Customer-centricity has become a hot buzzword across industries today, both in B2C and B2B companies. And there’s a good reason for that. Customer-obsessed organizations are winning.
But when we start to apply the concepts of customer-centricity and service excellence to IT organizations, we often find that CIOs and IT leaders don’t really understand what the terms mean in practice. So before we talk about what good service looks like for IT, we need to understand what good service doesn’t look like.
First, service is not subservience. It’s not about becoming submissive order-takers who deliver anything the client desires. IT cannot be all things to all people. You end up serving whoever screams the loudest — and satisfying no one.
But even though IT can’t do everything the client asks for, it can convey a willingness to serve, and it does this by addressing the client’s needs with respect and concern. If you’ve succeeded, the client walks away from the transaction interaction thinking, ‘‘I really like working with these people.’’
Second, service can’t spring from a negative atmosphere. Many IT organizations weave IT service into IT governance, and the result becomes an attempt by IT to impose what’s “best” onto the entire organization. While IT absolutely has to keep its eye on regulatory requirements, security best practices and infrastructure needs, if all the business sees is you being an obstacle to meeting bottom-line objectives, you’re only undercutting your own effectiveness.
The result of this negativity is that IT is seen as “the Department of No,” and IT sees the business as inconsiderate, unappreciative and “unable to survive a day without us.” That’s no way to build trust, credibility and respect. Unfortunately, many IT departments are hotbeds of negativity, where the staff feels undervalued, angry and victimized.
It’s no wonder, then, that when some IT leaders ask their staff to improve their service, the staff might glumly play a role that they think looks like good service but isn’t. Think of the store checkout clerk who asks without expression or eye contact whether you’ve found everything okay, or the false smile of the ﬂight attendant who tells you to have a good day. All of us can spot insincerity or indifference under a thin veneer of professionalism a mile away. And none of us likes it.
Good Service Looks Like This
From an IT point of view, the characteristics of good service include:
When IT views its mission not as maintaining an infrastructure and getting through a backlog of service tickets, but as partnering with line of business workers to make the entire enterprise successful, a change happens. Their problem is our problem. Their goals — to be more productive, to succeed in the market, to capture a new business opportunity — become our goals.
An IT Service Mindset at Work
What this reflects is a change in mindset that’s required to achieve service excellence. And it’s easiest to describe that change with examples. Here are a few that might resonate with you:
By contrast, the Promiser just says, ‘‘Yes,’’ ‘‘We can do that,’’ ‘‘We can do that, too,’’ and ‘‘Is there anything else you want us to do?’’
Both roles are played with the best of intentions — the Rule Master wants to manage expectations and protect the company, while the Promiser is trying to build good relationships. But you can get better results and better serve your customers by taking those best intentions and pointing them in the right direction. A shift in mindset makes it possible.
> Learn more about Achieving IT Service Excellence.
Most companies understand the value of brand, and many work diligently to define and elevate it. But most of the time, they’re only getting it half right. In addition to your consumer brand—how people feel about buying your products or services—there’s your employer brand.
Your employer brand is the internal and external perception of your company as a place to work. As Kevin Martin, Chief Research Officer for the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) explains, “Via our research and discussions with our Talent Acquisition Board members, it’s clear to us that an organization’s Employer Brand describes the experience of working at that organization and should be nuanced for both internal (employees) and external (candidates) audiences. In essence, it presents an aspirational truth about your organization.”
Organizations faced with digital transformation must consider employer brand equally as important as consumer brand.
While the companies that put the most effort into employer brand tend to be national or multinational enterprises, every company that relies on talent (in other words, every company) should be looking to improve its competitive position in the labor market. That means Top talent must be targeted, courted, retained and developed in much the same way that you pursue your most important customers.
4 Layers of Employer Brand
Consider the four essential pillars through which employer brand manifests itself:
1. Location: Different regions and cities across the United States have their own unique “microcultures.” In places like, Boston, for example ,these microcultures are meaningful even at a neighborhood level. Organizations in Cambridge, heavy in education, research, tech, and pharmaceuticals, do not have the same employer brand found in the Financial District.
