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How different is it on either side of the fence, one while working in a captive technology centre of a global corporation where you have to contribute and own decisions around your systems, landscape, projects, support BAU incidents and changes which are purely driven by Business needs of your company as supposed to working in an IT consulting company where you are partnering with your customer and adding value to their strategic decisions for better business outcomes. It is quite different and I have experienced the changes moving from an In-house IT support team of an organization to an IT service company whilst delivering a key transformation program.

With evolving Business trends, it is inevitable for Companies to keep in pace with market competitors, take quick, robust decisions and plan their short term and long term strategy. It becomes more challenging to reach there when you have a complex landscape where different applications support different parts of your Business flow.  For instance let us consider a landscape where you have Salesforce creating opportunities, Siebel creating orders, an in-house developed application supporting your entitlements, Interface handshake between systems happening through Oracle Fusion, billing & revenue recognition done out of SAP and not to forget Informatica, Tesseract, BOXI, OBIEE (Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition) doing different blends of Business reporting…is not an easy landscape…..how do you make changes in such an intricate environment to run strategic programs which help to streamline your Business flow, bring in better technologies, sunset applications and re-do your landscape…..not easy. And then the decision to run strategy programs with its own captive technology expertise or engaging a consulting partner turns out to be challenging for organizations since lot of parameters, few like accessibility to skills, regulatory norms, OPEX, TCO, etc. needs to be factored.

When you are part of the in-house IT Team of a company, you would need to substantiate your application capabilities that can be leveraged to meet the program objectives and how fast your applications can make these changes to help bring down the timeline of strategic programs. You have to educate the Business users on using the vanilla functionalities provided by your application as supposed to building complex customizations which will keep adding over heads to your support organization. Many times customizations keep continuously built over your landscape that becomes too complicated to change later on. The change is more complicated when Business gets used to certain customized solutions. Having said that re-engineering your Business processes within the boundaries of your application’s standard features or enhancing the application to fit in to your Business processes depends on lot many factors and the decision needs to be vetted by the IT staff and different process teams of your organization. You would be fortunate if are part of an end to end implementation while working in an captive unit because you learn the entire process flow, you learn how the Business operates, you get to understand how best your application fits in a particular process area, you learn how matured your application is to talk to other systems and how faster and better you can deliver outcomes from your application. You can recommend, introduce and baseline best practices and templates to be used. You would be more driven by what can be offered from the application you are working and if not, what needs to be invested to get there. Your opportunity to work on the latest technologies purely depend on what your Organization is ready to invest but at the same time you will not be naive to what other applications or technologies within your IT landscape offer. You can switch across technologies to get a broader view of systems and process areas. You have to be aligned closely with the Organization’s short term and long term architectural solutions in par with the Business objectives. This is important for you since many times you may have to think of building “throw away short term solutions” since your end solution would need more time and effort to build or can have dependencies on many external factors. You hold the onus of your IT systems and you are accountable to your internal customers and Business stakeholders for everything from providing solutions to resolving support issues. Engaging your Service providers to ensure they align to the project goals, milestones and deliver is yet another important part. Learning how organizations operate their Business, understanding how applications fit into each areas of the process flow, managing vendors are all the different experience you gain working in a company’s in-house IT unit.

Helping my Customers accomplish their Business objectives in a better way, suggesting improvements to the as-is processes and streamlining processes by bringing in new offerings or optimizing the existing processes are different dimensions you would need to think while working in a Service Industry. You have to understand the existing Customer landscape and Business challenges quite fast, have a proper understanding of your scope of work, be fast to meet your milestones, be responsive, agile and align to customer defined timelines. You have to make sure the team built up for the project has the right technical skills and business acumen. Understanding the defined project methodology by your Customer is quite imperative for you to plan how the engagement should be shaped. You need to build your Customer’s confidence by been cognizant and communicative of the risks that can pop up in each phase, keeping a close tag of your SLA and by providing multiple options to reach the same solution with cost & time effectiveness. One BIG advantage on your stride is the availability of talent across niche skills that can be quickly applied on programs running on stringent timelines; your ability to ramp-up and ramp down resources based on demand becomes easier. Many times a part time involvement of SMEs from the practice Centre of Excellence can make great strides on the project during process and technical glitches. Your exposure to the talk of the town technologies and the opportunity to learn and apply the learnings is definitely a cutting advantage while working in a Service Industry. Your assistance to identify Customer challenges and proposing better long term solutions will be valued; How better the customer IT landscape can be optimized to drive their Business more effectively, e.g. introducing SAP HANA capabilities in a complex reporting landscape or to leverage SAP Mobility to integrate mobile applications with the back data management platforms. Learning how to be customer centric, innovating customer experience by offering better solutions, exposure to latest technologies, accessibility to knowledge base of ready made solutions that can be deployed, leveraging and applying skills & tools to programs efficiently are the different advantages and experiences you will gain in a consulting company.

It is quite difficult to say whether the experience in a Service Industry or an IT Captive unit fares better than the other. My learning is that there are certain shortcomings and there are certain advantages in both the type of work exposures. And having flair of both the type of experience will help you to correlate situations in a better way and adapt faster to the situations since you have the experience to understand why certain demand from Business turns critical and why at times a paradigm shift to better technology offering will help simplify the current business operations. There are different types of challenges and gains you would see on either side of the fence but eventually it all sums up to what value add you can bring in to your Customer and the Business.

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  1. VINOD THUMALA

    Nicely articulated post. I guess no matter which side of the fence you are on, the objective remains delivering business value by using smart technology. Service companies as you indicate value technology skills, but a good consultant should still know the business process or at a minimum be able to ask the right questions and document the requirements and use cases clearly.

    With the fast evolving cloud ecosystem and technology options available to the business, many of these patterns will likely change – with an increased focus on E2E integration.

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    1. Harikumar Sasidharan Nair Post author

      Thanks Vinod for your valuable feedback. I concur to your opinion on what consultants should focus on – understand the business process, ask the right questions and add value to the business.

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