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CareerNews: Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Volume 3, Issue 2: Tuesday, March 27, 2007

ACM CareerNews is intended as an objective career news digest for busy IT professionals. Views expressed are not necessarily those of ACM. To send comments, please write to careernews-request@acm.org.





Open Wide



Managing Offshore Operations: The Next Challenge



New Tech, Old Habits



The Rising Importance of the Enterprise Architect



What is a Knowledge Worker, Anyway?



Job Search Convergence



Immigrants Gain Edge Doing Business at Home



When Managers Neglect To Coach Their Talent



Bridging the Gap When a Boss Is on the Other Side of the Globe



Employers in Denial over Aging Workforce



Global Companies Tell Top Managers to Work Less




"Open Wide"
Fast Company, March 2007

In nearly every industry, from banking to technology, traditional notions of the corporate organization are being challenged. According to IBM, organizations are being transformed by the democratizing force of new technologies that makes it easy for people to come together quickly and communicate effectively even though they are not bound together by any kind of formal organization. In fact, the more a company opens itself up to engage with the outside world, the better it is able to connect with customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. Already, companies like Google, Fidelity Investments and Caterpillar are starting to challenge previous conceptions of the organization, opening themselves up to dramatic change and compelling new opportunities.

This emerging notion of the open organization is transforming the way large organizations in every industry behave. At pharmaceutical companies, for example, researchers from around the globe collaborate in real time over the Internet to find new medical cures. Within the manufacturing sector, companies are embracing new technologies that make it possible for workers to create new products off-site. Companies like Google and Fidelity Investments devote significant resources to new R&D initiatives aimed at greater public participation in new products and services.

The bottom line is that large organizations will need to reinvent themselves to participate fully in this new interconnected, networked, decentralized world. Large consumer products companies are now deploying so-called technology entrepreneurs around the world to look for new ideas. Ideas are also flowing from large organizations into every corner of society. Caterpillar, the maker of heavy equipment, now sees itself as an intellectual property company. As such, it has begun to aggressively license its copyrights and patents to unlock their value.

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"Managing Offshore Operations: The Next Challenge"
Computerworld, March 12

For IT managers, an increasingly important competency is the ability to successfully find, engage and manage global outsourcing providers. As clients in the U.S. and Europe become more sophisticated about outsourcing, it is likely that the ability to manage outsourcing partners will only increase in value and complexity. In some cases, organizations are creating offices of strategic sourcing and appointing chief sourcing officers, or building out the responsibilities of the procurement function in order to tap into new outsourcing opportunities. The article considers the skills that are necessary for managing these outsourcing relationships and describes efforts to categorize and standardize important competencies.

IT research firm Gartner has created a list of six requirements for successfully managing an outsourcing relationship. According to Gartner, IT managers must be able to establish the overall objectives and procedures that make an outsourcing agreement work. They must also identify capabilities needed for the business, select appropriate service providers, build and maintain cooperation among all the service providers and control commercial arrangements related to pricing, billing and intellectual property. In addition, they need to monitor the performance of the service providers, ensuring that key targets and deadlines are being met. Finally, they need to ensure regular reporting, so that information can be collected for contractual enhancements.

Currently, such wide-ranging competencies are difficult to find in the workforce. According to a recent survey conducted by Duke University and Booz Allen Hamilton, one of the most significant challenges faced by the CIO is the lack of people with the requisite skills to manage an offshore relationship. Often, IT managers are too technical or do not have appropriate multicultural and multinational experience to successfully manage offshore employees. To standardize the types of skills needed, organizations are creating certification programs for outsourcing professionals that focus on specific skills and competencies.

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"New Tech, Old Habits"
Business Week, March 26

While workers in the U.S. rely extensively on technology for telecommuting, workers in Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea are not as likely to take advantage of non-traditional work opportunities. Instead of using cell phones, mobile devices and portable laptops to keep in touch with colleagues outside of the office, for example, workers in many Asian countries are expected to work at the office late into the night. This difference in corporate culture is all the more puzzling, given the high level of development of both broadband and wireless networks in these nations. As the article points out, the corporate cultures in Japan and South Korea could be restraining advances in economic productivity, as most businesses have been slow to tap into the opportunities offered by new communications technologies.

There are a number of reasons to explain why telecommuting has not caught on with employers in the Asia-Pacific region. In Asia, there is a huge premium placed on person-to-person contact at the office. Moreover, nations such as Japan and Korea place greater emphasis on group effort and consensus-building than on individual initiative. With performance reviews and judgments still largely time-oriented, rather than task-oriented as in the U.S., companies have not experimented with new work arrangements such as flextime. Companies in the Asia-Pacific region are also cautious about allowing confidential or proprietary information out of the office, and are thus reluctant to send workers home with their laptops. As a result, Korean and Japanese white-collar workers put in long days and nights at the office, often coming in on weekends to complete projects.