The impact of location is huge, but not easily malleable. Still, there are ways to affect how location affects your business. John Deere and State Farm have funded college programs to grow the talent market in less-than-top-flight locations, to huge success. Providence, RI, benefits from its proximity to Boston, drawing talent from Harvard’s back yard with its 14 percent lower cost of living. On the other hand, GE’s move from Connecticut to Boston last year is another prime example of location in action. GE intentionally chose the city’s Seaport district to distance itself from manufacturing and position the company as a high-tech, innovative organization.
2. Industry: As GE knew and addressed in 2015, the best talent is attracted to industries in different ways. While GE could attract best and brightest mechanical and electrical engineers, industrial manufacturing is not an industry to which software engineers flock. GE shifted its talent focus to in two ways:
3. Role: Titles are important to us. Whether we like it or not, they facilitate, or hinder, social mobility. They open doors to new opportunity, new networks, and new lifestyles. Anecdotally, it’s much more common to hear people answer, “What do you do?” with, “I am a software architect at iTech …” than what was more common a generation ago: “I work for iTech.” The implication: I happen to be at this company right now, but my role is more important to me than the organization. The organization certainly adds (or subtracts) some gravitas, but employee mobility means what we do is fast eclipsing who we do it for.
The best way to ensure you’re reaching your target talent market is to advertise. And recognize that the primary advertisement for a role is the way you describe it in a job posting. If you’re looking for top talent to help digitally transform your organization but are using a templated job description from years ago, the best potential employees will ignore you.
Advertising doesn’t only happen externally. Shamim Mohammad, CIO and SVP at CarMax, speaks to the importance of advertising the contributions of individuals and teams, internally:
Companies all around the world are competing for top talent. To attract the best and brightest to CarMax, we’ve worked hard to share stories about how everyone on these CarMax product teams – from our empowered developers, product managers, data scientists and store experts – are driving the car buying experience of the future. Cultural alignment with new talent is essential for success, and we seek out strong candidates that embody CarMax’s values of integrity, transparency and respect.
Make sure HR is putting thought into the skills being requested. The skills your organization needs to complete its digital transformation are the same skills that will attract top talent and retain employees looking to grow their own career.
4. Individual: This one is somewhat nuanced, but nonetheless might be the most critical. Think of this as the likelihood your employees’ peers will want to come and work for you, and then identify the signals your employees’ peers see.
“Employer brand is a matter of perception, not reality,” notes Claus Jensen, CTO at Aetna. “Until you hire someone, they can’t really know what it is like to work here, so they are guided by general market perception and input from their personal network. What we can influence directly is the input from personal networks, in particular what current employees are saying about the place. Investing in your current talent helps attract new talent. Of course, the opposite is true as well!”
Focus on these three categories:
Employer brand not only attracts the best talent, it helps you retain your leading employees as well. Working on all four pillars—maximizing the value of your location, the appeal of your industry, how you “sell” roles within your organization, and how you turn employees into advocates for your brand—helps you attract and retain the talent that will carry your business forward, especially amid the challenges of digital transformation and disruption.
As i4cp’s Martin points out, “Marketing and HR need to work in partnership to ensure consistency of corporate and employer brand and awareness of what the ‘social’ sphere is saying about the company — its employer brand as perceived externally and internally.”
Ouellette & Associates works with companies of all sizes, across industries, to build and maintain their employer brand. Our SaaS Learning Experience Platform (LXP) for strategic workforce planning, IT Skill Builder, leverages timely labor market data to help you understand the competitive forces at play, advertise effectively, and bring transparency to employee development.
Schedule a demo of IT Skill Builder.
Sales is often called the heart of the organization, and its health is measured rigorously. Performance is measured in terms of business development, and tracked against both historic performance and ambitious projections. Yet just as sales revenue is essential to a business, talent is the lifeblood of the organization, vital to the performance of every function. And every business is looking to improve performance to stay competitive.
So, why isn’t talent development subject to the same scrutiny and expectations as business development?
For starters, we haven’t been forced to (yet). The “war for talent” we find ourselves in, when seen from a broader perspective, is an effect of Industry 4.0, and we’ve only dipped our toe in those waters. The confusion we see in the labor force now is small compared to what we’ll see as new technologies—artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, etc.—begin to be distributed at scale.
