The current UK IT market calls for skills in IT roles that were not required at all more than 5 years ago. The growth of outsourcing within corporate IT environments currently has 2 common models in place in terms of contract governance.
- The first model is the traditional model whereby IT sourced contracts are managed by line managers as if the resources were still in house. This fits more with Time & Material engagements than Managed Services and is becoming less and less popular over time since it is no longer very effective
- The second model is a model whereby it is clearly recognised that the agreement in place between the customer and supplier is a commercial agreement. This requires commercial knowledge of the contract, not just to understand it but to be know it in such a way that it is possible to get the best out of it. This involves not just understanding what are all the outcomes are, but also to drive improvements into it over time. This is not even taking into account the fact that the contract has to be written in the first place with large amounts of input from the customer
As a result of this, it is now clear that IT leaders and IT managers need more than just IT skills in the traditional sense. They need legal, commercial and financial skills more than they have ever needed them. They need to understand how to get the best “bang for your buck”, something that IT procurement departments have understood for a long time now. However, the training and development offered to IT procurement departments is very different to that offered to IT operational departments.
What needs to happen?
Traditional development training plans within IT departments take into account the following disciplines:
- Project / Programme Management (Prince2, MSP, APMP)
- Architecture (Architectural Best Practices, Patterns and Models)
- Technical Skills (Programming Languages, Operating Systems etc…) which tend to lead to industry standard certifications
- Soft Skills (Leadership, Management, Coaching etc…)
All this will need to change in the near future. More focus in IT will need to be on what typically we might have called business skills. These include negotiation, supplier management, finance, commercial penalties / credits and contract law. The devil of contracts is in the detail and to some extent this plays into the hands of the skills of existing IT professionals. Of course, IT professionals will still be expected to know their Java from their .NET and their Linux from their Solaris.
The Outsourcing Specialists
Of course we must not forget that the real IT work still needs to be done. And even though more and more of this is being done offshore, there is still going to be a need for seasoned IT professionals to manage this from onshore as part of a balanced onshore / offshore ratio. However, even in those roles, there will be offshore delivery managers that will need more of a technical and typical IT bias, leaving those onshore with roles that require them to do more and more customer relationship management and value-add activities. All offshore contracts expect at a minimum that IT services will be delivered within expected timescales and costs. More and more of the value-add roles are therefore about innovation and ensuring that the customer is seeing increased service levels, reduced cost and the kind of benefits that large outsourcing companies can provide such as access to seasoned industry professionals and tried and tested products that can be easily relocated from one account to another.
All in all, the future is still bright for IT professionals in the UK if they focus on the skills that are going to be needed longer term. They are not the skills that they may have needed a number of years ago however for those that dedicate themselves to developing the right skills, then they are in a strong position as business and IT skills together ensures that people are incredibly marketable.