These factors may be preventing Japan and South Korea from becoming more productive. While Japan and Korea both rank high on lists of global innovators and have made massive investments in technology infrastructure, they are unable to leverage the full benefits of their technological advantage. When it comes to the productivity of IT users, both countries badly lag the U.S. There is hope, however, that a new generation of managers rising through the ranks may speed the transformation. These workers are tech-savvy and often more individualistic, having come from smaller families. Already, some companies are tinkering with changes to meet their needs, such as doing away with titles for some managers or allowing some junior employees to work from home.

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"The Rising Importance of the Enterprise Architect"
CIO.com, March 9

Within organizations, the role of the enterprise architect is becoming increasingly more vital to the way that organizations connect, collaborate and communicate. Quite simply, the enterprise architect is expected to align the strategic business vision with the opportunities provided by the latest advances in information technology. To make that possible, the enterprise architect must map, define and standardize technology, data and business processes. With that in mind, the article reviews the traits and characteristics required by the enterprise architect, provides greater context of how IT serves the business needs of an organization, and summarizes the credentials and certifications that are proliferating for the enterprise architect position.

The enterprise architect needs a myriad of qualities to be successful. In addition to cutting-edge technological knowledge, the enterprise architect must have a grasp of the overall business, such that he or she can describe an IT project as a business solution. Another important skill is the ability to see the business from various viewpoints, and to understand the implications for various stakeholders within the organization. In addition to being a team player, the enterprise architect must help the various parts of the business avoid the silo mentality and take a wider view of business strategy. While vision and innovative thinking are important, the enterprise architect needs to balance this with the technical skills to execute projects on a daily basis, as well as the pragmatism to realize when goals are too lofty or unworkable.

To codify the responsibilities of an enterprise architect, a growing number of certification programs are now available, such as those offered by Carnegie Mellon and the Open Group. According to the Open Group, the current focus on IT-business alignment has created a greater need for enterprise architects and for the standardization of their skills. Already, thousands of people have completed the Open Group Architecture Framework certification or achieved the IT Architecture Certification in the past two years. In many ways, certification is a sign that the role of the enterprise architect is maturing. As people agree what enterprise architecture is, then they are able to agree what people should know and how they should apply this knowledge within an organization.

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"What is a Knowledge Worker, Anyway?"
The Future of Work, March 6

Ever since the term knowledge worker was first coined by management guru Peter Drucker in 1959, businesses have struggled to arrive at a consensus opinion on the role of knowledge workers. The broadest possible view of knowledge work is that it is an activity that either requires specialized knowledge or skills, or creates new knowledge. In contrast to physical labor, knowledge work focuses primarily on creating or applying information or knowledge to create value. With this as context, the article considers the various distinctions between knowledge work and service work, explains the wide range of tasks that knowledge workers undertake within any organization, and provides a basic typology of knowledge workers that draws on research from best-selling author Richard Florida.

Ideas about knowledge workers have evolved over the past 50 years. In the 1950s, the notion of knowledge worker was intimately connected with when and where these knowledge workers accomplished their tasks, so that managers could improve their productivity. However, in a global economy that is enabled by powerful information technologies and driven by creativity and innovation, most knowledge workers are increasingly mobile, location-independent, and free to choose where, when, and for whom they will work. As local economic developers consider whether to invest in new kinds of infrastructure and new work environments as part of their efforts to attract, retain, and leverage talent, they need to develop and agree on more precise definitions of who is a knowledge worker, how many of them there are in a given region, and what kinds of services and infrastructure they want and need to be successful.

Most agree that knowledge workers include doctors, lawyers, scientists, educators, and engineers. They can also include those who work in marketing, advertising, consulting, finance, insurance, and strategy development. For those who prefer to extend the definition, airline pilots, musicians and even government officials, can also be thought of as knowledge workers. Even less-skilled white-collar workers such as bank tellers, bookkeepers, call center specialists, or clerks who perform relatively routine work in highly structured and procedurally-constrained ways are taking on some of the characteristics of knowledge workers, due to the availability of computer-based technologies for conducting many of their routine activities. According to a typology of knowledge workers explained in the article, there are two ideal type categories of knowledge workers: knowledge executors and knowledge generators. This distinction parallels the work of Richard Florida, who studied what he calls the creative class.

