Monday, June 4, 2012

The Ideal Job Profile


Spot the Dilemma

In our previous Chronicle entry we made the case for needing a clearly defined Job Profile to be able to hire the right Professional for the right Position.
Without such a profile, the employer and the candidate is at a disadvantage. The employer is at risk of not finding the right person for the right job. A Job Profile helps to understand what the requirement is for engaging the I.T. Professional’s services. A candidate’s ability, knowledge and experience can be compared against these requirements, and an accurate and informed hiring decision be made.
For the Professional, the job profile provides a framework and a principle agreement of the outcomes and abilities the employer requires from you as Professional. If this is not clearly defined, and in line with what you have on offer, or aspire to do, then you may find ourself in the wrong job, and with the wrong Company. The end result may be frustration, depression, self doubt, de-motivation, sleeplessness and a number of other negative emotions ultimately culminating in you having to go on, and look for the next poorly defined job.
The employer will be forced to hire the next I.T. Professional into the same ambiguously defined Position with most probably a similar outcome in a few month’s time.
Some I.T. Professionals revel in ambiguity. The more innovative ones among us create their opportunities, instead of waiting to have it defined. This may put you in a job hunting advantage. However, the business that relies on the incumbent to define the job and related outcomes is surely heading for creative and imminent disaster. 
Most companies can just not afford for you and I to choose and make up our own jobs as we go along.
Let us have a look at some of the important elements we find in the the I.T. Job Profile.
The I.T. Job Profile

Contrary to popular belief, there are standard roles in this business of Information Technology. These roles don’t overlap or duplicate each other. They work together to complement each other in a set of commonly accepted industry process frameworks like ITIL, USDP and others. 

