CSC Belgium provides IT services and custom software development. They make a point to tackle challenges and succeed thanks to the developers they employ. The management of their skills is then a part of their assets.
We continue to schedule meetings with key people at companies developing software in order to observe and learn how they currently manage the skills of their developers. Three weeks ago, Martin and I went to CSC Belgium to meet Yves Jonckheere, Senior Consultant and coordinator of the development center. Here are some of his insights and challenges in skills management.
Honestly, before meeting its BeLux managing director, Philippe Jaeken, we didn't know much about CSC. We quickly did our homeworks to learn more about them. To summarize, CSC seems as big as IBM from our point of view. On their website, they explain what they do as "we do amazing things". After reading about the kind of projects they have led, and more so after meeting them, we can believe that. Precisely, CSC Belgium provides customers in the industry and government with solutions crafted to meet their strategic goals and enable them to profit from the advanced use of technology.
Currently, CSC Belgium employs about than 500 persons. They manage several projects in different technologies such as .Net, or Delphi, but their main focus is Java EE, that they use in many projects for different customers from federal administrations or ministries to insurances and banks.
Developer profiling is not an option
When they discuss with their customers, CSC needs to know exactly what the developers can achieve. They even provide the developers' resumes to their customers. But having up to date resumes in not only useful for sales, it is also an intern knowledge base to know who to call when they needs specific expertise.
Practically, a competency manager keeps tracks of the developers' skills and their participation to projects in a database. The tracking is based on their resumes, each person being responsible to keep his own up to date. The competency manager is then a contact point for all project managers needing a specific profile, or specific technical skills.
While the competency manager is in a central position, he’s not the only reference. There are the common de facto hub persons who are there from a long time and a kind of living references. Developers naturally turn to them when they're looking for an expert on some topics.
The human hub is a natural strategy of skills management but it is a kind of single point of failure. That's why CSC has developed an official hub: the Java community. The community allows developers active on very different project (and in different location) to meet with others using the same technology.
The community is composed of the developers themselves. It is led by one developer in charge of the organization of the events, during which developers meet and exchange knowledge. They are usually organized around a few topics presented by the developers. They are also the prefered moments to detect possible synergies between the different projects and teams.
The community is very adequate to initiate knowledge transfer, but it is not a training program in itself. It doesn't allow a developer to completely develop a new skill. To support the personal development of developers, CSC has put in place a whole strategy composed of training, coaching and assessment.
Each developer has the freedom to follow a few days of training around the topic of its choice each year, in compliance with a general personal development plan. When some projects require very specific skills, an ad-hoc program is then organized for the developers assigned to those projects.
By CSC, everybody is followed by a coach, a person outside of its direct hierarchy. A coach follows several coachees in a same time. It is a person of reference with whom the coachee can discuss about its personal development or any other topic (technicals or not).
Twice a year, an assessment of the developer work on the project is done by his project manager. The coach get the results of the appraisal, and can then setup with the developer a set of actions to resolve any lack of knowledge (for example by setting up a training plan).
CSC wants to develop further their current skills management and provides to their developers a way to keep track of their evolution in order to:
- increase their learning capacity,
- make it easier to keep the resumes up to date
- improve their coaching follow-up,
- increase the knowledge transfer between the developers, and
- improve risk mitigation.
Those challenges are totally in the philosophy of the company and its motto, as doing “amazing things" requires investing in skilled and motivated persons.
We would like to extend our thanks to Philippe and Yves for their insights on CSC Belgium skills management.