Ever since I wrote the last blog on 21st Century Enterprise, I’ve been receiving endless questions about its impact on the workforce. More specifically, what does this huge transformation imply for the 21st Century Technology Professional?
Well, I must confess I don’t know all the answers myself but it’s a question close to my heart too. I work in a technology company with 100,000+ employees and we all have been deliberating, discussing and experimenting on what the future looks like from our individual skill portfolio perspective. Some of my colleagues have very definitive ideas on this subject and are themselves very much “21st Century Technology Professionals” in their own right, while others have just embarked on their expeditions and some are still waiting on the fence, perhaps waiting for a more alarmist nudge. While their journeys are diverse, one thing I have found common across the spectrum is their belief that the road ahead is exciting and dramatic in equal measures.
Indeed as the boundaries blur between technology and non-technology companies, and every company becomes a de facto technology company, the world is getting endlessly exciting for anyone involved in the field of technology.
Before I elaborate, let’s quickly revisit the changes anticipated with the advent of the 21 CE. As enterprises mould themselves to serve the new market, there are a few points that will be radically different: They will be service-oriented, irrespective of their field of work. They will be focussed on building a unique “experience” for their customers. They will be increasingly agile and collaborative, working together in ecosystems. And they will be sharply focussed on the outcome, rather than input or effort. And of course, they will all require an increasing dose of technological support and service to succeed in a growing digital economy.
The question to go back to then is: What does the 21st Century Technology Professional need to do to make a successful leap into this new world of business?
Like I said before, there is no one version of this answer, but basis my myriad conversations with internal colleagues and external experts I do have a broad idea of what it could possibly look like.
The very first step of this jigsaw is incidentally comparatively clearer and it involves saying goodbye to the technocrat within you!
Yes, the 21st Century Technology Professional needs to emerge more as a “partner” rather than just an “expert”. And doing so will require a dramatically new mindset. While this might sound discomforting to some of you, I am convinced that with an open mind and a willingness to learn (and unlearn), most of us will change to succeed in the new age. Here’s what this may entail:
Think “Economics”: It’s time we understand the world outside and where we fit into building competitive advantage. It’s time to understand revenue, costs, profit loss, and all that goes between the top and bottom lines. As technology becomes an inseparable part of business, every function – be it finance, human resources, sales or marketing – will be working within relevant technological layers. And to build these layers so as to to optimize the impact of each function, technology professionals will have to understand their needs, constraints, influencers and goals. They will need to go beyond efficiency to optimization and profitability.
Let’s take a simple example. App developers so far have been focussed on building a technological gateway to business on smartphones. Once we go beyond simply creating these gateways, we need to put on a business hat to understand the most important revenue drivers of a business and how these can be integrated into the app. Going a step further, developers need to understand “monetisation” as pointed out by ARC Editor-in-Chief Dan Rowinski in a recent article on 5 Things Developers Need To Know About The Future Of The Apps Economy. For instance, developers will need to be cognizant of how the viability of paid app downloads can be mitigated by different business models, including in-app purchases and subscription services.
Similarly, as the mystical world of Big Data unveils itself, the future will belong to those who not only know how to extract data but also understand what insights would be useful to business, and how these can be gained. Popular job search portal CareerProfiles predicts Data Mining and Analysis will be one of the most sought after skills in 2020. However, it defines it as not just “those who know how to find it” but also “those who understand it and those who know how to use it.”
Think “human experience”: The next step for technology professionals would be to become familiar with the complex analytics that go into understanding customer preferences before designing and building digital products and services. As companies undergo smart transformation through digitalization, they will have to “reimagine” the human experience they are facilitating. Just as Facebook did not code or develop a social network, but took natural human tendencies and channeled them in a particular way. After all, we go online not for bits or electrons, but for each other. Experts believe that in the coming future new fields like bioengineering will ensure our neurobiological bases are leveraged to ensure technology better serves humanity.
At HCL Technologies, for instance, the technology professionals in our United Xperience Labs, work with psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists and data analysts to simulate the unique customer experience that we will be facilitating. We are all very excited with the prospects of how far we can push the envelope in these Labs to bring “humans back to the centre of technology!”
Think “design”: The world of technology is moving far beyond writing code! As physical and digital companies converge to create ‘phygital’ enterprises, creativity will come centre-stage in designing and building the most appealing user experience. So, much as they have resisted it thus far, this is nudging purists to accept the importance of expanding their world from STEM to STEAM, including Art into the so-far watertight world of Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics.
What is missing from traditional STEM approaches is what has always been the "secret sauce" to human progress -- creativity. When we think about the success of the American auto industry in its heyday, or Apple's present success, it's because both pioneered taking a product that was purely functional and made it desirable. Both took a piece of technology and provided artistry.
Think “unified”: For too long technology professionals have acted as sentinels guarding their islands of specialisation, cut off from the mainland of business or other technology isles. In the interconnected world of the 21st century enterprise, however, there are no islands. As we say hello to artificial intelligence, robotics and smart machines aka Internet of Things, our workplaces will see a confluence of technologies and platforms linking teams, functions and organizations like a web within an ecosystem. This compulsorily makes collaboration core to success. And technology professionals will need to reach out across technologies and platforms to seamlessly integrate the physical and digital worlds. Agile and DevOps, for example, would be the “next-gen glues” to enable this culture of collaboration.
Think “journey”: And finally, there will be no getting away from change, constant change. So, the 21st Century Technology Professional will have to rethink technical qualification as a static “destination.” Instead, skill development and upgradation would be an ongoing “journey.” One that is never ending.As MIT Professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee wrote in their book The Second Machine Age, “Lifetime learning and continued training and retraining” will be key to success as workers will “have to commit to a lifetime of practicing and updating their skills.”
As a starting point, we should assess where we stand on the journey today and design a roadmap for a U2.0. And to aid us on this journey, a new thinking is evolving in education. As Salim Ismail, director at Singularity University, predicts education will become an "on-demand service" where people "pull down a module of learning" when they need it. “Large bundles of knowledge, as in traditional courses, will be out. Specific will be in.”
The five steps outlined above may seem like giant leaps from the familiar. But I believe that, as technology professionals, we are used to change. In fact, more often than not, we are the harbingers of change. So as the world braces itself for the digital tsunami, we can not only survive but give ourselves a good chance to thrive if we prepare ourselves now. Of course, the steps outlined above are no water-tight dictums. What would you add to the list of must-haves for a 21st Century Technology Professional?
Source : Anant’s Blog from Linkedin Pulse
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