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Article by Mohan Babu

Softer skills for software professionals

Indian organisations that are poised for international growth, especially in areas like BPO, systems integration and project management, need to focus on training their workforce, in particular those employees who interact with global customers, says MOHAN BABU

One of the leading perks available to IT professionals—training and upgrading of skills—has received the biggest setback in recent times. In the nineties, companies would try to woo candidates by offering lavish perks, including promises of training and updates in technologies, along with opportunities to work on the latest projects using these skills. However, companies with a “big picture” vision that are able to take a long-term view of the future are finding it advantageous to continue re-skilling their key people on the latest tools and technologies. This is especially true because a lesser number of people working for organisations are being tasked with responsibilities that their former peers and colleagues shared with them.

Training has traditionally been the first area to be cut during a downturn, and the last to be funded when companies emerge from a slowdown. However, individual managers in IT divisions who have the discretion and vision prudently try to siphon a few resources or use innovative techniques like knowledge-transfer, “brown bag” lunch sessions to enrich the collective knowledge of people in their groups.

Indian organisations that are poised for international growth, especially in the BPO, outsourcing, systems integration and project management need special focus on training their workforce, especially the customer-facing, global employees. This is especially true because Indian companies bid for projects from a wide array of companies spanning the globe, and need to understand the nuances of the projects along with the culture of the organisations giving them the work. Apart from the technical skills and knowledge of IT systems, consultants need special focus in the following areas:

  • Core technology skills: Most technology companies try to equip their employees with a variety of technologies and tools. By doing so, they can easily shift people around, based on project contingencies and business needs. Some follow the “boot camp” approach by putting all new recruits through a rigorous training programme and others train employees on a need-only basis.
  • Team player and team management skills: Almost all IT projects require groups of people to work in tandem, coordinating the efforts of team members spread across functional, technical, and geographical areas. This is especially true for projects for clients in the onsite or offshore model where a few people working at client sites co-ordinate the efforts of their peers halfway across the globe. Personal issues, differences in personalities and other issues have a way of creeping up if not identified and squashed. All members of the projects need to be trained to handle such issues, and communicate fluently and clearly.
  • Project, programme and systems management: Although project management is a specialised function in most organisations, with specialists working to co-ordinate projects, deadlines, etc; all members of IT teams need to be aware of the basics of project, programme and systems management. Having an overview of the business process being solved and the different pieces that need to fit in order to make a project successful, helps each member of the team to work towards the unified goals.
  • Basics of business: Most IT initiatives, except for those in the area of R &D, are undertaken for one specific purpose—solving business problems. Naturally, it follows that people working on IT projects need to be aware of the business issues they are trying to solve. This may include functional business expertise like knowledge of Accounting Systems, Financial Systems, Banking, Telecom, Insurance or other areas of business.
  • Communications and cultural sensitivity: One of the most important aspects of working with people involves communication and cultural sensitivity. Communication includes oral, written and non-verbal communication, including body language, etc. This also includes moderating verbal accents and understanding the accents of people from across the globe who speak English in different ways!

The ideas presented here are not set in stone. Most experts suggest that training be considered a continuous process and could involve a mix of some of the ideas suggested. Also, depending on the needs of the situation, specific training packages can be tailored to address the issues involved.





About the Author

  • A Bio and profile of the author, Mohan Babu, can be found at his homepage
  • Mohan has authored a book on Offshoring and Outsourcing (Publisher McGraw Hill, India), a link to which can be found here
  • Mohan has also authored an Online book on "Life in the US," available for free download.
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    ©Mohan Babu: All Rights Reserved 2005

    Mohan Babu is an international consultant trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ where IT meets business. E-mail: mohan He is also the author of a recent book on "Offshoring IT Services"

    All rights are reserved. Mohan Babu ("Author") hereby grants permission to use, copy and distribute this document for any NON-PROFIT purpose, provided that the article is used in its complete, UNMODIFIED form including both the above Copyright notice and this permission notice. Reproducing this article by any means, including (but not limited to) printing, copying existing prints, or publishing by electronic or other means, implies full agreement to the above non-profit-use clause. Exceptions to the above, such as including the article in a compendium to be sold for profit, are permitted only by EXPLICIT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT of Mohan Babu. 

    Disclaimer: This document represents the personal opinions of the Author, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Author's employer, nor anyone other than the Author. This Article was originally published in Express Computers


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