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It’s been a difficult few weeks for me personally . First I lost Hobo . Then I had to rush to India since my father fell critically ill and passed away . It was not clear if or when I could return to US given the Corona virus situation – and after being away for three weeks , I got home yesterday . It took me about 30 hours door to door and most of that time I was thinking about how the world around me is evolving at a break neck speed .
Obviously I have no crystal ball to gaze into the future and I have done no scientific studies on this topic either . And as always – these are purely my personal opinions and not that of my employer .
I have been thinking about whether this pandemic is a one time thing or whether this is a pattern we should expect in future . A quick poll on Twitter was the closest to a checking around I could do from TRIVANDRUM .
This is what the handful of people who responded thought . It aligns with my own thinking – we should consider the possibility that this could be a trend and evolve our personal and professional lives to deal with it .
So with that background – let me share what I think we should plan to deal with in the world of IT services . Some or all of it may apply to other industries too
1. Obviously , we will learn to work better from remote locations
I have worked from home and client locations nearly all my adult life . I offered some quick tips last week when I saw posts on social media by people who seemed to be struggling with the transition . I absolutely think any temporary loss of productivity can be mitigated with better connectivity , processes, education and tooling . I say this significant conviction because I didn’t see any serious loss of productivity when a big part of my own team and I went remote as part of invoking our business continuity plans .
2. Travel and co-location become less important
It might take a few years to be fully embraced – but the difficult times we go through now will provide enough proof points that we can function effectively and efficiently without all being in one location . Consultants flying every week to a client location (or commuting for hours every day) is a habit we have carried over from a different era (when there was no internet and remote communication was ineffective and costly) and we can finally stop doing it as a primary mode of delivery . Face time will always be important – but it will probably come at a premium in future .
The money saved from all these can either go to bottom line or even better, spent on more value generating projects . We will all be doing a greater service to the only planet we can call our own !
3. Less divorces , and more happy families
It’s a touchy topic and taboo generally to talk about – but I am going to say it anyway . I personally know several people who ended up in divorces because of the nature of our work . I think this will change for the better if the low value travel in our line of work is minimized or eliminated .
I also know several friends – and many of them women – who had to make a hard choice to not raise a family because of the constraints of work ( mostly related to travel ) . I hope they have more choices in this matter going forward.
There is a part of me that does worry that families will need some adjustment when we all work from home . But hopefully this can be worked out with relative ease if we approach it consciously . I have some thoughts – which I plan to pen eventually .
4. Different measurements
The general measurement paradigm for staff consultants is utilization and for executives it’s sales . If and when work becomes more remote – I think we will have to switch to a different set of measures than billable utilization . This is perhaps the hardest change this industry will face and we better prepare for it now .
I also think the way to measure sales will also change. Revenue in the accounting sense of the word may not be enough when cash becomes even more important for businesses . Not sure if DSO is the right measure – but some cash related metric might need to be incorporated into sales metrics . Also important will be customer retention , Client satisfaction etc . It’s not that these things are not important today – just saying that we may change what’s peripheral now to a more primary component of comp models .
5. More pressure on the bottom of the pyramid – for both providers and clients
Back in the day, young consultants got into long term projects at low billing rates and learned the trade in an apprenticeship model . That’s already hard in today’s world with project sizes and time lines shrinking . Now when remote work becomes mainstream – it will be much harder to bring inexperienced new hires to the level of skills that is needed for actual projects .
This also will need some serious rethinking by the service providers along with their clients .
6. Project delivery has to evolve
Every aspect of the delivery life cycle will need to evolve and probably evolve faster than we are used to . For example – a lot of shops have already stopped splitting a work product between onsite and offshore teams . Instead they give fill autonomy to remote teams so that they are self contained . That helps minimize people needing to wake up early and sleep late everyday . That’s the kind of culture that needs to become mainstream in IT services.
I am used to globally distributed agile – but honestly it took some time getting used to it . It’s a significant change management issue for most companies – service providers and clients alike . And it might need a new kind of leader to make it happen and stick with it .
6. Automation will increase manifold
One of the biggest take always will be that people are the biggest risk to an Enterpise when the risk is biological in nature like a pandemic . So perhaps even for some wrong reasons – I expect the focus on automation to increase manifold just to decrease the dependence on humans .
But in the same breath – I have to say that what I see around me now is that automation has not replaced human decision making yet . In fact a lot of human effort and thinking is going on at the moment to mitigate the unique risks that are coming to light .
So I guess the best way to think about this is that we need highly differentiated skills to be employable in the future world of services . Again – I have way too many thoughts on this topic that I will post in another blog .
7. Security is probably the new black
Security was always important no doubt – but as we get even more distributed in terms of delivering work, I think it will become a more central issue in IT than it already is . For a long time – all consultants who were good at analytics have had a bit of an edge in the field . I think that will continue of course – but now security (specific to your domain) might be that extra skill set that will help you stand out .
8. Massive consolidation will happen
Some amount of consolidation has been happening already and I think it will pick up significant speed . The mid tier companies probably won’t have a viable way to continue and will have to merge or get acquired to stand a chance to survive in the evolving market .
Unfortunately I also think a bunch of those mid tier companies won’t make it and will just disappear . Given the gloomy nature of the topic and because I have dear friends who work there – I will resist naming any names .
Even the ones who will stay around – I don’t think they will have big pools of full time employees anymore in the middle to long term . I fully expect vast majority of these firms to depend on gig workers to get things done for their clients . And commodity skills will probably become a mainstream online platform business where clients and providers can both buy .
9. Systems integration business will grow
I know it’s a hot button topic for several people I know and respect , who believe cloud will kill SI business . That’s not how I see it . I do think SaaS and other cloud models will continue to grow . And as it grows , integration and analytics challenges will grow as well . Consequently I think the SI market will continue to be a good employer for a long time to come . The kind of work will shift over time – but the effort to integrate will continue to grow for a long time .
I am not sure yet on whether in-sourcing of IT will get affected or not in future . I will be keenly observing and if I see any visible common trends , I will share in a future blog .
10. Redundant collaboration tooling
As we increase our dependence on webex , zoom , teams etc – those services going down will have significant issues for our businesses . I am sure those companies will become very good at providing highly resilient services – but I can’t imagine any company risking their business with just one tool anymore . Maybe they will when SLA from these providers are that good – and I am keen to see how this evolves .
I am very interested in your views on this topic . Please leave your comments and I look forward to learning from you .
(Cross-posted @ Vijay’s thoughts on all things big and small)