IT in Vietnam in 2013
When I tell people I head a software outsourcing department in Vietnam, I often get 2 questions. The first is how the macroeconomic situation in Vietnam is affecting my business and the second is whether I find skilled people to work on the projects we deliver.
Do more with less
Despite the basics of macroeconomy that I was taught in university – I’m definitely more of a tech person, I was quite uncomfortable with the first point raised. But not so much anymore, thanks to the luncheon organized by the EuroCham specifically on that subject. According to the 2 speakers, Mr. Pincus (Academic Dean of the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program in Vietnam,) and Mr. Quang A (President of Enterprise Association Vietnam – Hungary, former Director of the Institute of Development Studies IDS), the bottom line is quite depressing: Vietnam is 10 years late and didn’t make good use of all the Foreign Direct Investment that was poured in the country since early 2006. Especially the banking system and the real estates promoters, which by the way the government shouldn’t try to rescue.
The cumulated bad debt will have to be paid eventually, and that is very bad news for whoever is trying to make a living in Vietnam. Taxes will likely increase, for citizens, but also for businesses.
As I was listening to the speakers, I recalled my mother saying this Vietnamese proverb “Phí của giời, mười đời không có” – “Don’t waste God’s gifts, you don’t have 10 lives”. Lean management still has a long way to go. And this is exactly the next battle that we need to fight here: do more with less. With the slow US recovery, the Eurozone debt crisis, don’t count on FDI.
Despite the gloom image that was painted, there are positive signs from industries like agriculture and garments and shoes manufacturing. They do “real economic activities” and work on their competitiveness, by investing in production equipment or in IT Tools, such as ERP systems. With that, the IT industry is definitely part of the positive picture.
So the macroeconomic situation is rather bad, but for the IT industry, the growth is expected to be 4 times the growth of Vietnam: 25-35% against 5-6%. According to the consulting company ATKearney , Vietnam holds the 8th position among the 50 most attractive countries for outsourcing. The government has recently launched an ICT committee (Ủy ban quốc gia về CNTT-TT) and fully acknowledge the key role that ICT will play in the country’s next phases of development. So, we’re not going to be out of business anytime soon.
If not out of business, is there a risk that we are out of talents? It’s true that competition is fierce among IT recruiters.
There are currently 120.000 IT services and software workers. Vietnam has more than 250 IT universities and colleges across the country that train 169.000 students. That is roughly 7% of all students. The concern is not only in the number of available fresh graduated students, but also whether they are well prepared and ready to work. According to a recent statistic of Center of Forecasting Manpower Needs and Labour Market Information (FALMI), 72% of students in this field do not have practical experience, 42% lack of teamwork, 70% can’t speak fluently foreign languages. It can take up to 3 months to train them in these skills. And once a company has invested in training juniors, it often struggles to retain them. No wonder companies fight to retain good staff.
Each company have their own tactics to address this challenge. At Officience, we focus on 2 main aspects:
- Skills for life: we welcome students and we arrange 10% training time with initiatives such as Launch Your Career, 6 months individual development plans. We develop soft skills through the training of our corporate values (COSMIC LOVER)
- Sharing the value: we give meaning to the work, everyone in the company see how they contribute to not only a company, but to the society they live in: how to reach sustainability, avoid waste and develop Vietnam.
More specifically in my department, I put an emphasis in training the team to be agile. With agility, there are many aspects that actually affects our recruitment:
- Close proximity to customers: team members get to train their foreign language skills.
- Stabilized and sustainable teams: teams gain efficiency as they learn how to work together over time, they “self-organize” and enjoy seeing the progress they make.
- Daily communication: team members learn to share information effectively with adult-to-adult conversations.
- Ownership and accountability: every member of the team is important, their opinions are taken into account and they are encouraged to speak out.
- Definition of Done: teams agree with the product stakeholders on what it means to complete the each piece of work, so that they fully deliver what is expected.
- Lean: the basics learnt at school are put into practice to produce code that can be refactored, with automated unit tests and just good enough documentation, within or outside of their code .
- Pair-programming: although not very common yet, this spreads excellent coding practices among the developers
- Business value: team go further than just the technical solution, they actually understand the business value of what they deliver, and can innovate.
Candidates who can’t switch their mind to work this way don’t often stay long in our team. But most of our newcomers can and will succeed. And being successful in this kind of environment can only encourage them to seek a similar working environment. All this makes me confident to answer: “Yes, I have the skilled people to work on our projects”.