By Anthony Kumnick, OARBIC Inc.
“The future is not the result of choices among alternative paths offered. It is a place that is created.”
– Walt Disney
So, the market’s a little slow. Got some time on your hands? If you’re an IT consultant it’s time to do the odd jobs you’ve been putting off for the past couple of years -landscaping the garden, renovating the bathroom, that sort of thing.
That is, of course, if you’ve been wise about your income over the past few years. If you haven’t, then you probably have your head in your hands right now, waiting for the market to turn.
Insurance companies have similar issues, they have had to cut back substantially in what may be hailed as a strategic reaction but in reality is more likely a measure to slash short-term costs.
When the market turns, and it will, where will consultants and companies be positioned? Well, they may have nice basements and they may have cut down on expenses in the tough times, but will they be ready for a more competitive market once spending picks up? I think not. The reality will be that both consultant and company will once again be on the back foot, and playing catch up.
Benjamin Franklin said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Companies who do have vision and want to be true leaders should, in this period, actually be investing in change and in the future. The reason is twofold. The first is that vendors and suppliers have extremely competitive offerings and it’s currently a buyer’s market for resources. It’s the old strategy of buying low. The second reason is when the market does turn; their competitors will be playing catch up.
If investing in the future at this point is definitely not an option then this time should at least be used to develop strategy, look at future requirements and plan accordingly.
Most importantly is a need for company representatives to be educated to understand the technologies out there and what is available to them and perhaps more important why the technologies will benefit them.
So as companies plan for or undertake the initiative that will see them break away as industry leaders, what can the IT consultant do?
When companies start to require extra resources they will be in the favorable position of being able to be very selective. Sure you may be an experienced Policy Management System COBOL programmer, but would you know what it would take to enhance the system to utilize Web Services?
For those legacy consultants, there will still be a need for those valuable skills, however, if you can also position yourself to understand and appreciate how other “newer” technologies operate and how they will influence and possibly integrate, you will be in a far more competitive position than your counterparts.
What if your clients asked your opinion on the merits of XML DTDs versus XML Schemas – the new definition protocols? Or if Object Oriented or Service Oriented was the way to go? Or is our system a good Web Services candidate? Could you map those requirements and designs out in UML?
This is not an education document so I’m not going to answer these questions here; consultants need to spend the time now preparing to be able to answer these kinds of questions.
There is really no need for formal training as it can be expensive and besides there are numerous sources available, for free, over the internet:
- www.uml.org or www.omg.org for (UML) Unified Modeling Language information.
- www.webservices.org a wealth of information on Web Services.
- www.w3c.org a starting point for XML and some of the Web Services building blocks
- www.about.com is a great starting point for almost anything.
- www-106.ibm.com/developerworks IBM is a great source for free information both for education and software. Download their trial version of Websphere Application Developer Studio and teach yourself, Java, Web Services, XML, DB2 etc.
- Similar information to IBM’s can be obtained from Sun at www.sun.com/developers/docs/
Other good sources of information are Webcasts or Webinars, which are seminars over the internet; most of these are also available for replay after the actual event. A number of them will be biased towards a specific product however they are a useful sources of information.
Trade conferences are also a very good forum for finding out what is going on in various sectors of the industry. ACORD, ISO in the US and Insurance-Canada.ca in Canada are all invaluable seminar sources for both education and to see who’s doing what.
Whether you are a company IT department struggling through the downturn, an employee or an under-utilized consultant – make the most of your time now. What are you waiting for – get motivated; get planning, get educated and get ahead.
To contact the author, By Anthony Kumnick, Product Manager, you can email [email protected] or call (416) 362-4743