Although the world economy is trying to come out of wood and awaiting to witness credible growth, demand for competitive skills in IT global world continue to be at high stake and is intensifying day by day, making it difficult or impossible for any IT professional worldwide to stay ahead of it. A wide range of fluctuation in supply and demand of competitive skills is making the recruitment process much difficult for hiring organizations. On the other side those who already work with the IT organization always carry a fear that opportunities may cease at any moment of time or their skills may be obsolete after some time and no more required to the Organization. In current situation it may be likely that a star performer IT professional in the Organization can become suddenly a bench warmer and after sometime subscriber of multiple job portals. The career transitions from one end to other end may be so fast; many times it happens overnight. It is a well known fact that, practically it looks impossible for an average IT professional to get an opportunity to acquire multiple skills by working in multiple projects consecutively, moreover in current trend due to the delayed projects, clients are taking their own time to hire IT professionals that too only after rigorous assessment. More you are idle in the IT organization more you become suspect to hiring organization. Hence it is high time for IT professionals to keep nurturing their existing skills and look for acquiring new skills which market demands. Competitive skills demand changes faster along with changes in technology and business scenario and every time it may not be just technical skill which matters. Clients are increasingly looking at skills of those IT professionals who can deliver business value and virtually eliminate their issues in real time.
What are the competitive skills?
Competitive skills are the oriented skills and are built on combination of any of the basic skills (such as technical, management or behavioral) which on demonstration, enables and accelerates the business outcome of your customer in a positive way. Competitive skills keeps changing as per business, technology and human needs and they largely depend upon the position or role with which you are expected to perform. With these performing skills you need to accomplish the tasks to meet your client’s goal.
There are multiple ways IT professionals can acquire the competitive skills, however choosing, acquiring or enhancing the right set of skills is key to the career advancement. There cannot be a written rule on who should acquire which skills however there is a logical need to synchronize between what competitive skills you are capable of possessing and what market wants you to possess. Hence it is crystal clear that one needs to align his or her competitive skills as per the business environment they are expected to work with.
Managing competitive skills with business focus and what you need to do.
Selecting competitive skills for acquiring or enhancing, in tune with business demand is a tough task and need thorough self assessment. Here are some of the useful aspects to remember
o Scrutinize and Chart career path: It is essential for every IT professional to chart a career path for next 3 years period based on market projections and aspects such as, what technologies are getting introduced, what services are going to be used, what are the clients expectations from their business towards service providers and also from the feedback you receive from client at the end of project if you are already in a project environment.
o Learn the business dynamics: Business dynamics is changing fast due to globalization of services; stiff competition; accelerated time to market; recession; pressure on cost reduction and to do more with less. These aspects have to be clearly factors in our way of working. IT professionals are required to do additional learning to demonstrate quick results and expected value (ROI), cost savings, while rendering services to the client. This is possible by improving traction with your client and keeping sensitivity towards your clients’ immediate needs.
o Synergizing and balancing the skills: Making a skill set, business centric is very important, for example, you may be good in technical skills but lack in soft skills or management skills which may be needed in managing the team by your client. The skills with which you do outstanding work need to continue in the same rigor; however the skills in which you are weak, may have to be strengthen further. Do a SWOT analysis of yourself to confirm the areas you need to have improvement plan. Remember, competitive skills are going to be used as input as well as output for measuring the business performance as well as your own performance.
o Acquire professional certifications: Acquiring Certifications from worldwide recognized organizations on specific competency skills are extremely useful which provides good Weightage and credibility to the career charter and they need to be planned in a systematic manner based on eligibility criteria. Too many certifications from totally different work stream may not be useful. Certification shall help individual professional in building-up the career ladder in related field and improve learning by gaining knowledge. The examples of certifications in each area are Technology (Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, Java, Net, Virtualization, agile) Project Management (such as PMP, PRINCE-II), Information security (CISSP), Quality (ITIL, CoBIT, CMMI, ISO). Standard tools (such as Ms Project, Visio, rational tools, presentations tools or excel based tools).
o Improve your knowledge base: Client always looks at you as a solution provider or Subject Matter Expert (SME) in the area of his interest; he may expect you to provide you consultation or professional opinion. You need to possess a thorough knowledge in those related areas which can always be achieved by, attending and participating in seminars, webinars, workshops, conversing with your professional colleagues, reading; searching information, reading; writing articles and white papers and by blogging.
o Prioritization and Reprioritization: There is a need to have a continuous focus on Prioritization and Reprioritization of competitive skills due to business Prioritization and Reprioritization and its complexities. Based on changed business dynamic, IT professionals will have to review periodically those competitive skills which were earlier prioritized; some of them may need to be reprioritized due to market urgently.