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"Job Search Convergence"
Job Matchbox, March 21

The job search is being transformed by the convergence between various sources of job postings, such as newspaper classified ads, job boards, job board aggregators, and social networking sites. Online and offline resources are combining and then re-combining, blending their services together at a dizzying pace. The convergence is part of a larger trend, which previously only involved job boards and newspaper classifieds. This time, the popularity of the Web 2.0 movement is adding massively multi-player online games and social networks into the mix.

There are several major initiatives underway right now that unite the online and offline worlds. The New York Times, for example, has partnered with job board Monster as well as job aggregator site Indeed.com as part of a three-way alliance. In turn, Indeed.com has created an alliance with popular blog Gawker. Encouraged by the growth of the online gaming industry, the big job boards are also creating alliances with massively-multiplayer online games like Second Life. Finally, social networking sites are getting into the action. For example, MySpace is now soliciting visitors for jobs and resumes as part of an alliance with Simply Hired, while social networking site Facebook has joined forces with Jobster.

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"Immigrants Gain Edge Doing Business at Home"
Startup Journal, March 21

For immigrant entrepreneurs, building a successful business in the U.S. often results from skills and experiences acquired while doing business in their home countries at an earlier stage in their careers. Immigrant entrepreneurs from countries like Vietnam and India often possess competitive advantages that many U.S.-born rivals lack. In addition to knowing the language, culture and market of their home countries, they also may have familial relationships that help them find suppliers and customers, or even personal ties to government officials that help open doors. There are no guarantees, however, when doing business overseas. Knowing the country is not going to make up for some of the basic problems faced by entrepreneurs, such as complex government regulations, an inefficient banking system, unknown tax implications, and corruption.

In the first of three examples, the article highlights the experiences of a Vietnamese immigrant who first came to the U.S. in 1979 as a teenage Vietnam War refugee. After earning a degree in electrical engineering and establishing a career in the field, she launched a pharmaceutical company and then a biotech company. Her experiences in Vietnam, such as dealing with a lack of skilled workers and navigating a maze of bureaucratic red tape, prepared her for future career success. Through experimentation with different types of business models for the Vietnamese market, she acquired the type of experiences and contacts that would have been difficult for a U.S.-born entrepreneur to have developed. Now, her U.S.-based company has landed contracts both in the U.S. and Vietnam, and is the only U.S.-based pharmaceutical company licensed in Vietnam to buy and sell drugs there.

The second example involves an Indian entrepreneur who first came to the U.S. in 1986 to pursue an advanced degree in computer science. In early 2002, he started his own business within the healthcare sector. The company, which supplies Indian nurses to the U.S. market, leveraged his intimate understanding of the Indian market, including the most effective way of recruiting female workers. By addressing individual concerns as well as family questions and emphasizing informational interviews rather than formal seminars, the firm was able to recruit highly-skilled Indian nurses at a time when foreign firms were attempting to recruit female workers with formal seminars in luxury hotels.

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"When Managers Neglect To Coach Their Talent"
Career Journal, March 20

With the war for talent heating up as the result of a tight job market, executives need to focus on the ways that they can make employees feel like a valuable part of the company. They need to think in terms of coaching and mentoring, making sure that their employees learn and grow on the job. Surprisingly, 70% of U.S. employees say they do not feel engaged at work. In turn, rising numbers of these workers who are dissatisfied with their jobs lead to higher turnover rates, lower productivity, and higher rates of absenteeism. The answer to these problems, of course, is the people-oriented manager who can attract and retain top talent and put into place new practices that help to engage workers.

There are several keys to making employees feel that they are a valuable part of the organization. Leaders must devote a significant amount of time helping their subordinates succeed. The manager who focuses on talent development will assign his or her employees to jobs that play to their strengths and make sure they have the resources they need to perform well. In addition, they will respect their opinions and push them to advance. By becoming people-oriented, a manager can help develop talent and create sustained profits for the organization.

Good companies persist with bad practices because they tend to grade their managers on their financial results rather than on how well they groom and retain good employees. Managers need to ask employees questions to figure out how best to serve them and to figure out which employees will excel at which jobs. By taking a more holistic view of each employee, it is possible to identify learning gaps that they can help fill. The bottom line is that companies headed by chief executives who rate managers on how well they develop talent usually have more productive and more satisfied employees.

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"Bridging the Gap When a Boss Is on the Other Side of the Globe"
Computerworld (via Career Journal), March 20

For managers at the U.S. operations of foreign companies headquartered overseas, the secret to career success is perseverance and the ability to adapt to the home culture. The article illustrates this with an example of a U.S. manager working for a boss in Japan. In this case, the manager engaged in an extensive campaign to win over managers and engineers in Japan, even when it meant painstakingly re-engineering projects and deals and waiting patiently for promotions from above. By adapting to the Japanese corporate culture, the U.S.-based manager was able to advance in his career while, at the same time, transforming the U.S. operation into an integral part of the global organization.

