COVID-19: Immediate Challenges that IT leaders need to take care

8th December, 2021

My heart is still with the IT industry, though I am little away from it for a while. Yesterday, one of my friends asked – “you were in IT for so many years, what do you think will be the impact on Indian IT ?”. Though I told him that it would be too early to predict, I could not stop thinking about it.

We see in the news all the time that IT Company X is allowing employees to work from home (WFH) or company Y has ordered thousands of laptops. When we talk to any outsider, they envy IT workers since they feel that all IT employees can WFH. Is it truly the REALITY? Has the industry solved the challenges that we used to face when I was in IT?  The real question to ask is what %-age of the billable offshore employees has the customer approval to work from home

Data Protection concerns

It was not so easy to get permission from the customers to get approval for offshore WFH. Customers (particularly BFSI) did not allow to WFH even during natural disasters or when providing 24×7 support from offshore was extremely difficult. The data protection issue used to always stand in between. Do we NOW have the full-proof secured anywhere platform from where employees can access customers systems? Does it comply with country-specific company-specific information security / data protection requirements? In my opinion, IT leaders first need to overcome this challenge. Have we demonstrated our platform and processes and get approval for employees to work on it? Corona virus effect may flatten in next few months, but may not die down too soon. The need for WFH is going to stay here forever. We need to get all our billable employees WFH-enabled.I have have spoken to my friends in Academia. There are proud of the big transformation there. Not only US University or colleges, many Indian colleges have already started online classes. With due respect to their achievement, I feel that, the challenges in IT are bit different from the challnegs in other industries. We need approval from customers. We need to handle data security concerns.

Company infrastructure

They need to ensure that the IT backbone does not crumble with so many employees working outside. Does the company have enough Firewall capacity? Do they have enough Virtual desktops? Does the company have enough telecommunication bandwidth? Will it be possible to procure these many laptops now? The leaders need to think fast and act accordingly. Many companies are thinking of allowing employees take the desktop to their home. This may not be a practical solution because of Employee readiness issues (see below).

Employee readiness

Many employees (particularly billable ones) are very young and single. They live in shared apartments. They may not have enough space for a laptop, but not a desktop. Also, they might have gone home or they will be doing so. In some places, landlords are asking them to vacate their room. It is difficult to move with desktop. Laptop might be a better solution. Of course, it has to be done through centralized procurement as well decentralized procurement by the employees.

Reduce Billing loss in June Qtr

Most Indian IT companies work in T&M basis. The billing depends on actual hours worked by the employees. Because of the lock down, employees will not be able to come to office, resulting in loss of billable hours, which impact the June Qtr. The leaders need to come out with innovative ideas to compensate for the loss as early as possible. Even for Fixed Bid projects, most billing is milestone based. Leaders need to find ways to achieve the milestones before the Qtr ends.

Compensate for the unanticipated cost

There will be many additional costs this quarter which may not have been budgeted. The cost heads could range widely – from simple things like purchase of hand sanitizers / masks, to emergency relocation from one place to other, to emergency buy-outs of laptops / videoconferencing software, to paying temporary workers. Leaders need to innovate ways to find ways to reduce the impact.

Mid-term and Long-term impact

The immediate impact will depend on how fast the Indian IT solves these on-the-ground issues first. It is difficult to predict the impact, but it is not difficult to predict what will reduce the immediate impact (June Qtr). I will come back with my thoughts on mid-term and long term impact, if I get enough viewer of this article on immediate impact. Intentionally I have not talked about the scarier things like budget cuts in this version. Let us take care of the first thing first.

Good luck to all of you!

Dr. Jagadish Kundu,

Career Coach & Mentor, RiteWay


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