With networks and systems running 24 by 7, IT functions are getting more demanding than ever

If you thought landing a job in an IT firm is easy breezy, think again. Findings from an Emerson report show that IT professionals are often called to don the role of a fire-fighter, coach, sprinter, marathoner, diplomat and inventor. They are required at a moment's notice to be ready to serve, solve problems, fix mistakes and do the job right the first time.

On an average, IT professionals are required to be available to work 119 hours in each 168-hour week and the higher up the ladder the job is, the greater is the pressure to be always-on.

“New technology has added to the pressure of always being on . Earlier, systems peaked users for a specific time period only. Now systems are centralised and available 24x7. Wider use of mobile phones has mandated teams to be available continuously. One might get called while watching a movie!” says Abhay Ghate, Senior Vice President, Centre of Excellence for Technology and CTO, Nihilent Technology.

Though most of us may claim that we are connected 24x7, for IT professionals, the expression 24x7x365 is almost a cliché.

A consulting engineer mentions this dramatic example of being ‘Always-On': “Received a sudden call from one of our corporate customers to solve their software and networking problem instantly, as their national conference was adjourned for one hour due to the problems. They were using at least 80 computers at the conference. I received the call at around 11 a.m., and the problem had to be solved by 1 p.m.”

Studies show that by 2020, 45 per cent of the workforce will comprise of the Millennial (Gen Y), who grew up in an Internet-ready, freedom-to-choose technology world.

The findings further revealed that engineering professionals log high scores in dependencies, multi-tasking and quick response, while the IT security group, which tops in score of all IT roles, was found to have the lowest score on ‘quick response'.

Emerson surveyed around 800 IT professionals in Asia, Europe, Latin America and the US to determine the degree to which these professionals have to be always available, always working at peak capacity and with greater accuracy. “India does not lag behind on the technology front. CIOs we spoke to said that they have to be always on, even when outside the office, be smart and quick in taking executive decisions,” says Mr Pratik Chube, General Manager (Products) at Emerson Network Power.

“The present generation of youngsters have fire in their belly, prove their mettle in their career. These youngsters don't have the habit of switching off their mobile. They suffer from ‘Obsessive Compulsive Disorder',” adds Chube.

Numerous findings provide insight into the mindset, expectations and behaviour of the world's next generation of workers and how they will influence everything from business communications and mobile lifestyles to hiring practices, talent retention and the ability to compete.

“While IT can make life crazy, one should use IT to serve you rather than you work for IT,” says Gayatri Anandh, Head (Technology) at Firstsource Solutions.

According to Gayatri, “staying connected helps ease work pressure for IT professionals.

They can enjoy leisure and still honour the demands on the job front, for a lot of work today are in some way ‘creative'. Working from home gives more freedom,” she adds.

Highlighting the transition that has taken place in the IT industry over the years, Ms Daisy Chittilapilly, Vice President (ITS) at Cisco (India and SAARC) said “from merely taking calls and responding to emails, IT professionals get connected on chat mode, to voice and video and do all of this and more in an adhoc manner. The power of technology is best exhibited by ITeS professionals. It is an answer to flexibility but not work pressure.”

While admitting that the priorities of Indian CIOs are no different from other countries, Mr Ashok Sethi, CIO of Sapient said that the expectations of CIOs are evolving, shifting from IT for business operations to innovation and transformation for business value. CIOs today focus on creativity, innovation and opportunity to influence and bring business value through services.'

Commenting on the 24-7 work style, Ashwani Tikko, CIO, CSC India says it has its own merits like increased employee responsiveness and decision making speed, cost saving in providing and maintaining company-owned hardware and so on.

This always-on perception may not be new. The trend though is catching up, helping business grow by making services available outside of business hours and through virtual channels. “We can safely assume that the flexibility has resulted in about 20-30 per cent improvement in business. The profession demands alertness as mission critical factors are attached to the work we do for clients. Hence it is not just important, but a critical part of IT job profiles,” says Abhay Ghate.

Top 5 most demanding IT jobs

Executive Director/Administrator

These IT pros have their heads and hands into every aspect of the job: strategic, operational, technical. A director in banking/finance in Latin America speaks to the pressures of the job, saying, “You have to think of the best way to make sound decisions and above all meet deadlines.”

IT Procurement

These Always-On professionals point to multiple pressures: urgency, demanding clients (often in different international time zones), staying up on the latest equipment, filling pressing staffing needs. “I cannot switch off the ringing phone, even if I want to. Or if I'm having lunch but someone needs something from me. Or I have to stay longer in the office because of things that need to be done,” remarks a procurement professional for a utility company in Europe.

CIO

Demands of the job include motivating and orchestrating the work of others, making sure all team members are performing to their abilities and “getting everyone on the same page” for projects. As might be expected, CIOs also indicate more than did any other IT role that they are responsible for a large part of the company's budget. One CIO in Asia notes that, “making sure technology is put to good use keeping [the] company's cost in mind” is a typical Always-On situation.

IT Manager/Director

Professionals in this role might be called on to put out fires or do routine work at any time, including nights and weekends. One IT director for the banking/finance industry in Europe says, “A security breach meant I had to miss a night out with my wife. I do weekend work on upgrades and other projects.”

IT Operations

They report working on high-stress projects with constant time pressure and responding to after-hours incidents. This comment from a senior computer operator is typical: “When performing monthly operations you have to enter the data perfectly. If you don't, interest calculations could be off for thousands of people.”

Source: The Most Always-On IT jobs survey by Emerson

lnr@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on July 20, 2012)
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