IT competence management

Abstract

Business organizations must be able to acquire the IT competences needed allow them to run not only their daily activities, but also to implement complex programs and projects. Furthermore, they must also be able to incorporate technology innovations and to decide which IT competences are the strategic ones for their business. This means that business organizations have to develop competences such as project management maturity, software development maturity, software integration, IT services purchasing, and other competences specific to their business in order to be successful.

Other important aspect to be considered in the development of the IT competences is the alignment with the organization long term strategic plan. It is important to guarantee the focus on the right competences and the continuous evaluation of the improvement of the organization business capabilities, obtained from the development of the IT competences.

This paper discuss an integrated approach to develop IT competences through the use of an extension of the Competence Management framework, the IT Competence Management, and its use in the development of all changes needed in the processes, technology and, mainly, in the organization culture and knowledge to improve the organization business capabilities.

Through the careful definition of business capabilities and the definition of objective metrics to assess the organization IT competences it is possible to measure the organization progress towards its goals, and align the IT competences evolution in a broader business context.

The paper presents the results obtained in a Brazilian Software Factory of Accenture, with approximately 80 people, in which this strategy inspired the creation of the Project Catavento. The Project has been used to drive the software development maturity evolution, as well as other business capabilities, that are essential for the success of the software factory.

Introduction

IT Departments are expected to attend their clients according with previously established Service Levels Agreements and Operational Level Agreements in a variety of activities that can be as simple as solving a client doubt, fixing a small software defect, or as complex as implementing a large system, which will demand the coordinated work of tens or hundreds of people, as it is illustrated in Exhibit 1. They must be able to decide which competences to develop and which competences to outsource, and in the cases in which they decide by outsourcing the IT Services, they must learn how to hire and manage their suppliers.

This means, that IT Departments must develop business competences (Exhibit 2) for dealing with small, medium and large projects simultaneously. Furthermore, they must also be able to keep long relationship with their clients and suppliers, and manage efficiently their people, in a way that guarantees that the IT services are delivered timely, with the appropriate level of quality and at the lowest possible cost.

In order to be able to face these challenges, IT Departments must develop many competences such as program management office, project management, client relationship, software development, procurement, suppliers management, hiring and capacitating people, and other specific capabilities associated with the specialization of their business area.

These competences must be developed in accordance with the organization strategic plan in order to guarantee that the business capabilities needed to gain competitive advantage are delivered. Also, because of the fast dynamics of the business world, it is of fundamental importance that the IT Departments are able to adapt to the constant changes in the business environment.

Working model

Exhibit 1 – Working model

IT Competences and Business Capabilities

Exhibit 2 – IT Competences and Business Capabilities

IT Competence Management Framework

Competence Management Framework

The Competence Management Framework is normally used for guiding the development of the human capital in accordance with a business strategy. The framework is based on the definition of the business competences needed to achieve the strategic objectives and in the creation of a Competence Model that expresses the business competences in terms of abilities, attitudes and knowledge, as it is shown in Exhibit 3.

Competence Management Framework

Exhibit 3 – Competence Management Framework

The Competence Model, see Exhibit 4, also includes a map of the organization positions and corresponding roles, as well as an evaluation criterion for determining the proficiency level of each people in organization in the constitutive elements of the model: business competence, abilities, attitudes and knowledge. The proficiency levels expected for each position in the organization are also part of the model.

Normally the model is defined by the senior management of the organization using as starting point the organization long term strategy. Exhibit 5 summarizes the steps usually needed for the definition of the Competence Model.

Competence Model

Exhibit 4 – Competence Model

Building the Competence Model

Exhibit 5 – Building the Competence Model

The basic idea behind the framework is to compare the expected proficiency level for each professional, defined by the roles performed in the organization by the professional, with the actual proficiency level demonstrated by the professional that is determined through an evaluation process. The gaps identified in the comparison are then used to define a development plan for each one of the members of the organization, orient their carriers and guide training and the strategic initiatives to capacitate the team.

Through the periodic evaluation of the team using the competence model it is possible to follow the evolution of the business competences and make the necessary adjustments to guarantee the team development. The model can also be used in the selection of new resources, as well in reward programs.

IT Competence Management

The IT Competence Management, Exhibit 6, is an extension of the Competence Management concept in which the Competence Model is used not only to develop the human resources of the organization, but also the other elements needed for capacitating the organization in the business competences: processes and technology.

IT Competence Management Framework

Exhibit 6 – IT Competence Management Framework

Other important difference is the definition of Business Competence Performance Metrics, for the precise evaluation of the development stage of the business competences described in the organization Competence Model.