A second reason is that we haven’t learned to effectively measure talent development is that we view talent as static when we should see it as evolving. Human capital must evolve, where less valuable skills are regularly replaced by more valuable skills, to maximize the viability of the career and value to the organization. Those responsible for talent development should be measured on their ability to grow the employee base (as we would existing customers), and acquire new talent (as we would new market share).
A third inhibitor to measurable talent development: We haven’t standardized a method to measure and project human capital value. Business development is easy to measure, and the value is obvious. The same is true of talent, and the most successful organizations create proprietary methods of measuring and projecting its development. The important thing is not that we perfect the measurement, but that we can predict outcomes of our talent initiatives.
Finally, the HR function, like every other function in the modern enterprise, is changing. The implication should be obvious: In the same way we don’t have the skills we need in our workforce, we don’t have the skills we need in HR. We note the potential in data, and yet there has been a 6 percent increase in HR roles asking for big data skills, while the rest of the workforce has seen a 27 percent increase in such demand, according to recent data from Burning Glass Technologies’ Labor Insight. We need to apply the expectations of innovation and transformation to HR that we apply to the rest of our organization.
Taken in total, these four points indicate that HR has simply not kept up with the rapidly transforming culture, marketplace and technological era in which we live and work. HR needs to change its approach to talent development to be data driven and outcome oriented.
Updating Your Talent Development Approach
Your organization must act creatively about the way it measures talent development if it is to compete and win in the war for talent. We have the right model in business development, and here’s how we can apply the same principles.
Identify high-value skills for your organization. Do you need cryptography skills to protect digital assets in today’s cybersecurity arms race? Are those more valuable than project management skills? Identify which skills are strategically imperative so that you can build development plans to grow toward those targets.
Learning and development plans should function like strategic account plans. Target and measure your talent development plans on three core sales pillars:
Set appreciation goals for talent development, then monitor progression as you would a sales pipeline. Expect talent development to forecast future talent shape based on L&D rates, and reward talent development for internal mobility.
HR leaders trying to retool the business for an increasingly disrupted and technology-driven marketplace must look first at their own skill sets and methodologies, and then ensure that we can deliver the vision and execute the change that our businesses need.
Why do businesses consistently go to the trouble of hiring new workers instead of developing the talent they already have?
The reality is, hiring good talent—for skills as well as cultural fit—takes time. Onboarding slows down productivity and results. Not only that, looking externally for new talent feeds a perception that your company does not invest in employee career growth. That, in turn, reduces engagement and increases turnover, creating a vicious cycle.
Letting current workers’ skills “go stale” can also necessitate layoffs, hurting your employer brand and decreasing the morale and effectiveness of remaining staff.
So again, why does everyone prefer to hire? On the surface, it’s “easier.” A process already exists. “Talent alchemy,” on the other hand — the reshaping existing skill sets — is difficult to implement at scale. But with a little foresight, HR leaders can make internal talent development more successful and measurable.
Let’s look at three major inhibitors of internal talent investment.
1. We don’t know the current state of talent.
The vast majority of talent data accessible to organizations today is obsolete, missing, or wrong. A big part of the problem: Internal talent systems don’t inspire employees to share data. But it’s impossible to begin an effective retooling discussion without an accurate assessment of the tools our employees have.
Most talent development systems still rely on top-down management to incentivize employee adoption and utilization—which does not work. Instead, give employees a clear reason to participate: mobility, flexibility, career ownership, and advocacy from management in career mobility. The only way workforce planning works is when employees freely give you data, and people don’t give data unless their getting a lot in return.
Remember, while you’re apprehensive about how your business will remain competitive with its current skill sets, your employees have the same concern about their careers. So launch a program that delivers mutual benefit.
2. We don’t entirely understand what talent we need.
A hiring manager will tell HR what talents she needs (skills I require this person to have) to satisfy her user story (what I want this person to do). Too often, that list leaves the HR business partner in the dark about the full function of the role. That makes it difficult to effectively fill the position, especially from within.
Thus, we get the default pattern: That under-resourced hiring manager adds a few new skills to an out-of-date job description. (This helps assure that the role doesn’t challenge status quo on compensation structure, which is generally a whole other headache.) Now the HR partner is set up to search for the skills easiest to find, compromise on those skills that are most valuable, and deliver a new hire whose full function, actual value, and long-term potential he doesn’t clearly understand.
