Role options for IT delivery professionals
A majority of IT delivery professionals come with a background of projects on a technology stack (e.g. SAP, analytics, java stack) or a vertical/business domain (supply chain, OSS, lending).
Then there are those who moved on to technology neutral program manager roles – focusing on ensuring that one or a set of projects stay on the path to success.
The area of work proficiency is a key determinant of future job options. Expertise, recent experience, and the ability to get productive quickly carry significant weight.
If your background is in delivery around a technology stack
Alignment to a technology stack indicates specialization or tenure in a set of contiguous technologies used in the delivery of IT programs. Specializations in SAP, Java stack, VB / Dot.net, Data warehouse technologies, test automation / test engineering, and infrastructure operations are examples of this.
These are tools used across industries and industry processes e.g. Java stack technologies can be used to build content & commerce platforms for a retailer or a customer care site for a bank. Similarly, SAP technologies are used across industries in supply chain, manufacturing & materials management.
The multi-industry applicability is the biggest asset to those focused on a technology stack. It opens up roles across industries and hence a larger pool of jobs.
The cross industry portability can also be a significant advantage if any one industry is shrinking. For example, when the telecom industry was shrinking in the early 2000’s, those with portable technology stack specializations could migrate to other industries. A similar migration occurred during the banking/financial services crises in 2009.
Aim for roles delivering programs in your technology area or contiguous ones.
Continue to invest in building depth in the technology stack and staying current with emerging trends. Raise the bar to take on more complex and scale implementations. Like a good runner, keep shaving off seconds from your timing.
If your background is in delivery of projects around a business domain
These delivery roles enable implementation of domain solutions leverage appropriate technologies. Implementation or specialization in an industry process or domains like Telecom OSS, trade reconciliation in brokerages, claims processing for insurance, and supply chain in retail are a few examples.
This specialization brings experience of close engagement with business owners, understanding direction, strategy & goals, and translating those into technology implementations.
Technology delivery professionals with specialization in industry domain processes are valued because they are the bridge between business owners & technology teams and vital to ensuring that businesses can leverage technology to gain a competitive advantage.
Specialization in a domain processes is portable within companies in the same industry. If that industry is going through a downturn, finding alternative roles can be challenging.
Some domain processes like supply chain, warehousing, e-commerce, and loyalty, are common to more than one industry and allow cross industry options for jobs.
When working in a growth industry (e.g. e-commerce, social media), aim to get deep into one or a set of domain processes. The combination of domain depth and technology proficiency will ensure that you are the go to person as the industry grows and processes evolve.
In the more stable or low growth industries, refactor your domain skills towards domain areas which are more portable and allow future job choices in contiguous industries in addition to your current one.
If your background is in program management, of one or multi-technology / domain programs
These roles engage closely with customers on one hand as the single point of contact, with delivery teams on the other & track progress of multiple projects, providing mentoring to teams, and oversight to operational parameters. The expertise these roles bring is monitoring and steering one or multiple programs to success, and reporting their progress to the executive suite.
Often, if not always, the success in these roles is predicated on a past experience and familiarity in the domain or technologies in which the projects/programs are being delivered.
CIO organizations as well as IT services companies both have a portfolio of projects which are being delivered. Derivatively, jobs for program oversight exist in both the CIO organizations, as well as with IT services companies. These roles too tend to get aligned to either a set of domains or technologies. Someone who has been providing program oversight to ERP programs is more likely to be sought for similar work than for say BI & data warehouse programs. Similarly a background in programs in the retail banking industry will get more interest for roles in banking or similar B2C industries.
Client engagement & operational excellence are the areas to build on. These tend to be the two which program / portfolio managers are most sought for.
In roles with the IT services companies, the ability to grow business in existing streams of work has also emerged as a job requirement for program leader roles. Building skills in how to expand existing and contiguous engagements is a skill which all portfolio managers should invest in.
Factor in the constraints
Work permit – A permanent residency is preferred for most roles and citizenship is a prerequisite in the defense and security sectors. Outside of these industries, there is receptivity for H1 work permit holders for specialized technical roles. Given the high volume of IT technical resources in their workforce, technology project delivery and technology platform companies are more willing to be sponsors for those with H1 work visas.
Travel –Technology delivery roles tend to be more local unlike sales roles which may be required to cover large territories. Mobility and travel play a less important role in hiring decisions. If you are mobile, and can move across cities, it will of course open up more opportunities.
The expectation of rapid productivity is the overwhelming consideration in the recruitment of experienced professionals. This holds true when hiring from outside, as well as when redeploying individuals from within an organization.
Most professionals in technology delivery tend to specialize in a technology stack, business domain, or in program oversight & stewardship. Each, in turn allows them to be quickly productive, and hence portable into a similar set of jobs.
Those with specialization in technology stacks are most industry portable, with jobs in similar technology roles across industries. To stay relevant, they should continuously invest in keeping abreast with the most current technologies / methodologies in their stream
Those with specialization in domain processes are portable within their industry & in contiguous industries. They should aim to be the go to person(s) in their domain when the industry is growing well, and add cross industry domain expertise when their own industry growth starts to flatten
Proficiency in providing oversight and steering programs to success is portable across contiguous technologies and industries. Those in these roles should keep themselves familiar and current in the technology or domain trends in the areas where they have or aiming to lead programs while enhancing skills in client engagement & process excellence.
The opportunities and skills for these three types of roles are summarized in this table
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To read similar notes on career planning on the Valenco Inc site click on www.valencoinc.com/blog-1