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Why IT Industry cannot Re-skill its way out of the current situation

Source | LinkedIn : By Anup Robins

Jacob’s Ladder (1990) is the name of a brilliant psychological horror movie in which the protagonist finds himself making the journey from earth to heaven. The title is a reference to the ancient myth of a Ladder which connects heaven and earth and is guarded by angels and demons. This ladder helps souls find their way to the gates of paradise from this mortal world. A bridge which connects this world to the next.

The IT Services industry today is badly in search of a ladder. The journey is from the traditional business to the digital paradise. And if many reports are to be believed, it seems to have latched on to the idea that reskilling employees in newer technologies would prove to be its Jacob’s Ladder. A recent report states that Nasscom and its member organizations aim to re-skill close to 2 million of its present and prospective workforce in new technologies over the next 5 years. Big Data, Analytics, Machine Learning, Hadoop etc. are few of the catch words which are increasingly becoming popular among techies and students. It is hoped that once the workforce learns all these technologies, all the problems will suddenly disappear.

Is re-skilling the workforce in new technologies, the ultimate panacea for the current situation? Unfortunately it is not. And to see why, we need to take a step back and look at the story of the IT Services industry in its entirety and not just the current state of things.

Implementers to Strategic Partners to Value Co-Creators

IT Services Industry thrived during the 90s due to low cost skilled manpower in India which could be used to manage complex IT Systems of large enterprises across the globe. Those were the days when technology was just an enabler for businesses. Something which used to run in the background to help business function without major hiccups. And IT Services Companies were happy being bug fixers and Implementers. The demand for their services was constant, defined and predictable. And they found plenty of fresh engineering graduates whom they could skill in basic technologies and fulfill the demand.

However IT penetrated into the more strategic aspects of business and by mid 2000s it became a Strategic Differentiation for every Company. Suddenly IT Companies found themselves stuck at the lower end of a “value chain” which had strategy and business consulting firms at the top. They scrambled to acquire domain expertise and design skills to move from being Implementers to Strategic Partners.

While they were busy making this journey, they failed to notice that technology briskly made its way from being a “Strategic Differentiator” to creating new Business Models itself! The Digital revolution made technology synonymous with business. And now enterprises no longer want Strategic Partners who would work with them on critical techno-business initiatives. They instead want Value Co-Creators who would create differentiated value for their end customers.

In the engineering college parlance it was like the end semester starting before the mid semester even ended.


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