USAID-financed ICT project – Candidates needed

Request from Daniel Lounberg

“We are searching for candidates to work as team leader on a resident basis in Tunisia for one year on a USAID-financed ICT project, see scope detail here:  USAID Tunisia ICTSOW.  The principal tasks are to help increase ICT entrepreneurship, to develop the ICT workforce, and to develop a program of policy and regulatory reform.

The ideal person would be someone with U.S. background in the IT industry, but who has a background of seeing the whole industry.  In other words, someone who would come equipped to make recommendations of how to develop the sector in Tunisia.  It is very helpful but not absolutely necessary if the candidates have prior overseas project experience, and if they speak French.

The candidates will need at least ten years of post-school work experience, and be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.  If you can think of anyone who might fit, I would like to hear.”

Daniel Lounberg

Itasca International

Arlington, VA  USA

dlounberg@itasca.net

tel 703 785 8894

 

From the Desk of the President

Few weeks ago, I was at a C level executive conference where the common threads of discussions were:

  • How can businesses grow without losing focus on its core competencies?
  • What can be done to increase sales and retain customers?
  • If businesses don’t have right people or don’t want to hire full time employees, then what are their options?

The above applies to most of the businesses in today’s environment, be it small, medium or large; they are looking to focus on core competencies, increasing sales and finding right people.  Well there is nothing new in these questions or these issues; the same questions could have been asked thirty years ago.  What is different though is that now we look at the same questions in different way.  In the 1970’s and 1980’s we outsourced certain services such advertisements and legal services, in 1990’s we outsourced some additional services such placement and recruiting and in 2000 and 2010 we are outsourcing IT, HR, R&D and lots of other services.

Let’s look at how a small or medium business can increase customer satisfaction? They can use surveys to find out how their customers assess their products or services and thereby increase sales. Now the question comes who will do those surveys?  An in-house team or outsource the service from an established organisation?  It often makes sense to outsource such services. In another example, I was talking to with a Nuclear Power Plant Executive, who was complaining that he is losing much of his workforce.  The organisation is not interested in maintaining certain facilities such as design and development, or the tool room; instead they are outsourcing such services to globally recognised large organisation.  This is a good thing because they are obtaining excellent technical expertise and quality of services; it is a bad thing in that the company is losing its human capital.

In today’s global economy, it is not very difficult for a small business in US to outsource its call centre to the Philippines, its IT services to Russia, and its payroll to Mexico.  The small business can continue to focus on its core business and grow, meanwhile those businesses that provide services from Philippines, Russia and Mexico also grow.  They may in turn buy some other goods or services of US, which in turn creates demand for our small business.  The Global Sourcing Council brings best practices, helps small businesses to understand what measures it should take to mitigate risks and maintain quality and service level standards.

I look forward from our readers to continue the debate. □

Sanjay Sharma has over twenty years of Global experience in Information Technology, Supply Chain and Project Management. Sanjay has managed backend Sourcing and Procurement operations for large organizations in Europe, Far East & Australia. He led procurement operations for a large industrial goods manufacturing organization. Sanjay has articles published in business magazines and publications on the subjects of procurement, supply chain and project management. Sanjay speaks at Conferences, Seminars and Symposiums. He works as consultant for Project Management and Global Sourcing. In addition he teaches Project Management subjects. His email contact is sanjaysrr@gmail.com.

IT Workforce Trends

For the past seven years, there has been an on-going research project, Information Technology (IT) Workforce Trends, sponsored by the Society for Information Management and carried out by a team of academics from the U.S. and several other countries. The focus of the research is to understand the trends in human resource management in the information technology departments given other changes in the industry including the use of global sourcing and the impact of the retirement of the large baby boomer population. Understanding the implications of IT workforce management for educational programs is a key goal of the research.

There are two major phases in the research: 1) looking at the workforce trends in client companies, that is, those who buy global sourcing and 2) looking at the workforce trends in IT provider companies, that is, those who sell global sourcing services.

A major conclusion from the first phase is that there is a mission shift for the information systems function from delivering technology-based solutions to managing the process of delivering solutions. This has significant implications for the skills and capabilities that IT departments are hiring and developing within their organizations. The bottom line is that client-facing capabilities, along with project management and general business skills are increasing in importance as pure technical skills are decreasing in desirability.

Interestingly the second phase of the research shows that provider companies are seeking similar skills as they see their business strategies shifting to higher-level services for their clients.

In the following table (Table 1), the top 10 capabilities that client companies indicated were critical are shown (total exceeds 10 due to tied positions). The color coding illustrates the categories used in the research to sort skills and capabilities:

• Orange = Technical skills and capabilities

• Green = Project management skills and capabilities

• Blue = Business domain skills and capabilities

In the next table (Table 2) are the skills and capabilities that client companies indicated they would obtain through global sourcing.

