Managing Skills Challenge in an Open Source World Prajod Vettiyattil Software Architect Wipro Limited

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1 Managing Skills Challenge in an Open Source World Prajod Vettiyattil Software Architect Wipro Limited

2 Table of Contents The Rise of Open Source The Talent Crunch Insights from Experience About the Author About Wipro Ltd.

3 The Rise of Open Source Open source, which in the past has been ignored as not being enterprise ready, is now gaining ground within organizations that are leveraging cloud technologies, Big Data, IoT and pursuing the development of new products and services. The demand for open source is significant and is only likely to grow stronger. But as demand grows, industries are starting to feel the skills supply pinch. Open source skills are not easily available to back enterprise plans of innovation, cost management and agility. In early 2015, Oxford Economics and Wipro conducted a global survey of senior business and technology executives about their use of open source software 1 called The Open-Source Era. The results re-affirmed what industries worldwide are witnessing: open source is being widely used to power innovation with nearly half of the respondents saying that they have been using it strategically for more than three years. The survey conducted exclusively pointed out that open source was fulfilling the expectations defined for it nearly two decades ago by Eric Raymond in his seminal essay The Cathedral and the Bazaar. the paradigm. The Open-Source Era survey points to Qatar Airways as an example that typifies the situation. It quotes Shiji Thomas, the company s vice president of IT, saying, We evaluated open source for content management, but we have not adopted it primarily because of the availability of skills. Qatar Airways is not alone in facing this predicament. Of the respondents in the survey, 56% ranked it among their top three challenges. The availability and development of open source skills is a major cause for concern. It calls for special attention. We believe the skills gap will remain a long-term challenge. Evidence suggests that it will persist for decades. And as open source continues to dominate IT environments, it may hurt organizations even more unless they take corrective action. What are organizations going to do if they wish to use open source as a cost cutting method? What can they do if they want to adopt it as a platform for innovation and for applications that demonstrate better performance and reliability, or for dealing with the hurdles of acquiring proprietary software? Positive as the news is, the survey also identified the availability of open sources skills as a major barrier faced by organizations keen to embrace 3

4 The Talent Crunch Organizations must first understand that open source requires application developers to be much more hands on than they currently are. Over the years, developers have become accustomed to the drag-and-drop features of proprietary shrink-wrapped development tools. This is not to say that these tools have made developers lazy if anything, the tools helped make them more productive. Over the last decade or so, it has become perfectly acceptable for a developer to hone skills for a proprietary tool and expect to remain relevant and in demand for the next 5 to 10 years. VARIETY Open source tools are inherently different. They are based on open standards, leaving developers with a vast variety to choose from. Even at the lower level, open source tools such as Emacs (one of the oldest text and code editors in use) are difficult to master. Once learnt, they can make programmers extremely productive. Evaluating the various tools (for use) is itself a distinctive skill. And often developers require being conversant with over half a dozen tools simultaneously. Finally, open source tools tend to become quickly irrelevant. Within a year or two, an open source developer may find that two of the six tools being used are obsolete, and need to be replaced by two or three new ones. FOCUS The reality of the programming world must be taken into consideration. Most of the work that programmers are involved in addresses maintaining systems (70% to 80%). A small percentage of the overall software budget is spent on creating new systems. Maintenance doesn t require deep skill sets. That is an unavoidable professional hazard. Programmers have little control over it (See Figure 1). As a consequence, skills development for creating new products has remained a relatively neglected aspect of the profession. 4

5 The right skills are essential to open source methods What are the major challenges associated with this type of development framework? 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% 63% 61% 47% 44% 44% 28% rethinking development process employees to take on new roles new people new skills rethinking development culture Timing challenges 13% Management challenges Figure 1: The right skills are essential to open source methods About 44% respondents said open source requires new skills while 47% said it required new people and 61% said it required employees to take on new roles, according to the survey on Open Source Era 2. TRAINING These issues may not seem insurmountable especially when the required open source team size for a project is small, say in the region of 10 or 12. It is possible to arm a handful of resources with open source capabilities. Soon enough, a few will move on to better opportunities. As interest in open source continues to mount, these are becoming highly prized and in-demand skills. But, it is possible for most organizations to retrain another couple of resources before small projects begin to experience a major impact. The problem is with the larger requirements. When a project needs dozens of open source resources, organizations must be prepared to continuously incubate fresh talent. 5

6 COST The way open source is thought of within organizations also leads to an unusual situation. The most common understanding of open source is free. The way open source is generally used, organizations don t pay for the software. They pay for support services 3. However, as open source goes mainstream, this will not remain the case. Development across 12 to 24 months will mean incurring costs. Nothing will be free in the sense it has been over the approximately 40-year history of open source. These costs will limit the size and capability of open source teams. Organizations may, therefore, have access to limited skills, restricting the kind of development they can bring in-house. SOFTWARE LICENSING With open source, software selection becomes more decentralized, and so the developer has to know the types of software that are safe to use and understand the different open source software licensing models. This is a completely new dimension for software developers who are used to programming using commercial software. Insights from Experience Organizations need to ensure that practically every resource that is brought on board, irrespective of the area they will work in, is trained in Java (or some relevant aspect of open source). Instead of putting employees through a traditional classroom and training module, break open source concepts into tiny assignments. The student (employee) should then complete each assignment independently. In essence, the student becomes a self-trainer who then trains his peers on that concept. Those who go through such programs emerge more confident about working in an open source development environment. Organizations can use this method to build an open source culture and create highly skilled and reliable teams. However, they must also be ready to consistently place challenging projects before such teams. Without a diversity of exciting and stimulating projects, there is always the risk of losing talent to competitors. 1 The Open Source Era, Oxford Economics for Wipro, April 2015, 2 Executives surveyed were from banking and financial services, insurance, retail, consumer goods, government, healthcare and life sciences 3 This is unlike traditional software where payment is made for a boxed product and for support services. 6

7 About the Author Prajod Vettiyattil is a Software Architect in Wipro s open source practice. He is working on solutions using Big Data tools like Apache Spark, Kafka, Hadoop, Mongo DB and Cassandra. He has worked with multiple customers creating scalable, high performance Java EE and Service Oriented Architecture solutions. He is a frequent speaker at open source conferences. He also conducts training sessions on new technology and open source. About Wipro Ltd. Wipro Ltd. (NYSE:WIT) is a leading Information Technology, Consulting and Business Process Services company that delivers solutions to enable its clients do business better. Wipro delivers winning business outcomes through its deep industry experience and a 360 degree view of "Business through Technology" helping clients create successful and adaptive businesses. A company recognized globally for its comprehensive portfolio of services, a practitioner's approach to delivering innovation, and an organization-wide commitment to sustainability, Wipro has a workforce of over 150,000, serving clients in 175+ cities across 6 continents. For more information, please visit 7

8 DO BUSINESS BETTER CONSULTING SYSTEM INTEGRATION BUSINESS PROCESS SERVICES WIPRO LIMITED, DODDAKANNELLI, SARJAPUR ROAD, BANGALORE , INDIA. TEL : +91 (80) , FAX : +91 (80) , North America Canada Brazil Mexico Argentina United Kingdom Germany France Switzerland Nordic Region Poland Austria Benelux Portugal Romania Africa Middle East India China Japan Philippines Singapore Malaysia South Korea Australia New Zealand WIPRO LTD 2015 No part of this booklet may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording and printing) without permission in writing from the publisher, except for reading and browsing via the world wide web. Users are not permitted to mount this booklet on any network server. IND/BRD/JUL 2015 SEP 2016

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