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Sunday, May 25, 2008

When IT got boring

IT managers cutting across verticals and accepting even non-IT challenges. We know about Finance, Infrastructure and even entertainment businesses vying with IT for top talent. Earlier it was IT that lured people away from these sectors. Now IT companies themselves are letting their people migrate to other sectors, if possible within their own enterprise. WIPRO seems to be best positioned to pull the trigger with its diversified portfolio that has an equally aggressive posture (besides IT/ITES) in growing all its diversified interests—consumer care, lighting, technology, infrastructure, engineering and its professionals see strategic roles in emerging sectors. While IT is still the big daddy in terms of revenue or hiring numbers, quite a few functional leaders have made a comfortable switch to Wipro’s other businesses.

I would raise my glass to that. Why? It will eventually lead them to get some real business insights, think more in terms of `uncool’ old world terms like profitability and cost control. So far in IT they’d been kept well insulated from all that because of paucity of talent. If you've had a MCA/CS tag, can write a few lines of code and put on a couple years of experience, you make the cut. Now when they move into other realms where they have to deal with tough customers, competition, margin pressures (at the executive level, so far only the shareholders felt those pains) that threaten their very survival, they’ll earn their spurs.

Hope that will power them when their IT parent gears into consulting domain, where IT faces a test of its ultimate utility. Where it helps to cut down costs, reduces complexity of operations, helps minimize wastage, improves supply chain and delivers on ROI badly sought by clients. So far it has been only a standard covenant in SLAs signed by outsourcing vendors where they routinely promise cost savings and ROI without ever delivering on them (getting away with penalties). They’ve often been excused by many a client because (a) they can’t do it themselves at that cost; (b) the realization that when you get a first world job done by a third world, this is what to expect. They mostly resign to their fate until they bring back the work in-house or find a better vendor – not often easy. A few that built captives to get around this malady, paid heavily when wage inflation and attrition peaked and destroyed the edifice forcing them to put it up for sale.

It could also be that the IT managers don’t see much glamour if not future in pureplay IT any longer; or is it that they’ve just gotten bored - with no get-rich-quick stock option programs and a stagnant innovation in IT that gave it the early lusture ?

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