Need for adaptability in leadership is vital in world driven by agile technology

Britehouse Digital consulting services head wins Standard Bank Rising Stars award for adaptable team development capabilities.

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 technology.


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 enthusiasm.

"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 approach."


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 possible."


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."