The Business Competence Metrics are transformed in key performance indexes and grouped in the format of a balance scorecard that is used for driving the organization continuous improvement process.

Because the IT Competence framework does not focus only in the development of the organization human capital, the framework can be used to implement the strategic plan of the organization. Furthermore, the Business Performance Metrics allow the objective evaluation of the organization proficiency level in the business competences.

Project Catavento

Overview

The CoE is an Accenture development center specialized in the telecom area. Created in January 2000, the CoE has contracts with a few telecom operators for which the center performs application management (evolutive and corrective maintenance) as well as develops new applications (projects).

Due to the very dynamic nature of its operation, the center is always involved in the management of a variety of simultaneous projects of different sizes and complexities. Also, because of the Service Level Agreement established with its clients, the center must be able to have a perfect control of activities, in order provide the adequate service level to each one of its clients, as it is illustrated in Exhibit 7.

CoE Service Model

Exhibit 7 – CoE Service Model

One of the key success elements for the center success is the ability of to have an effective Program Management Office, able to track many simultaneous projects. Besides de Program Management Office, the center must also develop many other competences, as project management, people management, financial management, people capacitating, software development, etc.

The IT Management Competence Framework was used in the center to leverage the software development maturity and align the competences of the center with the Accenture strategic positioning through the Project Catavento.

The application of the IT Management Competence Framework in the Coe was done through the use of some Accenture assets: the Accenture Delivery Suit (that is an Accenture asset composed by many elements: methodology, development frameworks, processes, metrics, etc.), workforce transformation, Accenture carrier framework, etc. Exhibit 8 1 illustrates the implementation of the framework using the Accenture assets. It is interesting to compare this figure with Exhibit 6 that contains a generic view of the framework.

In accordance with the IT Management framework, the Project Catavento started by the definition of the four Business Competences (see Exhibit 8) that the center needed to achieve Accenture's strategic objectives. After that, the Business Competences were expressed in terms of skills, attitudes and knowledge and a detailed Competence Model was built.

Business Competences - CoE

Exhibit 8 – Business Competences - CoE

The model also included a detailed description of the CoE organization and a mapping between the roles performed by the CoE human resources and the required proficiency levels in each skill, attitude and knowledge.

After the definition of the Competence model, in order to evaluate the progress in the development of the business competence, a set of business competence performance indicators were created to measure the improvements in the business competences.

The business competence metrics involved the creation of key performance index to evaluate the compliance to the internal process, the satisfaction of the main stakeholders, the financial results of the center, the efficiency in the software development, the quality of the deliverables created, the proficiency levels of the team members, etc.

In the next sections we detailed the actions taken in the main focus areas and the results obtained in the first phase of the project.

People development

The main initiatives related with the people development area of focus were:

  1. Definition of the Competence model and evaluation of the CoE team (approximately 80 resources) according with the model. The evaluation was done in phases, first a self-evaluation followed by a discussion with the direct leaders of the results, in order to define the final proficiency levels in the business competences. The evaluation of the proficiency levels involved the creation of a specific tool and the training of the team in the Competence Management framework.
  2. Coaching of all the team members (approximately 80) and establishment of a development plan to help each team member to solve the gaps found in the evaluation process.
  3. Implementation of some strategic actions (formal training, on the job training, workshops, etc.) to solve the most critical gaps found in the team evaluation. The definition of the strategic actions was done by using the team proficiency map obtained in the evaluation process.
  4. Creation of a special program for hiring and capacitating young professionals, the Accenture Apprentice School. The program involved not only the identification of young talents, but also the training of these talents according with the Competence Model, to speed up the development of the required business competences.
People Development

Exhibit 9 – People Development

Accenture Apprentice School

Exhibit 10 – Accenture Apprentice School

Process Improvement

The process improvement strategy was based in the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) of software development. This was accomplished by including in the Operational Excellence Business Competence some abilities associated with the Key Process Areas (KPAs) of the CMM model. The development of these abilities was then prioritized to prioritize the abilities associated with the levels 2 and 3 of software development maturity.

In order to make the use of the Accenture Delivery Methodology (ADM), a mapping between the CMM KPAs and the ADM elements was built, as it is shown in the Exhibit 11.

The KPAs associated with planning, tracking, quality, requirement management, configuration management, integrated software management, software engineering and peer reviews were the focus of attention.

Process Improvement

Exhibit 11 – Process Improvement

Technology Improvement

Two main initiatives were done in the technology area:

  1. The development of a new web based tool for the management of defects and requirements.
  2. The introduction of the Project Server as the main tool for project management.

