Vishwastam Shukla, AVP Technology,
Rewind the clock back to December, 1999. The world was a buzz with Y2K monster and grappling with all sorts of doomsday banter. It was a watershed moment in India’s tryst with information technology world. The entire world was waiting for engineering workforce in Hyderabad and Bangalore to get them out of the mess.
While the IT scene in India began primarily as an outsourcing destination which specialized in taking up the “lower-end” back-office work and turning it around at one-tenth of the cost, it has come a long way since those humble beginnings. And one of its significant by-products was a whole new consulting industry. Demographic dividend played its role and today India’s appetite for technology consultants has boomed to dizzying heights. From BPOs to KPOs to off-shore development centers to cutting edge R&D centers, consultants serve them all. This specialized work force ranges from freelancers to mid-sized companies, serving at times, hundreds of customers. These firms switch between Fortune 50 customers to fast paced chaotic startups with equal ease. Most importantly, these are firms who put a premium on their services. Unlike how it all began, today they are far from an overzealous bunch of body-shops selling discounted labour.
Importance - Result Driven
It was summer of 2006 when around fifteen of us, backend engineers at Amazon Bangalore, huddled into a conference room. We were trying to learn our first lessons on Java script development tutored by an external consultant. The idea was simple, convert us all into full stack developers by giving us lectures on the hottest browser side technology. Result though, was far from encouraging. My Java script skills are as good as my German. Danke!
Technology consultants today have greater focus on the final value add. They have stopped lecturing clients and instead started engaging with customers.
Whether you are a company with multi-billion Dollar top line or a startup with one month runway left, there is always that pressing need that can be better served by external help. Everyone loves the flexibility of getting specialized consultants with lower, longer term commitments. Moreover, engagement rules have undergone a metamorphosis so that consultants fit right into the design and development cycles up until the final delivery.
Build or Buy? No, Tailor made
When it comes to finding software solutions, build vs. buy is the philosophical question that faces almost every other technology (or technology driven) company. Depending on a multitude of factors, organizations were either forced to build something on their own, which meant higher turnaround times or they bought something off the shelf, which potentially was less than satisfactory. With the advent of high-end technology consulting, we are blessed with yet another option: getting solutions tailor made. At MoveInSync, my current workplace, we are trying to solve daily commute problems of employees working for all kinds of organizations. Being a niche market player, it required a heads-down focus on solving domain specific problems and we could ill-afford reinventing technological wheels. Consequently, on different occasions, there was a need to seek external help on very specific subsets of the problem. We made sure we started with a crisp problem statement. Once done, there was always enough consulting prowess in the market to deliver high quality results in a time bound manner.
From artificial intelligence to virtual reality to high frequency trading, technology is disrupting everything around us at match speed. But more importantly, technology is cannibalizing itself at even greater pace. Given organizations can’t cook up quick skill curries in their fancy pantries, consulting has fast become the panacea for a wide range of problems. Mobile applications and web 2.0 interfaces can now be bought like over the counter pills. Consultants can help you build your entire backend architecture which scales horizontally and can integrate vertically, endlessly. There are specialized information security consultants who will ensure your applications comply with PCI DSS, HIPPA etc, which can earn you bragging rights of another kind.
Bottom line is, you cannot build everything in-house and you should not. Seek help when it makes sense.
While time might have finally caught up with Moore’s Law, the growth in data generation and processing speeds over the last couple of decades has just been unfathomable. Technology consulting in this era therefore, must keep abreast with these changes. Consulting firms will have to evolve their delivery models to make them more pluggable. That would in turn require making delivery very replicable.
Quantifying results, successes and failures alike, will be another key area of development for technology consultants. Thankfully, there are enough tools and information in public domain that should help them define measurable goals and showcase results to prospective customers. For instance, if you developed a mobile application with 4-star rating and above a million downloads for a customer, that just sells its own sweet self.
It may be impossible to know the future but understanding it may not be difficult. One learning from my Amazon days is nothing short of a prophecy by Jeff Bezos. He told us, that even decades in future, customers will always want two things -
a. Lower prices
b. Faster delivery.