’s world. Hence the times call for compulsive innovation and a drift away from SOPs.

U (Uncertainity): This is a factor which reflects the lack of predictability and many surprises. Another indicator of this is the refusal of the current technology wave to move easily beyond the labs. The ever-experimenting mind-set is also reflecting that the solutions themselves are prone to obsolescence, from the very moment they are conceived with high degree of unpredictability.

( C)Complexity:  Multiple parameters built into the character of the issue spells complexity – be it chaos or confusion-led issues.

Complexity can also reflect multiple influencing factors which can unsettle easily. Complexity is good or bad depending on your strategy. Having a bullet proof strategy is impossible – nevertheless one should have a solid strategy to counter complexities and challenge the same.  Even if it comes with short expiry date (2 years) you should have one.

Digital space is getting more and more complex with each passing day rolling out a new platform, new innovations coming to light, new solutions offered, disruptive models coming to life, etc. Hence to deal with all these changes, a strategy for managing this change is mandatory and thus the

(A)Ambiguity : The fact that we only know 40% of how technology will fold into the lives and markets as an influencer, is a true reflection of haze in the Digital space. This then raises the question of business risk, which is quite a reality today.

At various levels of an organization, there are ambiguities relating to progression and growth, whether at organization level or career levels of professionals.  Except for the lexical meaning of the Strategic and Tactical approaches, the lines are thinning out.

Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity will continue to exist but what leaders today can do is to play a vital role and attempt to control the levers by moving in to a Hyperawareness zone of informed decision-making, and fast execution. Winning in the Digital Vortex is not just about algorithms, architectures or innovative business models; it requires organizational change and workforce transformation. And successful transformation is enabled by a company’s digital business agility, building on the fact that people are an organization’s most important asset. Hence, everybody is but compelled to think on the forward thinking strategies to adopt to the Digital VUCA scenarios….

The THREE “R”s as outcomes of Automation!!

The THREE “R”s as outcomes of Automation!!

By Sairam Bollapragada

IT has been predominant for its people and associated costs. People have been the epicenter of all the transformation/automation and the benefits measured have always hovered around the people, the efforts, their packages and associated costs.

These are the days of automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence and introduction of robotics. We are creating digital workforce, in a big way to transform the way we deliver solutions and services today.  Due to cost pressures, many times, evidently the quantitative savings take advantage over the qualitative ones. The more demanding clients do not budge on either.

The bi-modal approach on what you can do better with our existing work in your scope as well as what else you can do with our other work with other vendors is becoming a natural ask by clients. This then creates the platform to compete and who brings what to the table matters. While everybody seems to be selling the concepts and ideas, the rollouts from adoption is slow as indicated by a recent report. Hence, the benefits slowly reflected in the books.

Many a times, the teams are not able to articulate the savings and calculate on how do we arrive at the magical savings number and translate that to dollars. The efforts thus required to deliver the same service with the productivity improvements should lead to benefits that can needs to be captured and reflected.

All the benefits can be thus, categorized into THREE R’s that relate to the people aspect as follows:

  1. R1: Resize: when transformation/automation saves engineering effort and hence the cost of solution/delivery drops, you can release few team members. This resized team can deliver the same volume of work or keeping the same team size can take up more work. In typical annuity projects, one can re-plough the saved effort to create additional work in terms of additional tickets or CRs, either with no drop in revenue or additional revenue.

 

  1. R2: Restructure: while betting big on outcomes of automation, one can expect the productivity of the team as a whole to gain upward momentum. This should lend the capability of the higher end of the pyramid to delegate the some of, if not all their tasks to the lower band teammates. This is a true indicator of productivity improvement.

 

  1. R3: Resite : In all engagements, many times we come across mandatory set of tasks that should be done onsite or at client’s site. Transformations/Automations can also bring in the capability to move those tasks offshore bringing down the cost of solution or engagement. This may add to your bottom lines or you may choose to pass on the benefits to the clients. Whichever way, more presence of tasks at offshore has always been a strong indicator of confidence levels of delivery as well as capability of the team.

However, when it comes to benefits @ R1 or R2, there is strong feeling that it only leads to job loss. Positively put, it can aso mean the higher band resources can be released (and if they are very capable) where they can be deployed for account mining or/and other transformational consultant roles to demonstrate technical prowess or thought leadership in different areas – both  focused at increasing the footprint from growth standpoint.

