Competency-Based Industry Standards

Competency-Based Industry Standards – Need of the hour!! Part 1

JK is a brilliant technical guy working with a famous tier 1 Product Company as their Product Manager. He sincerely worked for more than a decade in the same Company. Kind of almost settled in life. Suddenly one of the divisions where he is working got sold off, and as usual he was seeing his role becoming redundant in the new set up.  He could find one immediately with one of the top IT companies in India as Senior Project Manager. One year down, I met JK and found him to be very agitated with the company, his current role and entire process.

JK always worked in a Product Company where creativity and technical knowledge are appreciated, however, the entire process in the Service Industry is completely different –  in this world, everything revolves around billable headcount. Today JK is in a search for a job and interestingly he is finding it very tough to fit in either in a product OR services set up.

Here is another situation about searching for a Program Manager. I was asked to search for a Senior Program Manager with a high ticket salary to manage large projects of Fortune 100 customers.   I came across very seasoned Program/Project Managers. I debated with many seniors during my initial screening to explain three differences between Project Management and Program Management.

It was a surprise, many could not explain the differences and few even mentioned “Program Management is all about managing a Program” whereas “Project Management is about managing a Project”. Having spent more than two decades in the Industry why do people struggle to explain their role?  

I feel there are several roles like these in the IT Industry which overlay on another. Typically, a Project Manager will start managing customer relationships and then multiple programs and this individual then becomes a Project Manager, Service Delivery Manager Or Delivery Director Or Account Manager Or Program Manager. There may be a big difference in Product or Product Engineering companies.   JK was mentioning that he is seeing requirements from Recruiters with narration as “Technical Manager with people managing capability” OR “Product Manager with Project management experience”. Companies have different expectations at these levels. Roles and responsibilities change in every company. People like JK get confused as to what is the expectation and whether they will fit in. Someone who spends a good amount of years in management roles starts trying their luck openly. And Hiring Manager (not recruiter) will force a candidate to manage the situation with a Customer OR for a Project.  

If you ask any HR Head or CEO as to why or reason for this confusion in the Industry, there will be a straight answer that there is a clear hierarchy and role definition in their company. Every Company has a clear definition but there is no standard for these in the Industry though IT Industry is believed to be the advisors/consulting partners to all other Industries and termed as a trend setter. This becomes more relevant when there is a layoff of senior folks; when people struggle to fit in a suitable role in the next company.

I can give another interesting example – I wanted to install a geyser in my home. The supplier advised me that they can take care of the installation but he will send three people – Electrician to check the electricity connection, mason for civil work required, if any and then a plumber to ensure water supply. Having spent long years in IT Industry, I felt this is ridiculous and started searching for a person who can do everything. Ultimately, I could find an expert who was ready to do everything but with a rider, if something goes wrong, he will not be responsible. This is what happens day to day in an IT set up where there will be endless search for a master blaster who can do everything – termed as “multitasking”!!

I feel the IT Industry must implement competency based framework and there should be an Industry standard for each role. This is very relevant today where companies are struggling to catch up with innovative technologies. And Companies are finding difficulty either to manage their resources or to exit them. As for the current situation,  I feel both the Companies and Individuals were never serious. If you see the IT Industry, the majority of employees will be busy in creating assets like Car, Flat, Land or busy in one or other entertainment whereas Companies are fully engaged in their quarter on quarter revenues. Both not focused to improve the individual capabilities foreseeing the changes in technology.  Apart from this, there are no competency based industry standards available where people can be engaged easily from one role to another depending on their competency assessment/score cards irrespective of technology.

I strongly believe everyone can learn technology or a process.  The IT industry is all about people’s capability but it is sad to see individuals having high calibre struggling to find suitable jobs and the prevailing confusion. I will continue this article with the next one; detailing more on my idea about Competency-based framework.

Meantime, I pray JK gets a job asap!

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