It is very clear that all of these capabilities are in the category “technical skills and capabilities.”

It should be noted that despite these IT workforce trends, the typical computer science and information systems program does not usually emphasize the business domain and project management skills which are becoming desired and critical in the marketplace.

The results of this research underline a looming crisis in several areas related to the education of the modern IT workforce:

1) graduates who are not trained in areas that the marketplace is seeking;

2) thin pipeline for specific technical skills;

3) increasing pressure to source IT capability;

4) lag in university responsiveness to the needs of the marketplace.

The conclusions can be summarized in the simple statement that anyone choosing a career as an IT professional in most client and provider organizations will need a balance of technical and managerial skills to meet the demands of the marketplace. The technical skills will vary widely depending on the company and industry needs; however, in light of increasing sourcing of IT services, the managerial skills in the categories of project management and business domain knowledge are becoming increasingly critical in practice.

The computer science and information technology curricula will need to train students in both technical and non-technical skills. This result fits the notion of the “T-shaped person” as a person with broad general skills and deep technical skills. The concept of the T-shaped person has been in the literature for at least 20 years as the quote following shows. This type of rounded personality is also sought in other management areas and is sometimes described as a “variation on Renaissance Man, equally comfortable with information systems, modern management techniques, and the 12-tone scale.” [David Guest, “The Hunt is on for the Renaissance Man of Computing,” The Independent (London), September 17, 1991.]

The research data indicates that another highly valued version would be a person with broad technical skills and deep business skills. In particular, the data on mid-level positions shows a real need for project management and business skills. Currently, most computer science programs provide deep technical skills. They need to incorporate business applications of those skills and to foster such general skills as team work and communication. While Information systems or Information Technology programs are often housed in business schools, they do provide an opportunity for students to study accounting, finance, marketing and operations courses that build deep business skills and capabilities. These programs could be strengthened by exposing students to cross functional courses and projects that emphasize supporting business processes and a focus on global business strategies.

To find background on this research with detailed data from the two phases and information about the skills and capabilities, see the following publications:

Abraham, T., C. Beath, C. Bullen, K. Gallagher, T. Goles, K. Kaiser, and J. Simon. (2006). “IT Workforce Trends: Implications for IS Programs,” Communications of the Association for Information Systems (17:3), pp.1147-1170.

Bullen, C. V., T. Abraham, K. P. Gallagher, K. M. Kaiser, J. C. Simon. (2007A). “Changing IT Skills: The Impact of Sourcing Strategies on In-House Capability Requirements, ” special issue on Offshoring and Outsourcing: The 140 Volume 24 Article 9 Innovation and its Impact on Electronic Commerce in Organizations in Journal of Electronic Commerce in Organizations 5 (2), 24-46.

Bullen, C. V., T. Abraham, S. Galup. (2007B). “IT Workforce Trends: Implications for Curriculum and Hiring,” Communications of the Association for Information Systems Volume 20, Article 34, October

Zwieg, P. et al. (2006). “The Information Technology Workforce: Trends and Implications 2005-2008,” MIS Quarterly Executive, (5:2), pp. 47-54. □

 

Christine V. Bullen is a faculty member at the Howe School of Management, Stevens Institute of Technology where she is the coordinator of the four-course concentration/major on global sourcing in the MSIS and MBA programs. She is currently conducting research on an IT workforce deployment model, looking at the impact of sourcing strategy on the in house needs for IT skills. She earned her MS from MIT and her Ph.D. from Stevens. She is also the former chair, president and board member of the Global Sourcing Council.  You may reach Christine at Christine.bullen@gscouncil.org

 

 

 

What is Your Story?

By Karen Morris

”A C.I.O., a comedian and a priest walk into a bar.”  We want to know what happens next.

You know how a child’s face responds to, “Once upon a time, a long, long time ago.” A congregation calms to the phrase “We are gathered here together to celebrate…”

Unforgivable and unforgiving 54 slide Power Points™, and their spreadsheet off-spring, are a whole different story. Awash with data, riddled with ostensible facts, our corporate communication conventions seem to forget what they are for: above all, they are for the audience. Obvious? Unfortunately, many presenters “forget” the audience in favor of the “message”. The result is that the audience forgets the message. Worse is the presenter who forgets the audience in favor of themselves; the listeners left to languish in some passive, receptive state. An actor who did this would be fast out of business but we do it in business.

Gary Lyons, a former actor, director and playwright has been tackling this problem for several decades as an executive coach at The TAI Group. The art and science of developing compelling presentations begins, according to Gary with telling a story. Good story-telling taps the imagination of the listener; they become active participants in the narrative and are connected to the outcome.