If we don’t embrace automation/transformation, somebody else may move your cheese. Till the outcomes hit the financial books, the last mile is not accomplished….so, we must compel ourselves to drive these market-mandated changes, as long as the choice is still with us….

Digital Transformation: Looking Outside for a Change Agent?!

-By Sairam Bollapragada

Every Organization is wanting to go Digital but having its own share of challenges on route to the Digital Transformation. The struggle is not so much with technology which is a given. The challenge is with the DNA of the organization which has been in existence for more than 2 decades and the standard operating procedures (SOPs) have got ingrained into the constituents of the organization. Change is a hard reality and people naturally resist. The resistance is not just about the change, but is more about being compelled to accept the change pushing them off their comfort zones.

When we talk about digital transformation, it is about the journey straddled with the change in human behavior, the cultural change, the change in communication, the change in offerings, the change in skill-sets needed to service the digital client, the change in mindset and leadership, etc. Change happens one step at a time but here we need to bring in a phenomenal change across the organization- many steps at once, across the skills, the mindset, the ways in which we plan and execute, the way we design and create the solutions for the future, etc.

While everyone is aware of the benefits, lets refresh the salient 5 benefits here:

  1. 63% improved customer satisfaction
  2. 49% increased lead generation
  3. 75% lift in engagements
  4. 46% better client conversations
  5. 53% higher traffic

 

Some facts and figures to refresh the challenges to Digital transformation journey: While 35% of the companies are >80% digital, 68% are hoping to reach there in the next 5 years; while 39% of the challenges are in establishing the right operational and governance model, 39% are around evolving the company culture; as common drivers, 50% evolve around customer expectations, while 45% are due to rapidly changing competition in the market; and the list continues…

Let’s look at 5 Digital Strategy points (one should look for while stepping into the digital strategy):

  1. A Digital Strategy positioning Technology as a potential differentiator:

Digital is more about how fast an organization is able to adapt to the changing expectations of the market and prove you have the sustaining technological ability and agility to change at that speed. Hence a good and sound strategic plan to prepare the organization for the upcoming technological change that is not only vital but absolutely critical for survival. 80% of the companies report that their companies are getting processes and tools to expedite Digital roadmap, but actually only 46% aim to overhaul customer services. Digital is a space where Technology can both be a solution and a problem.

  1. The CxOs would need to lead from the front: The leaders must play a very critical role in this Change management with nothing less than absolute involvement to demonstrate their willingness to learn and drive the change themselves. The leaders must spend a lot of time with the digital strategy team to understand the context and lead the future blueprint from the front. Every part of the organization must be so synchronized in the blueprint, that it would become a seamless means of accomplishing the singular organizational Digital objective! Though 88% of companies report undergoing Digital transformation, actually only around 29% have mapped digital customer journey and know where they stand.
  1. Create an Organization structure that will be built for Speed, Agility and innovation: Decision making should be given top priority and right people should be moved to the right positions in order to create a very strong sustainable structure – challenging the traditional and the obvious challenging organization constituents and their conventional standard operating procedures. One should target to remove all the potential silos (read threat) not allowing the politics of the organization to hamper the future prospects and final successful end-goals. As an organization every client wants you to innovate uniquely and exclusively for them. Hence the need to pick the right (enabled)leaders who can take smart quick and compelling decisions, though hard, in a very timely fashion.
  1. Outside in view: For two plus decades now, the IT industry has been working in a community manner which has built very strong intertwining relationships between team members with various flavors of emotions, bonding, sentiments and strong linkages. However, the casualty of such organization is its being detrimental in the transformation. Hence to bring in required changes, professionals with immense unlearning and re-incarnation mindset are the need of the hour. Hiring/positioning creative consultants or even workforce, with innovative mindset is more critical than just the experience. This is more observed in larger entities where the larger and longer the team’s existence, the harder to resistance to change.
  1. Cultural change: The thinking of the new generation which has channeled so many startup entities around is a mix of forceful strategy, fearless thinking, innovation through Technology and creative market offerings. An organization marred with Legacy – non-digital businesses and annualized (operational based) economy, these traits will be hard to get from within. Resistance to adoption of new ideas, accepting the new market expectations, creating disrupting growth strategies, coupled with new disruptive generation thinking will double the challenge for the legacy entities – culture being the biggest challenger. Unfortunately, only 63% of the companies feel that culture is a major challenge while remaining 34% sort of agree.

