Have large mainstream IT services companies become mediocre?

No large mainstream IT services companies present themselves as being mediocre! Most assert global leadership, emphasise a commitment to clients, stress heritage as a trusted partner, highlight the talent of their employees and how they’re well placed regarding trends in the market. So, what triggered the question in the title? Unsurprisingly, a conversation with friends who’ve had lengthy careers in the IT services industry. We all have something in common – higher degrees in science, engineering or mathematical subjects and multi-decade tenures in large IT services companies.

The conversation meandered but ended up lamenting the demise of the dynamic, creative, and flexible ‘can do’ culture that had kept us at our companies for many years. We concluded that today an individual must be robotically subservient to process dominated corporate machinery to succeed. That means being a fully compliant cog in a giant wheel and accepting that this compliance trumps common-sense, freedom of expression, creativity and experience. We concluded that we’d seen mediocrity rise in large mainstream IT companies and smaller companies offer better cultures, service, value, and career paths.

The Badger revisited the conversation’s conclusion a few days later. Had we ignored the fact that business dynamics and people requirements change frequently in IT, and that commoditisation of everything is rife? Were we just a grumpy group that hadn’t coped with change? No, far from it. We’re intelligent, experienced and objective professionals with lots of first-hand experience and the Badger felt our conclusion was sound.

Many good people work exceptionally hard in large mainstream IT service companies. If you’re one then you’re probably frustrated at seeing projects and services make the same mistakes as five, ten and even twenty years ago. You may also be frustrated by the way you must deal with day to day issues and the feeling that your voice and experienced is under-valued or ignored. Why? Because today’s large company cultures mean that ‘adequate’ is all that’s needed for a cog to turn in a wheel of a super-tanker business and raging against the machine is not encouraged.

If this strikes a chord, then ask yourself whether outcomes for clients are really any better today than they were five or ten years ago? The Badger suspects not. If that’s the case then today’s big company rigidities, and highly prescriptive, process/compliance-dominated cultures have constrained individual thought and dynamism leading to a rise in mediocrity.

Of course, this is a ‘provocative point of view’ and you may disagree. But there’s nothing like impishly stirring the pot to get a reaction, especially when smaller IT services companies are giving the big boys a run for their money by unlocking rather than constraining the full power and potential of their people…

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