Are You Strategic When It Comes to Staffing?
By: John Poracky, Senior Partner

Today you will find the CIO is charged with contributing to the business plan and operations at a different level. In order to position yourself as a strategic partner to the business, the CIO can no longer depend upon his/her technical credentials to guarantee the success of their career. The CIO needs a comprehensive understanding of the business issues, and to become an active partner in owning the company's success.

In addition to aligning the IT goals with the company's business objectives, another overlooked area for CIOs has been in the issue of IT recruiting and retention. As the role of the CIO has evolved into the strategic thinker, M. Wood Company has been partnering with organizations to recruit talented IT professionals who think, plan and act strategically.

In the early days of information technology, the key positions were the managers of system development and the data center. Both positions had a very high technological skill component. As a result, when staffing an organization, the director needed only to deal with a narrow spectrum of skill sets and management styles. Staffing an organization was really a case of "different degrees of sameness"; technology developers versus technology managers.

Today the CIO faces an entirely different recruiting and management development challenge. When a company changes its focal point and now realizes IT can be an enabler, the CIO is left with the task of re-engineering the staff. The critical part of the information technology organization is to have the business systems consulting skills required for re-engineering. Similarly, as end-user computing has emerged and expanded rapidly, the need for an end-user consulting and training capability has become all too obvious. The same can be said for network computing.

In conjunction, information technology budgets have been growing annually and CIOs are being held more accountable for the business impact of increased corporate expenditures. Having this accountability has resulted in the need for a business/financial planning function within the technology organization. This is another new function the CIO has to manage and integrate into what was once an all "'high tech" group. In addition, the CIO's ability to both acquire and integrate the diverse skills sets while still building an integrated team that works well together are increasingly crucial.

As these new "business" requirements emerged, many CIOs tried to tweak their "high tech" managers' skill sets by sending them to management development seminars or interpersonal training programs; usually with minimal success. After many false starts, ClOs have learned they must build their new team much as the CEO builds his corporate team - utilizing the inherent power that comes from mixing people with complimentary skills with a heavy dose of common goals. Not only does the CIO need to have the staff in place, but they must possess the ability to convince functional stakeholders in their plans.

What does all of this mean to a CIO's recruiting and management development strategy? How can the CIO assure that the organization is not only up to today's tasks but is also positioned for future challenges?

First, a CIO must push innovation to determine a clear picture of the services and systems that are to be delivered by the group. This picture is then used as a basis for constructing a skill matrix required for the organization. The skill matrix should include the skill sets and experience levels as well as the staffing requirements to recruit quality personnel (both internal and external). The balance of skills needed will be different from one organization to the next and will even be different within the same organization. It is crucial to specifically define the position, deliverables and skill sets needed before you evaluate potential candidates and existing staff.

Second, the CIO must conduct a human capital assessment of the existing organization. Once you have your skills matrix completed, you must assess the existing skill sets and "talent" of your staff. M. Wood recommends one key phrase to remember when assessing staff -- " talent over skills". The worst decision a leader can make is to put an internal candidate in a position where they cannot succeed.

Third, the CIO must, accept the fact that he/she cannot recruit an all new, "all star team". This is true not only because of human resource policy restrictions but also because such a staff would be devoid of company knowledge and customer contacts and alliances.

M. Wood's experience in working with CIOs and staffing these new areas leads us to "The Rule of 3". One-third of the existing staff makes the transition into the new strategy, one-third needs additional training and the balance must be replaced. It is the role of the CIO to devise a method to build, maintain and restructure the organization.

Finally, the CIO must learn to focus the recruiting process on the organization's capability as a unit, rather than on any one particular job opening. The benefit of approaching departmental staffing strategically will be the quality of work produced. The value of the whole will truly exceed the sum of its parts, and often by a very wide margin. This in turn will help the CIO position the IT organization as an enterprise-wide unit that is capable of addressing future business issues.


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