Some of my rather left brain sourcing colleagues will protest that this is not the appropriate language of business. But the language of business is – must be – the language of people making meaningful connections. This is indeed the business of narrative. Narrative is neither new nor trivial. Human history reveals storytelling as the glue of communities, societies and civilizations.  Narrative cements cultures, transfers knowledge and values, teaches, entertains and motivates. What company would not welcome such benefits? What destination country or region would not want to tell its unique story by these means?

If your commercial discourse blends reason and emotion, captures and holds attention, inspires action and enables change, what you have achieved is the language of leadership. This applies whether you represent the buy-side, vendors, advisors, regions or countries.

At its best, storytelling is the human portal to empathy and insight.  Insight comes from looking at the same stuff as your competitors and seeing something else, making different connections. Insight is the indispensable cornerstone of all innovation, arguably the only remaining source of competitive advantage.

So what on earth, or more precisely, what in the office, happened?

People have not changed. We all “story our lives” by text, tweet, blog or over a coffee. We are wired to share what we did, what we are doing and what we want to do next. It is no different for an enterprise and its members talking to internal and external stakeholders.

But somehow we get the sense, to corrupt Othello’s dying words that we are more communicated against than communicating.

Maybe the tyranny of ubiquitous data causes us to lose the larger narrative plot. Rich data and smart analytics are invaluable. But data, almost always incomplete and perishable, start rather than complete stories. I remember an early conversation about sourcing sometime in the last century.  My interlocutor built vertiginous towers of BPO-speak, metrics and KPIs, cost arbitrage, SLA’s and so forth.  But after the barrage of verbiage and statistics, I realized I had no sense at all of what his organization was about.  I had no mental pictures.  I do not imply that we should not value facts and so-called “hard” data in business but that our brains and memory respond so much more powerfully to facts linked to imagery and connected cohesively to a context.

The storied, rather than data-delineated, approach necessarily moves us along the continuum from data to information, from information to knowledge, from knowledge to understanding, and from understanding to insight where actionable competitive advantage resides. Of course this states the obvious but it is not obvious how to do it. (In my experience the obvious is often the hardest stuff to pull off). Any innovation strategy that stops short along the continuum is missing its full potential, the really “Happy Ending”.

The meat of organizational narrative capability is in how we set about the business of getting critical insights from “mind to market”. “How” incorporates disciplining, the “what” of content and the ‘why’ of communicating it.

Imagine a week in which every communication, presentation or meeting-content in which you participate meet the Heath brothers’ “stories that stick” test.

  • SIMPLE:        focused on the essential core of the idea
  • UNEXPECTED:     attention grabbing
  • CONCRETE:     clear and meaningful
  • CREDIBLE:        trustworthy and believable
  • EMOTIONAL:    harnessing appropriate emotion

 

A story that in Malcolm Gladwell’s term “The Tipping Point”2 has the “stickiness factor.”

Imagine if every week were like that! Imagine what would get done. We would conserve and maximize the scarcest of corporate resources: time and attention.

The impact on internal and external brand identity could be transformational.

What would this level of communication do for culture? For stories to stick in a culture they have to both be co-created and be continued by intelligent improvisation. That requires constant active listening, an enviable organizational attribute.

Consider how this would impact the effectiveness of one-to-one and mass communication, and engender that precious commodity, trust.

If this picture is not deliriously idyllic enough, the narrative approach as a platform for customer-centric strategies enables empathetic design and deep customer insight, proven differentiators. 3

These corporate capabilities are not fiction. They are being actively and explicitly implemented organizations as diverse as Pixar, General Electric, the U.S. Department of Defense, IBM, Hallmark Cards and the Center for Disease Control.

It is hard- to achieve “Made to Stick” standards — a lot of thought has to precede the talk. “Storytelling” as a strategic asset remains the domain of cutting edge companies.  However, this is changing fast as more and more business leaders and investors understand the business returns. And the benefits are amplified in the multi-cultural terrain of global sourcing where the value of sustainable, relationship-based partnerships outstrips the commoditized transactional approach.

Good strategic narrative augment brand values and not just in young and trendy segments but across industrial spectra from financial services to consumer goods, engineering, luxury goods, entertainment and healthcare. Indeed there’s an impressive plethora of techniques and tools in play. Many are already established practice such as storyboarding; experience mapping; idea-generation narratives, hypothetical scenario planning; ethnography and more.

We associate stories with friendship, family and ritual.

Let’s be clear about the story for business here. Strategic narrative is more than great presentation skills and new communication technologies. It is looking freshly at how a community of service – which all organizations are – informs, nourishes and inspires that community to action. It is bringing the story to life. Vision to execution.

“A CIO, a priest and a comedian walk into a bar….”

What will your story be?  □

Footnotes:

[1] Heath, Chip and Heath, Dan. Made To Stick (New York: Random House, 2007).

2 Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point (US: Little Brown, 2000).