Instead, organizations should take the same scenario-planning approach to talent as they would any other investment. Competitive analysis, industry benchmarks, trend and projection data, and geographic availability drive better decision making. This level of diligence not only provides better insight into opportunities for internal training, it improves the hiring process, too.
3. We can’t measure the gap between the current and desired state of talent.
Today’s processes consider skills as a collection of equal, individual attributes. People can recognize thematic similarities between skills, but our systems and processes don’t. The scale of talent management forces organizations to look for exact matches on skills and competencies, rather than seeing approximations—and potential.
If you measure how many of your developers know Python, your system will overlook the developer whose competency in four other programming languages suggests she could quickly learn the new skill. And QA engineers will not describe their product management experience, but good test scripts are built on user stories and prioritization, two key elements of working in product.
Businesses can’t manage talent this way. Just deciding it’s easier to hire a Python developer for a key project, or bring in a new PM, dismisses the organizational and cultural knowledge existing employees would bring. And recognizing opportunities to develop internal talent lets you focus your hiring process on areas you genuinely can’t develop from within.
Transforming Talent Opportunities
Businesses have to evolve quickly against an ever-shifting technological landscape in which digital disruption is a constant fear. You can’t hire your way out of every strategic challenge, because a core requirement is a culture that adapts to change. For that, you must understand and develop your base of talent.
This approach comes with numerous positive side effects:
Ancient alchemists sought to turn lead into gold. Today’s HR leaders need to work a similar transformation, helping employees turn outdated skill sets into high-value new competencies. Fortunately, the process doesn’t have to be a mystery. It requires nothing more magical than a focus on the opportunities at hand.
Did you know that your company is a tech company?
In fact, today, every company is a tech company. The pace of technical innovation has made any business model that differentiated on service, physical assets, infrastructure, and even data ripe for fatal disruption. Technological innovation determines winners and losers in every industry.
But technological innovation is not just new software or new data. You need processes and people to use the software, to glean transformative insights from the data. That means that “digital transformation” is not just an IT strategy; it’s also an HR strategy. When Robert Leduc, president of Pratt and Whitney, opened 8,000 jobs in Connecticut, he told The Hartford Courant that it wasn’t keeping up with tech that troubled the aerospace manufacturer:
“The thing that keeps us up at night is, 'Are we going to have enough people, and are they going to have the right skill set?’”
So, what does a CEO need from HR to develop and deploy a technology-focused workforce strategy? There are three key elements: data, change management process guidelines, and employee adoption.
Data: Internal and External Perspectives
It’s well-documented that HR struggles with the quality and availability of people data. Industry estimates put the amount of “dark data” at 80-90 percent. HR needs to work out the tools and processes that will give it the cleanest, most complete data possible about its employees.
There are several questions that need to be answered when developing a holistic, data-driven workforce strategy:
Change Management: Turning Learning into Behavior
People analytics are great—organizations focused on digital transformation may put considerable effort behind improving their data. But that investment is only as valuable as the decisions and changes those insights drive. When you’re facing wholesale changes to the core function of HR, the real effort of implementing a workforce strategy lies in the day-to-day change management. Specifically, organizations must use analytics to align incentives properly.
Employee Adoption: Value Over Effort
Longstanding research has found that engaged employees are 22 percent more productive than their disengaged counterparts, and organizations with engaged employees see up to 25 percent higher profit margins. The bad news: Only 32 percent of U.S. workers are engaged.
Engagement is a key priority today, but workforce planning platforms aren’t always designed to support that outcome. Here are two critical criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of a potential workforce planning solution:
Every Job is a Tech Job
Digital innovation is redefining every business. Whether an organization is faced with a new challenge of securing its digital assets or a new delivery model, the impact on its talent requirements is broadly distributed across the entire organization. With every new innovation, organizations that have not invested in strategic workforce planning fall further behind their competition and face higher risk of disruption.
Successful organizations will recognize that this talent development must be informed by new data sources and driven by employee adoption. Because when you come down to it, every job is becoming a tech job.
