Winner of the 2015 IT Rising Stars award, Britehouse Digital consulting
services General Manager, Michelle Ramnath, exemplifies the adaptability and creativity
needed to lead productive teams in a world driven progressively more by agile
As acknowledged by the award, which focuses on "passionate and
inspiring individuals who have a capacity for achievement and success",
Ramnath's model for delivering exceptional solutions for customers is designed
to smoothly align entire teams of people with constantly shifting requirements.
She achieves this in the relatively new and uncharted waters – in South
Africa – of agile software development.
"Organisations know that agile software development confers rapid
time to market and value," Ramnath says. "But, it is not the right
way to go in all cases.
"To work out whether it is, you need to assess the project
requirements in relation to the organisation's technological and cultural
environment. Specifically, you need an understanding of the development team's
project, technology, and process maturity.
"Agile development is about teamwork, not just within the
implementation partner's team, but in the context of all the people in the
customer organisation who will be affected by the implementation. Agile is
about close collaboration, whether you're talking about technology or the
organisation as a whole.
"However, collaboration doesn't happen naturally or of its own
accord. People defend their turf and their ideas. So, you have to proactively
structure the way a team is put together, with the buy-in of those involved.
And you have to set rules and boundaries that enable people to develop trust in
one another's abilities and to accept feedback and suggestions with grace and
"It's not a cookie-cutter process. Each organisation is different.
So, what you do in terms of building a team in one implementation cannot simply
be transferred to the next project. You have to continuously adjust your
Continuous adaptation can be an uncomfortable process, even among
software developers who are notorious for seeking stimulation and change. The
discomfort is often exacerbated by the fact that developers sit at customer
sites, away from their home base at their employer's offices, and therefore, away
from what most employees would regard as a support structure.
Ramnath resolves this disconnect through careful selection of her
people, juggling personalities and skills to ensure her team members are able
to thrive in a specific customer environment. This enables her to both retain
skills and deliver exceptional service to customers.
"In any circumstance, a leader has to think on her feet,"
Ramnath says. "In the agile development space, there is extra pressure to
mirror in your leadership and strategies the rapid innovation you're expected
to deliver at a software level."
For Ramnath, the Rising Star award, which is a year-long programme,
represents an opportunity for her to showcase to the industry at large this
rapid innovation capability as expressed through the human vehicle of team and
customer relationship building.
"Everything Britehouse does is focused on taking a fresh approach
to challenges in order to make things better. So, I am a member of a group of
people whose job and passion it is to make difference – every day – in an
incredibly dynamic industry.
"I think we stand as a reminder that technology is just a tool.
It's the human values of creativity, adaptability, and collaboration, in which
Britehouse is steeped, that make the project and business outcomes
Ramnath says, having been nominated by the Britehouse executive team,
she found the process of preparing her Rising Stars award entry of enormous
value in clarifying her own professional goals and methodologies. "Winning
the award is immensely gratifying. But, even if I had not won, I would have
benefited simply by participating."