These roles are usually combined into Positions or Jobs. You may find that you are required to fulfill multiple roles in a position. For example: In the Position of Technical Analyst Designer, you may be required to fulfill the roles of: Systems Analyst, Technical Designer, Test Designer, User Interface Designer and Database Designer. In the Position of Systems Administrator, you may be required to fulfill the roles of: Technical Administrator and Tools Specialist. The Position of Analyst may require you to fulfill the roles of: Business Process Analyst, Systems Analyst, and Test Analyst.
Organizations have a challenge in defining positions, because they are required to combine the roles into positions that fit their organization structure and operating models. 
Frequent re-structuring bears evidence to the struggle some of these companies have to define who does what. Positions are ambiguous based on political motivations and power struggles, instead of it being designed in line with efficient industry operating frameworks and practices.
I know of at least one major I.T. Services Organization that does not define their positions specifically on purpose. They argue, that this allows them to sell their consultants into a number of possible roles or assignments (regardless of their appropriateness). Therefore, they can ensure these people remain billable.
Positions are then advertised without sufficient details on the underlying roles, and how it supports the business objectives. This is one of the common sources of confusion. That is why company A refers to a Business Analyst, but really require a Business Process Analyst and Designer. Company B advertises for an Analyst Programmer, but may really require a Technical Designer.
The whole business of roles and positions require a proper cleanup for the industry’s sake. We are able to assist you with a common framework and set of definitions that cut through the ambiguous nomenclature of what I.T. People do.
In my organization I am an advocate that an I.T. Job Profile, and therefore the appropriate Professional for the job, be approach from at least three key perspectives. These perspectives decrease in their order of importance. They are:
  • The Key Talents Required: These refer to the perspective required from the Professional in the job. People have key talents or strengths which they develop due to their genetic make-up and development in their formative years. These determine how a person engage with his environment - be it from an analytical, strategic, relationship or other perspective. This perspective is hard to impossible to change for physiological and other reasons, and is therefore the most important aspect to consider as requirement for a job. If you get this wrong, then you have to replace of complement the incumbent. Please have a look at the work from Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton on this subject at www.strengthsfinder.com.
  • The I.T. Role Ability and Experience: This specifically relates to the person’s knowledge and experience in the I.T. job. Does he know where he fits, what is expected from him, and how should he behave to effect the outcomes required in the operating processes of the organization? Well, if an organization doesn’t know how and why they are organized in a specific way, or if they operate different to common operating frameworks and practices in the industry, then this becomes a very complicated matter. It takes years for an I.T. Professional to build this ability and experience. It is mostly done through mentors and difficult learning experiences of trial and error. Therefore, one has to carefully consider a candidate against the role criteria specific to a job on offer. 
  • The Tool or Industry Knowledge: I.T. exists to provide business benefit. Tools are used to facilitate this benefit, and it changes constantly based on the latest software or technology releases from vendors. Therefore an I.T. Professional needs to know both the business they are trying to serve, and also the ever changing applicable tools they require for the job. Organizations are constantly complaining that I.T. People lack business knowledge. In this category, this capability requirement is defined. Needless to say, an I.T. Professional’s ability to learn a tool is greatly superior to learning a job. Therefore this should be the last consideration when defining the job and the requirement for the appropriate I.T. Professional.
Roles and Tools
The easiest way out of properly defining a Job Profile is to reference the tools used in a job. As we’ve seen above, this should only be the third most important aspect of the job. 
If basic online advertising is analyzed one finds that not a lot of thought goes into the definition of the requirements. Add to this the sizzle usually included in advertising to draw the attention of a target audience, and you will be forgiven for not knowing which way to go when looking for your next career move. Best is to fire off your C.V. and hope someone else knows what they are looking to find, and hoping it is you.
Firstly, job sites all use a different classification for the jobs in I.T.  For example:
  • There is no clear distinction between Engineer, Consultant,  or Technical Role. The result is that most adverts end up into four main categories: Analyst Programmer, Manager, Networks and Systems and Business Analyst Jobs.
  • Then you need to figure our the difference between an Architect, Functional Consultant, Analyst Programmer, Software Engineer, Team Leader Jobs, and a swarm of other role categories with no clear distinctions between them.
  • The advertisements themselves appear to be templates that are re-used often and frequently, with the only differentiation the tools listed. Tools include the technologies applicable for the role. For example: C++, Java, XML, .Net, etc. If one is looking for a C++ developer, surely there must be more to the role than only the ability to use a tool like C++. However this details appears to be neglected, and a lot of people’s time is wasted by this anomaly.
Please don’t get me wrong. Variety is the spice of live. However, I believe there is a clear case for a standard set of role and job definitions in I.T. that clearly specifies the opportunity on hand, and the level of skill or experience required. Then, the hiring organization can add their own spice to attract the interest of a specific type of candidate.
The candidates will then also have a better view of which roles fit their abilities, and which roles may get their interest. It will make the overhead less on under qualified recruiters sifting through equally ambiguous resumes.
The Four Main Categories of IT Positions
Here is a suggestion for the industry: “ If you analyze all the roles in I.T. you will find that there is really only four main categories.” They are: 
  • Analysts: The people that gather the requirements (Business, Technical and Non-Technical)
  • Designer Implementers: These are the people that design and implement the solutions.
  • Operations and Support: These are the Professionals that look after the solutions once they have been implemented.
  • Management: These are the People that oversees the processes for the above.
The first two categories of roles  - Analyst and Design and Implement - are governed by the solutions delivery life-cycle (SDLC). The third category - Operations and Support - is governed by the operations processes (ITIL) of an organization. The fourth category - Management - plays a role in ensuring the above three categories operate at an optimum level.
In each of the above there are a number of roles that can be combined into a series of positions that are described in Job Profiles. 
Job Profiles
We are making it easier for you to distinguish these by including some proposed Job Profiles for your business into our site
We are embarking on a journey to model the ideal I.T. Organization, and these Job Profiles are our first inputs into this effort. You are welcome to use it for your business, and we hope this will prompt you to contact us for some of our other services on offer.

Hendrik van Wyk

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