Getting Strategic About Your IT Workforce Planning
IT Skill Builder is a strategic workforce planning platform that emphasizes data analytics, change management and employee adoption to attract, grow and retain the best talent. Want to see how it works? Click here to schedule a demo.
Whatever business you’re in, right now you’re a grocer. Grocery is the latest industry to come under intense pressure from digital disruption, as Amazon applies a host of technologies to the old corner market. And the question every business leader should ask is: Will I be ready when it’s my turn?
Amazon is turning the grocery store into another case study of an underprepared industry at a technological inflection point. Robots, cameras, sensors and artificial intelligence are transforming the checkout line, the aisles, the warehouse and the supply chain. If you’re an executive for any traditional supermarket chain, maybe that word “traditional” is starting to sound like a liability. Especially since Amazon’s recent announcement that Prime members will pay less at Whole Foods, adding a loyalty program to an acquisition that has already seen number of items per transaction increase.
There is a way to be prepared for marketplace disruption. Certainly you must look at emerging technologies and digital strategies, but you must do more than see what’s coming. You have to prepare your company to react quickly to new circumstances. More important than identifying your industry’s next “killer app,” you need to maximize your ability to embrace change on any front.
Leading Through Change
Discussions of digital disruption often center on the CEO, who ultimately owns strategy, and talk of digital transformation almost always focuses on the CIO, who owns the technology stack. But strategies are executed, and technologies adopted, by your workforce, and that’s HR’s purview. Too often, business strategy and IT strategy lack the partnership of an equally important IT workforce strategy. But strategic shifts or new tech implementations can’t succeed without a corporate culture that’s ready to execute.
Take the grocery store example to illustrate the impact innovation will have on talent strategy. Grocers have long invested in data science to optimize product placement, coupons, and inventory, but the workforce at large was mostly kept at arms’ length from the skill and competency requirements. That will have to change.
As the increasingly digital grocer prepares to fight for market share, every clerk will need to be proficient with mobile applications, prepared to assist with self-checkout kiosks, and comfortable with a host of other in-store technologies. Department managers will be expected to have a higher level of data familiarity as their staff and inventory targets are now managed on handheld devices, incorporating real-time data from the supply chain and from other stores’ sales.
Stores will have to use data to change what they stock as customers more often buy certain supermarket staples online. New offerings such as online shopping or delivery must be considered. (We’ve been promised fridges that will place an order when we’re out of milk. Will your store have an app for that?) Decision-making throughout the organization must be driven by data that’s orders of magnitude richer and more detailed than in the past, and the ability to integrate data from multiple sources—internal, consumer, partners and suppliers—is essential.
And all that data, in various on-premises and cloud systems, raises the importance of data management, analytics and data security. Every role in the organization is affected by change. And that transformative wave is coming to every industry.
Building the Culture You Want to Get the Skills You Need
You’re not starting from scratch. The necessary skills and competencies exist in pockets within a traditional business. Expand from there to bring higher levels of technical proficiency and, especially, comfort with rapid change to your entire workforce. Change management is consistently the most underestimated element of transformative projects, yet, as the Society for Human Resource Management notes, the rate of change is only increasing, despite “change fatigue” in many organizations.
Companies that put sustained effort behind a deliberate, value-driving talent strategy succeed. Look at JetBlue: The upstart airline has decided that its differentiator—its disruption—is customer service. When hiring for public-facing roles, the company puts a premium on customer service experience, and new hires are given extensive additional training on JetBlue’s idea of hospitality. The result? The airline’s performance metrics (on-time arrival, lost luggage, etc.) are solid, but not spectacular—yet JetBlue’s customer service rating beats every other airline.
Companies are making talent shifts around technology as well. Insurance company Northwestern Mutual provides a strong example of how HR and IT can work together to change how the entire company relates to technology and innovation.
The trick here is that these strategies must be data driven, and historically people data has been notoriously untrustworthy. The JetBlues and Northwestern Mutuals have built data driven, strategic workforce planning into their DNA. And, just like anything else, these companies are benchmarking themselves against industry, competitors, and market trends to identify future talent needs. Kodak failed to capture future markets because they didn’t have the skills needed to compete when cameras went digital. Had the company benchmarked its own readiness for innovation against industry, it might have had a fighting chance.
