Illustrating the role of In-house technology as a panacea for agencies
In an ideal world, an in-house IT team is expected to be an enabler or a business system SME. If you trace back the history of in-house technology, it comes from the time when one had to build and do everything; and needed to have one’s own technology people close at hand. Since then the industry evolved to employ specialized service-based companies who would provide the service anywhere in the world. They are the likes of IBM, Accenture, Cap Gemini, TCS, Infosys, Cognizant and others. So, gradually the center of gravity shifted towards outsourcing. The role of the in-house technology teams have become more of program management with some vendor management thrown in. Coming to the current situation, with the rapidly changing trajectory of technology, it is extremely difficult to keep these skills in-house, and to acquire these skills in the market from large firms. The whole model of development is agile with extremely short cycle times. This means that the in-house IT team cannot very effectively contribute in terms of technology. All it really does is managing the IT process and the technology acquisition and assimilation processes very effectively.
Hurdles speed-breaking the management
One of the biggest challenges that any in-house IT organization faces, especially in the Asia Pacific region is attracting, employing and retaining the right skills. The reason - technology is changing very rapidly and Asia is the hotbed of fintech startups. It is extremely difficult to retain skills like Analytics or Machine learning or Artificial Intelligence in an in-house environment. The reason - tech departments are unable to match the high pay and keep a high-skill workforce as engaged as the high tech firms. An added issue is the inability to provide consistent career progress in the organization. New work is typically outsourced to vendors; in fact most of the maintenance of newer systems is also done by external vendors esp. if the technology is really current.
Role of In-house technology in reducing complexity to create efficiency in work
The need to modernize and controlling costs are two sides of the same coin. One’s access with good and senior skills is always limited. These two things have always been big challenges for the in-house technology team, but it is essential to learn to work overcoming them.
"Attracting, employing and retaining the right skills are the challenges that an in-house IT organization faces in APAC region"
The assumption is in-house IT knows the existing internal systems and processes much better than anyone else – which is mostly true. One of the activities it very easily and naturally does is that it identifies the areas of inefficiency and areas of productivity and improvement within the existing IT landscape. This makes it more relevant, because no one else other than the in-house IT team knows the existing systems which are under management. Undertaking these continuous improvement activities will automatically enhance their importance and credibility, and also make them effective partners. Unless they are working as a partner to the business and or they are deemed important enough to be included in every discussion, it is going to be extremely difficult for the in-house IT Team to stay relevant in the current age. What is encouraging is the trend to insource tech again to retain business know-how to mitigate the risk of too much outsourcing of the past decades.
Building credibility and Trust
It is extremely important to build credibility with and win trust from the stake holders one is supporting. All the other hindrances stem from that– the lack of resources, lack of skill, poor requirements, scope creep, etc. If one is not seen as credible and trustworthy, anything one does will fail.
Woofing the hurdles
For me, what has mostly worked in tough situations (in fact, any situation) is to be clear and straight forward in any communication with stakeholders, and also to set realistic and pragmatic expectations. The other approach that helps is seeking assistance and advice whenever needed. One should never hesitate to ask for help. We all are inevitably working in teams; and for teams to be effective, we must learn when to reach out for help. No issue should be allowed to fester and get aggravated– communicate promptly and ask for help should be the motto.
Defining an ideal leader
Undoubtedly, what makes an ideal leader is the ability to continuously develop leaders in his/her team. My principle in any new assignment I am given is to immediately identify a few likely replacements for my role and start grooming them. The idea - make myself redundant for that role. The benefit of this is two-fold – I create an opening for a deserving candidate in the team and also free myself up for the next challenging responsibility.