Continuous enhancement indispensable
by Charles Mak
No multinational in the contemporary global business arena can survive the constant change and challenge without the support of cutting-edge technologies.
"The prevalence of computer technology has created an increasing demand for IT services in the marketplace," says Chan Wai Foon, director, technologies management & sustainment (TMS), Jardine OneSolution (HK) Limited. "As a result, the IT outsourcing industry is set to grow."
Colman Lam, head of professional services, TMS, agrees, "For this reason alone, IT specialists equipped with the right skills and attitude are in constant demand."
Mr Lam began his career in IT at the Government Data Processing Agency. With extensive know-how in system maintenance, development, support and operation tucked under his belt, he moved on to JOS and subsequently rose to his current position.
"The growth of the IT industry is phenomenal and it is creating ever greater opportunities for both experienced professionals and young aspirants," he notes. In his sphere, there are two main aspects of work in IT outsourcing, with the first being service-level operation management. "This includes services such as desktop support, infrastructure support, administration and management, ad hoc project services (install, move, add, change), and IT/service management," he explains.
The other encompasses a range of staff outsourcing services. To this end, a team of specialists or individual engineers are assigned to and stationed on the client's premises to carry out a range of IT related tasks such as project management, IT management, IT consulting, infrastructure technical support, programming, administrative support and equipment servicing.
Mr Lam says that IT experts usually start in junior positions. As the industry continues to grow and the scope of service expands, people can quickly excel and reach higher positions. Ghlan Lee, a JOS service manager is a case in point. He entered the IT field as a computer operator 15 years ago and now leads a team of more than 40 service engineers servicing a major banking client.
"Set expectations for yourself and keep things in perspective"
"Never mind the starting point, just keep learning because things are happening by the minute in this challenging and ever-evolving industry," Mr Lee says, adding that ongoing enhancement is therefore vital. "Set expectations for yourself and keep things in perspective."
Internationally recognised qualifications like ITIL (information technology infrastructure library) and PMP (project management professional) are particularly useful for professionals who seek to enter into service management, he notes. "At JOS, we have ongoing training and lab tests so that staff can try out new products. IT people are very hands-on â they like to play and explore."
A veteran in his own right, Mr Lam now supervises a team of more than 300 staff. He believes that young aspirants should always look towards developing a long-term career on a solid platform. "Sizeable companies facilitate practical learning for young people because there is a vast scope of knowledge to obtain," he says. "At JOS, we have a set of established and well-defined standards, procedures and best practices which are fundamental for success in this industry. This differentiates us from smaller firms."
In fact, a leading provider of integrated IT solutions and services in Asia, JOS' business portfolio encompasses key industries including banking and finance, logistics, trading and commerce, public utilities, telecommunications as well as the government, offering staff ample opportunities for vertical and lateral movement. "There is on-going training for staff shifting from one stream to another, or from frontline to supporting roles," Mr Lam remarks.
Whatever the position, Mr Lee notes that clients always come first. "Different clients expect differing outcomes from us so we must understand, meet and seek to exceed such expectations within the scope of SLA (service level agreement)," he says. "To do so, we must make sure our technical know-how is deliverable."
Mr Lee points out that IT outsourcing is different from a typical desk job. In particular, staff must be prepared to work outside the usual nine-to-five framework and be constantly ready to offer support so as to safeguard clients' intellectual property. "For instance, our teams must respond instantaneously to emergency situations such as power cuts. Ad hoc projects and services like systems upgrades and desktop relocations may also require after-hours service," he explains. "This high level of trust and confidence from our clients gives us the utmost satisfaction."
Mr Lam agrees, noting also that professional integrity is a requisite. He says, "Staff-to-be are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement prior to employment. Client data must be kept confidential and privacy respected." For this very reason, potential recruits are assessed primarily by their attitude and soft skills. Mr Lam adds, "They must also demonstrate a willingness to learn, plus a great sense of customer service because maintaining strong customer relationships is part of our mission."
Taken from Career Times 9 May 2008, p. B16
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