CEOs, HR leaders and CIOs can all learn from these successes:
When IT knows what customers want, it can anticipate their needs. This is one way the IT team earns the credibility and respect to contribute in the business at a much more strategic level.
The latest installment in our CIO Whisperers series at CIO.com explores Why Your IT Team Should be Obsessed with Your Customers.
As the article notes, service excellence is one of the critical core competencies every IT professional needs to demonstrate in today’s environment. Does your team have the skills and tools it needs to build a world class customer-centric IT organization?
Our Achieving IT Service Excellence program will change mindsets about what it means to deliver excellent service and ensure everyone is doing their part to create and sustain and service culture. Get in touch to learn more.
One of the most dangerous phrases in any organization is IT-business alignment! In fact, as soon as we started talking about aligning IT with the business, we actually furthered the divide. We continuously emphasized the disconnect and established it as the norm.
The new business vocabulary includes words like Netflixed, Amazoned and Ubered. Technology is defining whole new business models and disrupting the daylights out of old ones.
Alignment is still important but it can no longer be the ultimate goal.
Do you ever hear a CFO talk about aligning Finance with the business? Of course not. We need to embed the philosophy into our collective IT DNA that says “We ARE the business!” Because when IT organizations start to do that, they’ll find their stock rising, moving higher up the value curve.
What Is the IT Maturity Curve?
We developed the IT Maturity Curve based on a year-long research study with Babson College. The study included 130 CIOs, COOs and IT leaders from 65 companies across ten industries and involved a combination of site visits, interviews and a quantitative survey. The results, along with over 30+ years of O&A experience transforming more than 3,500 IT organizations worldwide, tell us that there has never been a better time to be in the IT profession — as long as the team has the necessary skills and tools to succeed.
Today’s IT organization has to be comprised of “Innovative Anticipators” who don’t just partner with the business, but actually drive business opportunities. And IT talent can no longer focus on just technical skills. Every IT team member needs to be business savvy, consultative, value-driven and innovative.
Let’s take a closer look at the four stages of IT Maturity Curve:
Stage 1 is a basic supplier of IT services. These IT organizations generally don’t know about new business initiatives and are highly subject to outsourcing.
Stage 2 organizations are the order-takers that build efficiency and effectiveness. Eventually, they’ll get called when a major business initiative is underway and they are able to process the order.
Stage 3 is the level most IT teams aspire to. These organizations are strategic partners and trusted advisors who are embedded into the business. They are agile, innovative and good at leading change. CIOs like being at Stage 3 because they get invited to the first meeting when an opportunity arises.
But the most successful, game-changing CIOs today are at Stage 4. They have built a culture of innovation throughout IT and, as a result, are the people that are calling the meeting to discuss business transformation. They are true business leaders.
Stage 4 IT organizations excel at all four stages, with an emphasis on continuous improvement. They never lose sight of service excellence, consulting skills or communicating the value of IT while they are leading the business to new opportunities. They build a solid foundation with a clear IT workforce strategy — and ensure they are good at every level.
Core Competencies of High-Performing IT Organizations
Our research with numerous CIOs of organizations that are high on the Maturity Curve sought to uncover the secret sauce of these high impact IT teams. We asked these CIOs, all separately and without a list to prompt them, to tell us the core competencies that they focus on today.
What are they developing in their current workforce, and what are they looking for when hiring new colleagues? Remarkably, 13 of the 14 competencies that they uncovered are “human factors,” not technical skills. This research underscores the cultural revolution occurring in IT today. What used to be considered the “soft skills” are now the core competencies that differentiate high-performing IT organizations.
Businesses, educational institutions and government agencies that achieve Stage 4 on the IT Maturity Curve are thought leaders that re-shape their industries, avoid disruption and enjoy a measurable competitive advantage.
Moving Up the IT Maturity Curve
Where is your IT team today? What stage does your company need IT to be in for you to successfully compete, differentiate and sustain growth? Do you want to be the disrupter or the disrupted?
As much as you’ll want to accelerate the journey, you can’t skip stages. And since there is always a risk of backsliding, you need to keep your game strong at every stage through continuous improvement and talent development.