o Work on future competencies, tools and technologies: The technologies and tools in IT world are getting upgraded every day and awareness of upgraded versions of related technologies and what they deliver to the business is extremely important. Be aware that, competitive skills in technology area are moving towards mobile computing, cloud computing and virtualization predominantly hence it is essential to understand what they are and what they offer. The business enhancements and solutions are going to be delivered through Virtualization, Innovation and Automation (VIA), hence IT professionals will have to get geared-up in learning and exercising innovative practices, strive for automating business and IT processes at every juncture and finally virtualize them for client’s user and customers globally. Cloud computing is one of the emerging technology which has forced usage of every component of software, hardware and platform on subscription or pay per user basis for economies of scale and optimal utilization for multiple clients globally.
o Learning and De-learning (LDEL): The new challenges posed by world economy, service globalization and competition has forced IT organizations to change the routes and the manner in which business was conducted. There is re-engineering and in some cases reverse engineering of business and IT practices hence IT professional will have to acquire skills for learning new routes and de-learning old routs with which businesses were conducted. E-commerce is best example of LDEL.
o Service focus will be on the top: Focus on acquiring and enhancing skills in the area of service commitment. Every service component and its performance is going to be tied-up with stringent Service Level Agreement (SLA) which will have to be fulfilled by every IT professional.
o Multilingual-Multicultural dilemma: Global business scenario expects every IT professional to walk and talk in Multilingual-Multicultural environment, hence learning, adopting and demonstrating these cultural and multilingual facets is considered as one of the top preferred skill by clients worldwide. Talking and walking in customer language and culture adds to the comfort level of client tremendously.
o Do pilots and internal projects to gain confidence: Pilots and internal projects are the best ways to try out newly learned skills to gain confidence. Many times it may not be feasible to get opportunity to work in live client project, however IT professionals need to treat internal or pilot projects with the same rigor to get thorough experience to build the confidence level.
o Adoption to business environment and competition: There could be impact of environment and people with whom you are collaborating during your engagements. You may be working with clients and vendors in near shoring, off-shoring, on shoring arrangement or in co sourcing environment and with competing vendors. Your competitive skills needs to be at par as compare to the client or vendor organization while delivering the services to create that differentiator.
o Get accustomed to Unified Communication: Since the business process integration will be on the top of agenda for every business conglomerate, the real time communication services will have top preference. IT professionals will have to learn how to make cost effective usage of integrated instant messaging, IP Telephony, Video conferencing, call control speech recognization etc.
o Commitment to CSR and Green Environment: At work, learn the requirements of facilitating green environment and participate in the Organizations initiatives. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is no more optional service and every professional need to contribute his bit towards CSR initiatives. Many governments worldwide have enforced regulations to organizations and their employees with the mandate to demonstrate visible outcome. The selection criteria for some of the top jobs include one of the aspects of contribution towards CSR and green environment by many organizations.
o Improve communication and presentation capabilities: Doing presentations, conducting webinars, podcasts, writing articles and whitepapers Mentoring juniors, Blogging, becoming opinion leader, being a part of social network, provides ample opportunities for IT professionals to improve their written and verbal communication and presentation skills. Many times communication skills supersede the other skills and clients do accept working with professionals who may not be very expert but know their job.
o Be aware of change management issues: Changes in reporting functions, policies within organization and with client organization as well as acquisition and mergers poses lots of challenges and impacts performing skills. Understanding the change management process thoroughly and realigning with new organization structure requires patience, adaptability and lot of flexibility. Sometimes it also creates uncertainty to the profession; this has to be dealt with by demonstrating much better performance in business outcome.
o Improve professionalism and be trusted partner: Professionalism is demonstrable application of qualities and competencies within the framework of business ethics. When you work as an IT professional for your client you are ambassador of your Organization and your professional services shall safe guard interest and expectations of your client. It is necessary to demonstrate professionalism in every task and act which can provide outstanding results from your work to the client, moreover client look at every hired professional as a trusted partner who can delivery solution to his problems.
o Register for national skill database and get your BGRC done: It is desirable for every IT professional to get registered to national database of that country (such as NASSCOM in India) and get certified and cleared in background check (BGRC) by approved agencies. This is specifically check by your client while hiring you for services.
o Referencing and perception: Creating good references about yourself is a key requirement of your profession. If you have good reference base from your senior colleagues, client and professional who can talk about your capabilities and achievements, it provides high level of comfort to the anyone who wants to refer you. Also it is imperative to create honest perception about yourself through performance and achievements to the professional world around you.
Competitive skills are influenced by market condition, demand for IT services, global view hence it is imperative to take a stock of current and future state of global needs while developing the skills and delivering the outcome. The factors mentioned above will play important role in shaping your future as a successful professional