Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Global Challenge

IT is moving so fast. Globalisation brings new options for delivering services and products to UK markets and technology is the key enabler. Cultural differences impact client facing activities such as project management, business and systems analysis, but is much less important with technical based roles such as application developers.

Onshore/offshore offers one type of cultural resolution, or does it? At some point a hand-over needs to happen and the cultural differences will impact and therefore need to be managed. Is an external provider better equiped?

An external provider has more opportunity to learn as they have other client experiences to learn from. Whether the external providers take the opportunity to learn depends on what the clients demand and how the external providers respond. Often we see disappointingly the external providers not learning, which leads to the client's seeking alternatives, replacements or resetting their expectations of IT. The last is a disaster for those of us who see IT as our chosen career and thus have professional pride.

More recently the term "nearshore" is used. The idea is to mitigate the cultural differences by seeking IT resources from more western like countries with Eastern Europe being favoured as the educational, social and economic foundations are more familiar to UK companies.

Where does this leave the UK based IT professional? At the cross roads. Setting your career path requires learning from the past and projecting. Some things are cyclic, whilst others are permanent changes. Consider how technology enables. If we can provide remote support for infrastructure, distributed development and support environments and couple this to the exploding electronic communication platforms for collaborative working it seems unlikely that some roles will return to the UK as they were. UK application developers must have broader skills that enable them to bring more of a complete solution.


Anonymous said...

Interesting view, but what strategies are you suggesting?

June 22, 2006  
Anonymous said...

I'm a recent graduate in Business Studies with an IT focus. How do you see my career developing?

June 23, 2006  
OCS Consultant said...

We must look beyond the current IT systems and solutions to see where business is going and how IT will be a part of business's strategy and plans. IT consultants working with business will have to be more business aware and trained.

The blacksmith, who as their horse drawn carriages became motorised, choose several new paths, such as panelbeaters, mechanics or bodybuilders. IT consultants will need to look at careers based on changes in technology and its uses and what aspects require some business knowledge or cultural assimilation.

If I was earlier in my career I would be looking a softer skills and aspects of the software lifecycle.

June 26, 2006  
OCS Consultant said...

First apologies for the lack of contribution - delivery comes first.

Some recent conversations provides one insight. What does Onshore mean?

Where does culture play a part? What aspects of IT services requires communications - obviously soft skill areas, such as Project Management, Business and Systems Analysis.

What about the more technical role such as the Analyst Programmer? Where the delivery methodology and system complexity involve close user contribution with rapid deployment, culture and distance play a significant part in the outcome. Prototyping, iterative development and new rapid development approaches such as espoused in Agile Programming are difficult to see effected remotely or where the participants have different cultural backgrounds.

August 09, 2006  
OCS Consultant said...

Holiday season is drawing to a close. It was a comment that had little significance at the time, but created a resonance - "why do they take longer, often single annual holidays instead of the usual week of my other developers?". The client was expressing their exasperation with accomodating several key developers, who were returning "home". Interestingly, though the workers referenced were Brazilians, it could have been any developers whose home is based a long distance away - Australians, Indians, Chinese. In some countries such as Australia there is a "tradition" of having a month's holiday from Christmas, which is often observed by its travelling workforce.

The issue wasn't the developer's, but the client and their management style. The problem was the client's. The solution was a call to a responsive and flexible UK based IT service provider - OCS Consulting. A condition was our developers have shorter breaks or OCS ensured coverage for longer breaks.

It is funny how culture can be expressed in small things that have larger outcomes. Lucky for the Onshore UK Based provider, such as ourselves.

September 05, 2006  
Anonymous said...

Are you saying your client was discriminating against their developers? Isn't that the real point and shouldn't the client be taken to task!

September 11, 2006  
Anonymous said...

I think you are taking advantage of cultural differences to suit your own business objectives. I thought being British you would see the need to ensure the playing field remains level?

September 11, 2006  
OCS Consultant said...

Cultural difference exists within any communications where the participants have acquired variances in perceptions and expectations based on their experiences. Cultural differences will occur at all levels, individuals through to organisational behaviour. It is common that such differences provide opportunities.

A culture that promotes "single" annualised holidays provides benefits, if your client or user community expects this disruption and may be on a similar break. This is not a standard event in general UK based business culture and thus is seen as an issue.

The UK business approach is that all suppliers should compete on a level playing field. This is why the UK is a leader in globalisation.

Our client sought a delivery with more managed resource deployment. Had the Brazilian supplier provided such continuity the issue would not have surfaced.

What of the case where a client sees value in iterative, rapid user involved development? Do we expect the client to accept a SSADM approach based on a myriad of checks and assurances to provide the level playing field? If the client agreed would their competitors also take a similar benevolent stance with their product developments?

Cultural differences should be celebrated. If we can learn and from learning create new methods and mechanisms to engage the opportunities of globalisation we have a Win/Win situation. To establish that Yes, may mean No or Maybe due to cultural differences and that you need to communicate differently to ensure you both understand Yes to mean Yes, is a valuable experience and skill that benefits all.

September 11, 2006  

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