With the complexities of cultural inertia, organizations are being compelled to get the Change Agents outside the organization. This trend has become inevitable when the leaders realize that there is a dearth of talent of such kind within the organization. In many places majority percentage of strategy looks at hiring innovative talent from outside where you can bring in an outside-in viewpoint with dispassionate recommendations of building a potential digital organization of the future. Many experts believe infusion of external talent can ignite the digital transformation much more easily. However, there should be heavy involvement of HR to ensure the moves are not abrasive in nature and the sensitivities are handled with utmost caution.

In addition to the above, the learning and training teams would also need to play a critical role by launching few initiatives like:

  1. Digital by Mentoring: Bring in mentoring of batches of folks under capable Digital leaders. These mentors should have a true capability with knowledge and ability to transform handful of associates.
  2. T-C-H: Training+Certification+Hands-on: mere training of employees may not be a great help but a good certification (internal or external) to gain confidence (self and others), added with hands-on experience in the digital labs would greatly benefit the individual and organization.

I would pause here for you to take a note and will come back with the metrics on Digital transformation of the Organizational Change Management in the next sequel of this….Till then, Happy Digital Transformation!!

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 Digital Era Skill Demands

By Sairam Bollapragada

Many companies – product manufacturers, product vendors, sales, marketing, technical design entities, information technology service providers were so far marred by the lull(recession) before the storm (the Digital wave). The advent of the new areas in the connected world, has swept all by the feet and the ride on this tiger demands new skills across the value chains of technology and conventional manufacturing outfits, as well as new working styles and cultural norms. There is accepted acute shortage of skills.

IT fraternity has so far got habituated to the “…been there, done all, know all” feeling and the new wave is compelling the folks to change that mind set with a new learning curve. The sooner the folks get out of the traditional mindset, the sooner they can insure their careers.

The brighter side of the story is that the skills needed to design, make, sell, and service smart, connected products are in high demand but short supply.  There is a sudden urgency for finding the right talents and in the wake of market flooded with startups, the pay packs for these technology geeks and mavericks have skyrocketed.  The learning is found to be fast shifting from Mechanical Engineering to Software Engineering, from pure software coding to stepping into real-time product testing, from product repairs to getting used to SLAs for availability, and working with varied partners.

Along with crazy talent demand, the learning curve has gone berserk too.

Folks in the shop floor may soon have to hire experts in applications engineering, user interface development, and systems integration. The list does not end there – the need for data scientist across all the verticals who can blend technical and business data to lend the capability to create, build, and run analytics for predictive analysis and upfront fitment to market demands as well as creating those action plan blueprints, will be inevitable.

However, the demands stated are fine, but the bigger challenge is how informed and ready are the manufactures for these changes – especially in growing economies. This is more so in the case of traditional and conventional manufacturing entities where technologies and product manufacturing are treated totally disparately.

Some are taking rapid steps to move closer to technology abundant cities. By 2020, the manufacturers will need to establish collaborative learning between academics, product innovation and technology.  New hiring models like internship programs (international at that), infusing technological staff at their factories for product advancement and innovation with technology, and incubating labs to continuously bake their next products will be order of the day.

Build-your-future-staff and Internships: The internships should create a scope for these companies to bring together a blend of talent from technology, engineering and business to build collaborative platforms to build newer models, conceptualize disruptively innovative ideas, and drive the “build-your-future” culture. Imagine a mechanical engineer, an electrical engineer, an information sciences engineer(data analyst) and( lead by) a production engineer – all brainstorming to create a new concept in companies like a Schneider or a GE or GM. The brilliant lot of the ideas will flow into the IoT/Smart lab for PoCs and incubation and to production after successful trails. The crux will be matching the speed of thought and working between these team members.

