COVID-19 has triggered a global hard reset and we are currently in the reboot phase. Governments, businesses, and people are scrambling to try out new stuff and adjust to the new normal. 2020 will mark the end of the post-9/11 era. We will see a lot of experimentation all across the coming months to see what works and what doesn’t as we move to post-pandemic recovery.
We are entering a unique five-year period ahead, where the world order and corporations will be disrupted based on how each of them will tackle this developing situation in the next 4 to 12 months. This article assumes the economy will begin opening up in June or July to a level of at least 40% pre-COVID-19, and it paints a picture of how skilled IT individuals can prepare to survive and thrive in the next 1 to 2 years.
Digitalization opportunities in the times ahead
Since the emotional impact on businesses is fresh, there will be tremendous opportunities for automation, digitalization, and transformation. Organizations in the public and private sectors across the globe will reduce their reliance on manual human processes in the near future to ensure business continuity and safeguard against disruptions.
At the same time, competition, budgets, and timelines will be constrained to win and deliver those initiatives. This will in turn require companies to have skilled, nimble, and adaptive people working on short assignments. These people must be highly productive so they can start delivering value in a very short time.
The essential skillset for IT specialists
Generalists/specialists or “T-type” employees (a specialist in one area with a broad understanding of a couple of others) need to upgrade their skillset to adapt to new norms. To develop and grow post-COVID, people should transform into “E-type” employees:
- Three horizontal bars:
- Deep Expertise in 2 or more in-demand areas
- Commendable Execution skillset in spearheading delivery and completion of assigned tasks
- continuous learning and Exploration to broaden expertise as post-pandemic technology and methodologies evolve
- These three attributes are all connected vertically via Experience in handling and executing complex, cross-functional assignments.
Before COVID, good communication, timely and quality output, and going the extra mile seemed to be the right combination for career advancement. However, now these abilities are the absolute minimum for survival in the post-COVID work environment. People working remotely need these skills to deliver value, and there is an ample resource pool available in the market with these skills. Organizations can hire these workers to augment or replace their team as needed.
Working from home and flexible schedules diminish the value of past measuring criteria like timed attendance and punching in long hours. It has also already cut through the facades of other time-consuming chores like commuting and face-to-face meetings, which always provided the illusion of work, but not much actual progress.
Moving forward where working remotely or online becomes the norm in work-life integration, 120% productivity and cost-to-value generation for each individual will be a widely accepted expectation. To meet such demands, consider this a wakeup call to transform your skillset and focus your energies on delivering value on assignments.
At the same time, it is ultimately necessary for every leader and executive to keep the focus of individuals in their team down to just 1 to 3 items that are absolutely necessary for their team’s, department’s, and organization’s forward thrust. Keep communication flow more periodic so tactical adjustments, feedback, and tweaks optimize the use of resources and time.
It is naïve to think that COVID-19 made offshoring easy and made businesses realize the value of working remotely for cost-cutting. What it actually did was just open clients up to the prospect of working and using teams remotely. This advantage can diminish right away if you fail to establish:
- Continuous and effective client-vendor team communication
- Maximum overlap in time with clients
These must-haves need to be in place from day 1. Only then will your client have the confidence that your whole team is always accessible in their hour of need, and is producing results in real time instead of after-hours. This will make remote working a prosperous, long-term success.
Deliverables & Output
For nontechnical artifacts like sales pitches, presentations, or brochures, the text, graphics, and verbiage matter the most. Remotely, it’s best to keep these visual aids short to keep readers engaged and get the message across. Current teams should either add reviewers to make sure the content is extra crisp, or team members have to spend more time on polishing the material to ensure each communique is effective and engaging.
For technical deliverables, naming conventions, consistency, best practices, template-based documentation and the use of tools like Microsoft Teams and DevOps over emails are the norm. Multiple people will be collaborating remotely, and these digital assets determine the quality and agility of individuals and the team as a whole for future engagements.
The times ahead are full of opportunities and key learnings, with some hardships on the way, too. The best we can do now is start adopting and embracing new skills and rowing the boat together in these troubled waters to keep afloat.