The Importance of 3C’s – Communication, Cloud, and Cross-Functional Skills to Prosper In The New Normal
Back in May 2020, when we asked our stakeholders what will be the impact of COVID-19 would be on their technology charter and IT plans, the same question was met with a less a less confident “impacted to some extent”. Which brings us to ask, what changed during the last two months?
The answer is a combination of more information and the resulting clairvoyance. As we are getting our wind back slowly, we are bound to recalibrate our plans on all the fronts: at home and work. At work from a technology perspective, we need to deliver quickly, seamlessly, securely, and in a cost – effective manner. Stalling new projects until the end of the current financial year may increase the danger of being perceived as non-competitive in our marketplace.
In the new normal, we need to revisit multiple fronts of technology delivery. In this respect, two of the most critical aspects are – Cloud skills and communication skills. These need to be treated differently. It is not easy to predict the end of COVID-19, so why not take proactive steps to improve the situation at hand?
Communication in the traditional era of Specialization
For years, technology delivery has been based on specialization. Specialization matters only when you have good working knowledge of other entities that are going to interact with your system. Hence cross-functional learning is critical and why teaching ethics and psychology makes complete sense in Law schools. It’s probably also the reason why the great tabla player Ustad Zakir Hussain mastered sound acoustics.
Unfortunately, when it comes to Technology, we have confused “specialization” with “isolation”. Specializing in one key technology areas is only effective if companies build a strong intra-department collaboration model.
Revisit the delivery models
Now is the best time to envisage technology delivery under the spectrum of collaboration, agility, financial feasibility, and design thinking. Our existing technology delivery models are still based on age-old manufacturing assembly lines. The heavy interdependence of the processes, assembly line like software delivery, single point of failure, and lack of cross-functional skills make technology solutions expensive and non-feasible.
How far can the Cloud make it efficient?
“Cloud Technology removes all inefficiency from technology delivery models” – The statement is a claim at best – Cloud is just one critical method of deploying our solutions and making it accessible at a fraction of cost. We also need additional ingredients and skills to make it efficient.
Cross-skilling and not reskilling
If you ask any manager about the status of cross-skilling exercises in his company, his answer involves all the players below his rank. He doesn’t even include himself in cross-skilling exercises because traditionally that must be planned by his manager. This pyramid-like reskilling exercise model is very myopic and answers only one question “how many resources are ready for billability?”
In today’s new normal, every senior manager of the company needs to look cross-department and gain working knowledge of various aspects of solution delivery for customers and employees. That is cross-skilling and not reskilling. Let me give some examples:
• Information Architects now must understand underlying financials of the Cloud delivery model, customer experience in hybrid or “all cloud” deployment, and even one-click procurement process for buying Cloud credits.
• Developers need to learn a new Cloud-native development model. However, they also need to have a working knowledge of Cloud security, elastic infrastructure, autonomous security, and financials of licensing and subscription.
• A Security architect needs to learn the trade-off between high-security processes vs low customer experience. He needs to be more innovative in utilizing homegrown application hardening, and monitoring scripts rather than depending on costly third-party applications provided by Cloud OEMs.
• Procurement not only needs to understand the OPEX model of software but also how quickly the cloud credits can be misused if not monitored. They also need to learn new negotiation methods where there is little differentiation between top Cloud OEMs.
Communication using design thinking
When it comes to communication, we think about solutions such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet etc. that empower our workforce efficiently and enable seamless work from home.
Employees are already exposed to fake news, unrelated data, and broken information on the internet…24×7. So how can we use technology to deliver relevant information to make our remote force more efficient and reduce unnecessary stress for them?
There is an interesting case study in the best-seller “Blue Ocean Strategy” written by Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. In the early 1980s, Bloomberg devised a new system for its traders who were glued to their terminals for long hours. Bloomberg not only applied then lesser-known concepts of design thinking but they also thought about how their system is used and also thought about the personal lives of the traders.
The new system not only had the trading platform but also information and online services to buy flowers, clothing; make travel arrangements and search through real estate listings. Do remember that it was the pre-Google era.
Today’s, the ALT+TAB keys can allow users to shift from various programs and services and also exposes them to an unwanted information overload. How quickly can we assemble relevant information, distribute it seamlessly, and build strong collaboration between cross departments through design thinking assumes critical importance. It need not require additional investment, rather there is a need for innovative thinking by teams working on the Information Architecture.
For years, we have been thinking of how to develop systems that allow our field sales and customer service teams to spend less time in office. Now, let us think about how the entire workforce can spend less time in data collection, distribution, and analysis with a focus on communication, internal/external collaboration, and mass adoption of technologies such as the Cloud.
This is a Guest Post by By Mr. Shrikant Navelkar, Director, Clover Infotech