Compensation and incentives: Manufacturers will also need new approaches to attracting, motivating and retaining talent. With the acute shortage of skills, the talented folks will call the shots. It is said that against the 45000 jobs being created out of 1b$, the industry will now see around 15000 jobs per billion. People with high skills and continuous learning capabilities will take better jobs. Going forward, as per NASSCOM, the selection process during intake will now be based on ability to learn rather than just knowledge. The $130 billion industry, which employs 3.2 million people, will add another 1.2 to 2 million. Investments in training will actually go up, even as training extends to almost a year from three to six months at present on projects in engineering. Companies and universities will collaborate like never before to improve quality of talent.

Perks like job flexibility, concierge services, sabbaticals, and free time to work on side projects of personal interest are the norm in high-tech firms employing the type of talent manufacturing companies will increasingly require.

Where do we go from here?

The existing IT companies living out of annuity business face a larger survival threat. The folks who are looking at AD/AMS kind of activities and sticking on to it are also in the red zone from capability standpoint. Migration to newer skills and capabilities is inevitable. For non-IT folks who have for some strange reasons created “I don’t need IT” mindset would be challenged to deliberate and discuss next ideas with IT engineers. If you cannot engage in such discussions, strong indicator is that your survival itself is at risk.

These synergies between two camps is what is going to drive the digital wave – higher the team-knowledge, higher the tide!! In next part we will discuss on the new learning eco systems where we will focus on how organizations need to embrace the change through steeper learning curves.

For all those, who are sitting back thinking what next to do, the prompt is get on to the learning curve fast. Get onto it now!!

Management by Escalations – the new norm ?

By Narayan Katti

In the past few years, I have seen a new trend – managing projects, programs and related business in IT Services Industry by escalations. This has become the norm than an exception and it is quite a disturbing trend. Unfortunately, this has encompassed customer organizations, as well and not just limited to IT services companies.

This topic might raise few eyebrows and some may brush this topic aside, but I feel it is definitely thought provoking. If one were to look at this dispassionately, it could raise many questions that need attention and answering by the teams and especially the leadership team.

The formal definition of Escalation is “a rapid increase”, “rise” and also “an increase in the intensity or seriousness of something; an intensification”.

Going strictly by this definition and the spirit behind it, one expects that Escalations are created / raised when the matter is very serious. Also, escalations are raised when the resolution of an issue has not happened or the way the progress towards resolution of issue is not satisfactory. But I find that today, the escalations are created / raised with a drop of hat, without proper due diligence, working together to resolve the issue or providing a solution to resolve the issue. Hence I am asking this question – are Escalations becoming a new norm than an exception ?

I am not suggesting, even remotely that escalations should not be raised. I am just questioning the timing and the spirit behind raising escalations. When matters do go out of hand that would cause material impact, one has to raise escalation. Matters and issues that need higher level attention for resolution need to be raised. But before reaching that stage, one should ask this question – has there been enough effort spent to work together to resolve the issues.

Consider the following scenario:

A web commerce implementation project goes haywire due to various issues. The customer IT manager, who is responsible for the project panics, raises an escalation to the CIO through his manager. The customer IT manager blames the IT services organization squarely. The CIO becomes furious. He has a direct connect and rapport with the CEO of the vendor IT services organization and hence escalates this issue directly to the CEO of IT services organization. All hell breaks loose in the IT services organization. The team involved in the implementation till the Delivery Head are taken to task. After a very careful and deep analysis by the team, it is found out that there were configuration issues in the platform which was not under the purview of the service organization. Later on the product company is involved and the issues are resolved. But the damage was done to the team, whose morale and confidence was shattered by this episode.

I have come across many such scenarios, where in the issues are escalated without much diligence and understanding. This creates a panic situation and does not help the situation.  I have often found that the customer organization never understands the vendor organization properly and hence is blind-sighted to these so-called escalations. Many a times the vendor leadership also gets into the haste mode to fix the issues (brazenly?) without deliberating or reasoning with the teams. The erosion of confidence levels of the team is more in this case.

My take

Issues are bound to arise in any IT engagement and depending on the size of the engagement, the number and impact of issues may vary. When issues do arise, we should encourage the teams to do the following.

  1. Encourage the team to bring up the issues to higher management, depending on the seriousness of the issues.
  2. Encourage the team to conduct the root cause analysis, impact assessment and try and rresolve the issues themselves and then reach out to wider organization

The management team instead of reprimanding the team, should understand the issue, provide all necessary help and as needed provide support through wider organization