There are a number of ways for U.S.-based managers to win the trust of bosses in foreign nations, many of whom may be out of touch with local markets. The key is being able to strike a balance between effective local leadership and sensitivity to the corporate culture in the home country. That can be especially challenging for companies based in countries such as Japan or South Korea, with business traditions that are well-established and deep-rooted. For starters, local managers in foreign multinationals can help close the gap between themselves and headquarters by learning the language of the home country or spending time there. Any overseas experience can help managers understand how to respond to different management cues.

When foreign companies begin to embrace these changes, the results can be significant. As the article highlights, a Japanese company eventually widened its embrace of global markets after witnessing the success of its U.S. operation. Now, 65% of total revenue for the Japanese company comes from outside Japan. More importantly, the U.S. unit now accounts for about half of total profitability at the Japanese multinational. For any U.S. manager able to capitalize on these types of results, this success can lead to a dramatic boost in job responsibilities. For example, the U.S. manager profiled in the Japanese case study eventually landed a more important sales and marketing role as a result of his close collaboration with the home office.

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"Employers in Denial over Aging Workforce"
Management Issues, March 19

A new study by the Boston College Center on Aging and Work has found that many U.S. businesses remain unprepared for changing workforce demographics, despite the fact that many of them have already experienced the effects of an aging workforce. Despite all the predictions that the U.S. faces a potential workforce shortage as baby boomers retire, a surprising percentage of companies failed to put a plan into place. In fact, according to the National Study of Business Strategy and Workforce Development, more than one-quarter of organizations have no plans whatsoever to deal with the effects of an aging workforce. The article considers the impact of an aging workforce and describes the various steps that organizations can take to deal with this demographic change.

Companies that do not plan for this aging workforce may find themselves suddenly faced with a talent squeeze. The experience and expertise of older workers will be difficult to offset, given the relatively small pool of new workers and the escalating war for talent amongst competitors. Of the 587 organizations surveyed, only 37% of employers had adopted strategies to encourage late career workers to stay past the traditional retirement age. At the same time, nearly 60% of employers said that recruiting competent job applicants is already a significant HR challenge. Moreover, 40% of those surveyed said that management skills are in short supply in their organizations.

There are several things that organizations can do to deal with this imminent demographic change. For example, they can make projections about retirement rates of their workers and plan accordingly. Currently, only one-third of organizations have done so. Employers also need to start considering how managers can promote the sharing of knowledge among employees at different career stages. In addition, they can experiment with different workforce configurations to see how older workers can help the organization to address some of their HR challenges. Another key factor is the importance of providing flexible work options to older people who want alternatives to the traditional 8-hour work day. According to experts, employers should consider a broad range of flexible work options that can enhance the performance and productivity of their older workers.

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"Global Companies Tell Top Managers to Work Less"
Information Week (via Reuters), March 20

A Harvard Business Review study found that approximately 50% of male executives and 80% of female executives working 60 hours a week or more said they would not be able to keep up the pace for more than a year. For many managers at global companies, 70-hour weeks are becoming the norm, but with potentially disastrous repercussions throughout the economy. For example, women tend to quit such jobs after a few years, while 40% of men who worked those long hours tend to burn out within five years. After considering the factors leading to longer work weeks and highlighting the negative impact of long hours on productivity and creativity, the article takes a look at steps that organizations can take to reduce the stress and strain of work while still remaining globally competitive.

It is unlikely that things will change anytime soon. Globalization, technology and the huge financial rewards at some top jobs are spearheading the trend toward long working hours. At the same time, unpredictable work demands and tight deadlines are adding pressure. On top of that, weekly travel arrangements and endless meetings can take a toll on senior managers. Instead of creating opportunities for sabbaticals or rewarding creativity, companies are encouraging employees to take on even more responsibility. Until talent management emerges as a key issue at most companies, dissatisfaction is likely to build within employee ranks.

Innovative companies are coming up with new approaches to work. American Express allows top talent to apply for a two-year assignment doing high-impact projects for part of the year. For the other part of the year, these employees can work 40-hour weeks. In another example, Cisco Systems allows some staff members to take 6 to 12 months off in order to work at non-profit organizations. Google encourages workers to spend 20% of their week on innovative new projects in an effort to free up creativity. Companies are also experimenting with new work arrangements for women, who have been deterred from some high-level careers by the need to conform to five-day, 40-hour weeks.

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