2017: A year for prolific growth in IT

2017: A year for prolific growth in IT

This year could be the worst in a decade for the Indian IT sector. None of the IT giants are growing as expected, and predictions from the start of the year are looking completely out of sync with reality. In addition to market turbulence, there have been internal distractions for the big four companies — TCS, Infosys, Wipro, and CTS — as they look for ways to tackle this situation.

Consider the current state of affairs, things are not expected to turn around anytime soon. The IT services market has reached saturation point, and growth in this field is going to be hard to come by. The Indian IT sector needs to transform itself radically or it will perish. The silver bullet seems to be a trifecta of innovation, integration and intrapreneurship — and the IT giants are well aware of it.

The Indian IT companies are looking at their traditional offerings from new perspectives to drive sustainable growth. Consequently, traditional offerings have evolved, and in some cases, replaced by new-age IT services. Cloud, mobility, analytics and Big Data feature prominently in plans across the board.

Though visionary in status, driving growth through some of these verticals is not as easy as it seems. The availability of a workforce skilled in core competencies, along with supplemental skill sets is sparse. While we have a large pool of talented engineers in the country, most of them are burdened with commoditised skillsets that have diminished in value due to abundance, redundancy and obsoleteness. What the industry wants is difficult to find.

But everything is not as dire as it looks. True to its nature, the technology sector too is evolving at a rapid clip to match the need of the hour. The Indian IT sector is developing new skills and competencies at an unprecedented pace. Wipro is building a pool of 20,000 IT professionals, or ‘unicorns’ as they are being called, who will be equipped with the new in-demand skills. The company has started training its workforce on cloud, mobility, analytics and Big Data. Cognizant has trained thousands of its internal workforce on analytics and Big Data skills. Infosys and TCS are adopting a similar approach to address their growth plans.

This tectonic shift in the IT giants’ approach has trickled down to the grassroot level — influencing the industry at a scale reminiscent of the early 2000s. Professionals within the IT sector have realised that the need of the hour is upskilling. They know that they need to equip themselves with relevant skills to reap maximum benefits from the developing trend.

Jigsaw Academy has trained over 6,000 IT professionals on analytics and Big Data skills in the last 12 months. Predictive analytics, Big Data analysis, machine learning and deep learning are the most sought after skills amongst IT professionals. Others are building competencies on cloud and mobility.

This focus on improvement and upskilling is not limited to the IT professionals in the trenches. IT managers and leaders are also arming themselves to lead better in an environment that is new, yet familiar. At this level, the focus is not only on the tools managers use and the knowledge they have, but also the business context — when and how to approach the problem at hand. At the middle and senior management levels, the familiarity stems from the fact that analytics and Big Data require similar skills as IT.

Managers need team management, project management and expectation management as core competencies. And of course, they need to be able to manage clients and stakeholders. These are all skills that middle- and senior-level IT professionals have already been building and applying in their current roles. From this perspective, managers have a crucial collection of transferrable skill sets, making their transition easier. For them, the jump is not a big one.

Of course, they need to have a good understanding of analytics and Big Data in addition to the above mentioned skills. That is why hundreds of IT managers are also picking up these skills through online courses and executive programmes — often resulting in accelerated career growth and peak performance in their new roles.

The advanced analytics market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 33.2% and Big Data at a CAGR of 26.4%, almost six to eight times that of the overall IT market. This means that there will be tremendous growth opportunities for businesses as well as individuals in this space. Those who make the shift early will have the first-mover advantage and will see their careers take an exponential growth path.

This growth has one important prerequisite — upskilling. Professionals need to be willing to upskill themselves, irrespective of the stage of their career. It doesn’t matter if you have been in the industry for 15 years, learning new skills and developing new competencies is fuel for growth. We are in an era and industry of constant change. Technology is changing at a rapid pace, and professionals need to adapt to this reality.

Another piece of the puzzle that needs to be adressed is the gap between academia and the industry. Due to inherent differences in the way the two spheres operate, academia has generally lagged behind industry developments by five years or more. Considering the pace of developments and technological breakthroughs, this gap is set to widen — and that is no longer acceptable. Academia needs to transform itself at the same pace as the industry. Our engineering curriculum needs to be refreshed and updated to align with the needs of today’s industry.

Though this is a massive undertaking, there are signs that all is not as bleak as it seems. There are developments in the academic field geared towards making this change a reality. There is also a shift in the mentality of students and their willingness to upskill themselves to match the needs of the industry. From a marketplace angle, we have seen a proliferation of professional institutes that are providing up-to-date, targeted, industry-relevant curriculum, which gives students and professionals the opportunity to upskill on the latest, and not something that was prescribed 10 years ago.

With all these factors coming together, the Indian IT industry is in the eye of the perfect storm. With the right combination of opportunity, education, drive and perseverance, prolific growth is inevitable — for companies and individuals alike.

(The author is CEO, Jigsaw Academy)

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