3 Martin, Roger.  Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage (Harvard Business School Press, 2009).

 

Karen A. Morris is Strategic Advisor to the W.R. Berkley group of insurance companies. Formerly Chief Innovation Officer of Chartis Insurance, one of the world’s largest general insurance companies, Karen specializes in all aspects of innovation strategy and execution. She has over 25 years’ experience in law, management, underwriting and multinational business. This rich and diverse international background inspires her insight on product, service and business model innovation. She is a frequent speaker and writer on innovation and leadership at global forums and conferences around the world. Karen is co-founder and President of The Institute for Insurance Innovation launching in 2012.  Karen is also an adjunct professor at Fordham University in New York teaching Innovation as part of the MBA program. She has spoken on innovation at the world’s foremost executive MBA program. You may contact Karen at kmorris@wrberkley.com

 

 

 

Corrupt Practices Invading U.S. Companies?

by Michael Wynne

When I managed companies for Mobil in Latin America, I learned how to detect and avoid many of the dangerous corrupt situations that still threaten companies today.

On one occasion, an official of one nation’s tax department offered to lower our taxes as a “friendly gesture” (another term for the word Bribe).   Mobil did not approve of such actions.   I also knew that once a company bribes anyone, that person’s hand stays in your company’s pocket forever.  We diplomatically rejected the offer, even though we were concerned that the official might find a way to raise the company’s taxes.  In the end, nothing happened.

An internationally experienced colleague recently told me about an Asian government official who asked him if he could recommend the best American universities because he wanted to send his son to study in the United States.  My colleague gave him a list of the ten best U.S. colleges, and added that they were very expensive.  The official said that was not a concern as a European company was paying for the boy’s education and would send a check directly to the university (leaving no direct track of bribe). Why did he mention it to my colleague?  He probably felt there was nothing unethical about such an arrangement.

International bribery is common among European, Asian, and Latin American companies.  A German industrial firm paid $1.4 billion in bribes between 2001 and 2007.  A 2010 study by Transparency International showed that worldwide levels of corruption had risen in the past 3 years.

Although dishonesty is frowned upon when exposed, in many countries it is viewed as acceptable if you can get away with it.  People who get away with corruption are often considered smart for their ability to create new approaches.

Most Americans think that corrupt practices are something that only foreign companies engage in.  Not so; penalties for foreign corrupt practices by American companies are approaching $5 billion a year.  They are expected to grow as the Department of Justice and SEC increase enforcing the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Surprisingly some people who should know better suggest that U.S. companies should be allowed to use bribery in order to better compete with foreign companies.

The Chicago Tribune recently published an article by columnist Steve Chapman titled, “A Bribery Ban Backfires”.  Walmart’s alleged $24 million dollar bribery of foreign officials during the company’s aggressive expansion in Mexico, currently under investigation by the Department of Justice, may have inspired the article.

Chapman suggested the U.S. government withdraw the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits American companies from bribing foreign officials.  He argued that the Act is unfair to U.S. companies because it places them at a disadvantage when competing against foreign companies that have been using bribery for years to grow their businesses.

In essence, the article implies that the end justifies the means, in other words, if corruption helps a company compete more effectively, then it’s OK.  Just because many European and Asian companies compete using bribery does not mean at corruption outside the United States should be acceptable for U.S. companies.

Chapman may not realize that corruption is double-edged sword.  It is a dangerous infection that spreads within companies that foster it.  By approving bribery, companies create an internal culture of corruption that comes back to bite them.

Eventually, word gets around that the company is engaged in corrupt practices.   By showing its own people that corruption is acceptable, the company opens the door to internal corruption.  The same people that handle the company’s corrupt practices will see opportunities to “get a piece of the action”.

Company leaders cannot turn a blind eye to corrupt practices anywhere.   The tone of morality and ethics has to be set at the top.  CEOs, board directors and senior executives may think they will not suffer any consequences.  They are wrong.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act says it is management’s responsibility to monitor their company’s foreign practices and, if they don’t, they will be held accountable.  Companies will be penalized millions of dollars, executives will be prosecuted and convicted, and company profitability will decrease sharply.

Trust and reliability are indispensable elements of business relationships everywhere.  In the end, the cost of corruption is much higher than the benefits.   Doing what is right may be costly, but doing what is wrong will be far more costly.

Even though your company may have clear guidelines for avoiding foreign corrupt practices, it is hard to know where or when they might appear.  Ninety percent of the corrupt practices that involved U.S. companies weren’t caused by their employees but by intermediaries.

“A stitch in time saves nine” applies to this threat.  We can help your company avoid these dangers.□

 

Michael Wynne is known as the Real World Business Speaker, Profitability and Innovation expert.  He is President of International Management Consulting Associates. He helps companies develop innovative growth and profitability strategies. A thought leader speaker, fluent in English and Spanish, with over 30 years top management and global operations experience, he works with CEOs and business owners bringing them real business world understanding and practical solution. You may contact him at mykwyn@aol.com