Results obtained

Integrated Project Management System

One of the main results of the project was de creation of an Integrated Project Management System, based in the reviewed processes and the new set of tools, as illustrated in the Exhibit 12. The implementation of the new management system involved not only the use of the new tools, but also the new processes and the training of all team in the new work environment.

The key element of the new Integrated Project Management System was the extensive use of the Earned Value Management Technique. The EVM technique acted as an integrator element, allowing the clear and objective communication of project status, a better control of the application of the methodology (through a more rigorous tracking of the steps of the methodology development) and helped management and team leaders to get a better balance between resources and demand.

Because of the improvement in the understanding of the status of the development projects through the EVM technique, the development team got more involved with the overall performance indicators of the center and team morale was raised.

Integrated Management System

Exhibit 12 – Integrated Management System

Accenture Apprentice School and Competence Management

In the first phase of the project approximately 35 young professionals were hired and trained. After that the program has continued and nowadays it is one of the centers mains source of human resources.

Approximately 80 people were evaluated according with the Competence Model and individual development plan were elaborated for each resource in the center. Also, some special training and workshops about feedback, planning and tracking were done, to accelerate the learning process.

Client Satisfaction

We did not observe any significant change in the service levels indicators or in the results of the client satisfaction surveys. This probably happened because this area was, since the creation of the center, the focus of the attention of all the Accenture team.

Internal Process

As shown in the Exhibit 13, we observed a significant improvement in the compliance to the internal process of the CoE. The compliance was measured through the results of internal audits and the definition of a quality index (scale 1 to 10).

Quality Audit Index

Exhibit 13 – Quality Audit Index

It is interesting observe that these results were obtained despite the many alterations that occurred in the team composition in the period, which indicates that the center acquired the capacity to train new generations of developers.

Quality, efficiency and average cost

As shown in the Exhibits 14 and 15, we also observed a significant improvement in the quality of the deliverables produced and in the efficiency of the software development, as well as a reduction in the average cost.

CPI and Team average cost per hour

Exhibit 14 – CPI and Team average cost per hour

Defects in the User Acceptance Test and Warrant Period

Exhibit 15 – Defects in the User Acceptance Test and Warrant Period

The Pocket Software Factory

Other important result obtained in the Project Catavento was the creation of an Integrated System Management System easily replicated in other projects, as it was shown by the replication of the model in another Accenture Software Factories.

Pocket Software Factory

Exhibit 16 – Pocket Software Factory

The Virtual Software Factory NET

Service providers that attend different clients in different geographies face the challenge of optimizing the use of its resources while providing a homogenous service level to all their clients.

One possible solution for this problem is the extension of the Pocket Software Factory concept for the creation of a virtual net of Software Factories using the IT Competence Mgt Framework as a guide for evolution and capacity evaluation. This strategy allows the sharing of infra-structure, process, methodology and human resources in order to reduce costs and optimize the use of resources.

Exhibit 17 illustrates the concept and shows a possible evolution path to the virtual center.

Virtual Software Factory Net

Exhibit 17 – Virtual Software Factory Net

Conclusions

We presented a framework for the development of business competences in IT related organizations. The framework, called IT Competence Management, is based on the integrated development of all aspects of a business competence (processes, technology and people) and on the measurement of the results obtained, through business competence metrics.

The use of the framework in an Accenture software factory was discussed and the main results obtained were presented. We discussed the gains obtained in the internal quality process compliance, efficiency and quality indexes, as well as some other benefits obtained as the creation of a new Integrates System Management and the replication of the Coe development maturity to another software factory.

The success obtained and the generality of the framework, suggest its extension to other business areas.

References

Bispo, E. (2005, October) Project Management in Software Factories, PMI Global Congress Panama.

Park, M. C., Curtis, B., & Chrissis, M. B. (1993 February) Capability Maturity Model for Software, V. 1.1, CMU/SEI-1993-TR-025, ESC-TR-1993–198

CMMI Product Team (2002 August) Capability Maturity Model Integration – Continuous Representation, V. 1.1, CMU/SEI-2002-TR-028, ESC-TR-2002–028

CMMI Product Team (2002 August) Capability Maturity Model Integration – Stagged representation, V. 1.1, CMU/SEI-2002-TR-029, ESC-TR-2002–029

Fahrenkrog, S., Abrams, F., Haeck, W.P., & Whelbourn, D (2003, September) Project Management Institute's Organization Project Management Maturity, PMI North American Congress, Baltimore, MD

 

1 The figure illustrates a view of the framework based in the current Accenture assets developed and in development. At the time of the first phase of the project many of the assets in the figure were not available.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

© 2007 Edvaldo Bispo
Originally published as part of 2007 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Budapest, Hungary

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