Competency Building

IT organizations were doing well until sometime back. Subprime crisis led to fall of many banks in US and before we know, we were in recession. Though nobody knows when this recession would end, but we all hope that it would end soon. Until this happens, IT organizations are facing typical problems that are often seen during recession times such as rising bench strengths, increased costs, and lower revenues. To make the matters worse, there is uncertainty about when the economy would turn around. Hoping that recession would end soon, organizations shall use this slowdown to their advantage and should prepare themselves for the good times. First thing that organizations are trying to do is to increase the employees’ utilization by effectively training employees on newer and in-demand technologies. They are reluctant to hiring at any levels. Thus organizations are focusing on competency building internally. So in the light of cut-throat competition, building competency has to be aligned with organizations strategy derived from sales planning and operations management.

Let’s see how organizations shall go with competency building . . . .

  1. IDENTIFY THE GOALS: Competency building exercise needs some retrospection before organizations take the first step. The reason being, this exercise would have been done even during good times. So organizations must examine the earlier efforts meticulously. They must find out the success rate and impact of it in various projects. Otherwise following the same approach, would yield same results. If organizations are struggling with the competency building since good times, this is an indicator that something wasn’t done right earlier. And during slowdown, it is critically important for organizations to take the right step, or they risk ending up in wrong direction altogether. Going forward, when the economy picks up, organizations that are strategic would have the edge over their competitors. Organizations must approach competency building as follows:

    1. Identify the areas in which the competency needs to be built:People who drive sales strategy (typically senior management) and people who are responsible for operations need to come together and align their goals. The mistake that few organizations do is that they run the competency building in silo. That way, they are never able to build the competency that is required for driving sales growth.
    2. Define the extent of competency building:They must work out the approximate target numbers in each level in pyramid. These numbers must be tied to the sales targets both in the short term as well as long term.
    3. Expectation Management: The next most important factor that defines the success in competency building is to have the right perception. Training employees in a new technology does not make them experts in one go; instead they get a quick and timely head start in the new area. The fact that every organization while hiring, look for a specified years of experience in a particular stream is true across all verticals and at all levels. If this wasn’t true you would have seen advertisements like “We need 5 smart people with or without prior experience for all levels”. Having said so, this does not mean competency cannot be built. It can be build if organizations define a good strategy and ensure its strategy meets the overall organizational goals. For e.g. management must provide for specific follow-up trainings and live projects experiences (even internal project would suffice) and see this exercise through.
  2. ACHIEVE THE GOALS: Once the organizations figure out their goals clearly as stated above, they must ACT to achieve the specified goals. Organization can run different specific programs to achieve these goals. One way would be to run training programs in the areas in which they need to build up the competency. Another would be to use employees available on bench to develop internal tools which are required in order to improve the organizations’ efficiency internally. This shall be done by remaining focused and ensuring that these programs are aligned with their overall goals. Organizations must work to ensure following:

    1. Focused trainings: The training programs should be very much focused. Organizations must do their due diligence in doing gap analysis. They shall consider the business lines they are in and also explore this opportunity in expanding their horizon in different areas. This gap analysis can be done by:
      1. Analyze earlier projects: Organizations must spend time in analyzing earlier projects from different perspectives. They must find out what went wrong and what are the specific areas they must improve upon.
      2. Analyzing earlier sales deals: Also organizations must analyze the pre-sales deals that did not materialized. Few reasons that the sales deal did not materialize could have been like no fitting resources, no prior experience, poor estimates, high cost. Focused training would help organizations to fill in these gaps.
    2. Role based trainings: Next organizations must evaluate their employees. They must get the buy in from the employees being trained. Another thing that organizations must ensure is that these trainings are role-based. This means that if an lead level employee is trained on a new technology, organizations must figure out if the same employee would be able to play the similar lead role in that new technology. To play a specific role in any technology needs some prior experience and this becomes important for the senior roles especially. This holds true for not only during recession times but also during good times.
    3. Development of internal tools: Development of internal tools, are good for all organization in various ways such as:
      1. Building competency
      2. Manage operations effectively
      3. Evaluate a technology and
      4. Helps in sales pitch

    But before organizations jump into developing internal tools, they must take care of few things to be effective:

    1. Selection of right tools to be developed: Organizations must ensure that they are investing in developing the right set of internal tools, which are really needed. When approached, every manager or head of department would have a long list of internal tools that they would like to be developed for them. After all they are not paying for this. This would lead to a bigger mess (multiple applications using different technologies with no consolidated data) later if not managed properly. Organizations must take a holistic approach in deciding what tools to be developed, what technology to be used, and their priorities. Organizations must not use any technology just for the competency building sake. This would help them in coordinating training programs effectively with greater success.
    2. Execution model:After identifying the tool to be developed and the team that is going to work on it, organizations have to make sure the project is executed in a right model, as if it is a live project for a customer. Organizations must not take any shortcuts here and swap the roles or responsibilities within the development team executing the project. For instance, project managers must not be collecting requirements if in live projects they aren’t suppose to play that role. Right set of people shall be given the right set of roles.
  3. PERIODIC EVALUATION: Competency building efforts shall not go on for a long time without having any mechanism to measure the success. Their success must be measured periodically. This would be good for both organizations as well as employees. Organizations would be able to deploy new people effectively. If employees are not convinced within themselves, they would not be giving their 100%.

IT organiztions with an effective strategy, strong leadership and vision, would be able to build the right competency.