Recent conversation with colleague put forth important dilemma every person working in IT faces at some point of time.

It is about – whether to focus on Technology or Delivery Management as we grow in our careers.

My colleague chose to pursue ‘Technology’  way and clearly mentioned that this decision POSTPONED her progression by almost three years. That brings very important point the way IT careers are progressed in Outsourcing Industry.

If you look at any leadership levels of leading IT players, you will easily find people who managed bigger and bigger delivery teams and are  excellent man-managers. On contrast, technology expertise is considered as ‘given’ , more often not the important criteria for progression.

That premise worked very well as IT Outsourcing industry was growing in double digits solely on basis of cost arbitrage. It dint have to showcase technology skills/mindset as long as its been ‘Deliver’ed successfully  irrespective of  technology on client side.Revenue were solely based on ‘number of people in the project’ multiplied by ‘daily rate’ client was ready to pay. It was low-risk and often low-investment model as long as sales team kept deal pipeline strong. In such scenario, IT industry promoted lot of man-managers and often it was seen as source of strength/power within the organisation.

There are two important changes happening in IT industry now.

  1. Next wave of growth is expected to come from much smaller employee base. This employee base is expected to be much technology savvy in terms of automation/analytics/mobility etc.  Automation itself is expected to reduce effort by 30-40% , and thus corresponding employee counts in IT projects.
  2. Digital is about technology impacting directly to the business processes. Clients now prefer to interact with ‘technologists’ than mere ‘man-managers’.

While it does not mean that ‘good old’ IT model will go away. Rather it’s expected that front-office (digital focused model) and back-office( current IT model) will co-exist for period of time.

So, for companies which are making leap into Digital IT outsourcing space, it is imperative that they  develop ‘technology career’ tracks in their workforce. They should consciously promote such technologists in leadership levels.

There will be some companies who will simply focus on back-office and stick to old ‘Delivery Management’ style. While it’s not wrong at the moment, they should know that ‘pie’ is constantly shrinking in this space.

I see that overall IT industry is in state of transition and nobody knows what will work or not in ‘Digital future’. One thing is clear though. Change should start from the top. It begins with balancing technologists with ‘delivery’ folks  in leadership ranks. It will help you steady the ship in ‘turbulent’ waters ahead.

Sometimes it is better to ‘change within’ rather than ‘marketplace forcing the change’. If you are not convinced, ask YAHOO!.