Stage 1 organizations mature to Stage 2 by excelling in service, project management and business requirements management. These are the skills that build confidence in IT. Consistently great service and successful projects earn credibility for IT.
Stage 2 organizations grow to Stage 3 by developing internal consulting, negotiating and marketing skills. Consulting skills make IT a team of trusted advisors to the business. Negotiating emerges as IT gains credibility and respect. Rather than taking orders, IT is able to challenge and advise their business partners.
Marketing is about communicating the value of IT. Whether in a broad communication campaign for a major strategic initiative or 30-second hallway conversations, marketing the value of IT provides a common understanding of IT’s business contributions across the organization.
Stage 3 IT organizations become change leaders. They complete their Agile transformation and they innovate. That’s how they mature to Stage 4. They earned the privilege to operate at Stage 3 by building credibility, trust and respect through Stages 1 and 2, and partnering at the head table.
Stage 4 IT organizations create and sustain a culture of innovation while driving continuous improvement across all of the skills that got them there.
CIOs are fortunate to have an end-to-end view of how their companies operate. Using this unique seat at the table, and by studying industry trends, Stage 4 IT organizations can look around the corner and “anticipate” new opportunities for their companies. They can bring innovation and thought leadership that drives new revenue streams and redefines the customer experience. They can be the game changer. The disrupter.
Of course, you’ll have people at each stage of the IT Maturity Curve in your organization, so focus on the percentages of people at each stage and on developing and implementing an IT workforce strategy that will move more resources higher up the curve. For example, if you have 70% of your IT workforce in Stages 1 and 2 and only 30% in Stages 3 and 4, imagine the impact you will have on the business when you shift from 70/30 to 60/40 to 50/50 or better!
And always follow the mantra: IT should not align with the business. IT is the business.
Get in touch for an assessment of where your organization is on the IT Maturity Curve and to discuss a plan for optimizing your journey to Innovative Adapter.
Since the start of the Great Recession, organizations have massively under-invested in IT talent — especially this generation of IT leaders. At the same time, companies are demanding more from IT to overcome the effects of a shrinking industry disruption cycle.
While IT as a function is still the relative new kid on the block, its time has arrived. There has never been a better time to be in IT. But to succeed today, IT professionals have to show up with a new set of skills and tools. Companies need IT to step out of the IT supplier comfort zone and become the Trusted Advisors and Innovative Anticipators who pave the way to a digital future.
With more than three decades of experience developing the human side of technology, we recognize the critical importance and urgency in building a strong leadership bench. That’s why we’ve recently expanded and enhanced our series of IT-specific leadership development offerings to help our clients not only weather this perfect storm but thrive in it.
Here are just a few of the leadership solutions that will be critical for building your disruption-proof IT workforce strategy:
Get in touch with us to discuss the best approach based on your IT workforce, talent management and business requirements.
Gayla Andrews-Smith of Sprint recently published a great article titled “Why Soft Skills Matter for CIOs.” She quotes John Reed, Senior Executive Director with Robert Half Technology, and our friend Katie Ross, Executive Recruiting Partner at Heller Search Associates, a strategic partner of O&A.
This topic is of critical importance to all businesses, governments and educational institutions, and it happens to be the foundation of O&A for the past 30+ years. So let’s expand on what Gayla described.
First, while Gayla is spot-on for recognizing the soft skills, it’s also worth noting that there is nothing soft about them anymore. In fact, these skills are mandatory today to become world class.
The first line of our book Unleashing the Power of IT points out that “there has never been a better time to be an IT professional.” We hear CIOs repeating that to their teams all the time. But IT professionals need to be equipped with the right skills to be successful at leading the business through disruption and digital transformation.
Navigating the IT Maturity Curve
O&A conducted a year-long research study with Babson College, resulting in the IT Maturity Curve, a topic that we write and speak about quite often. There are two key points that deserve special emphasis in relation to your IT workforce strategy.
First, the Babson research showed us that it is no longer sufficient for a CIO to develop IT into a strategic partner. IT needs to be the Innovative Anticipator ™ that leads the business. This is reinforced by executive recruiters who tell us that boards expect the CIO to look around the corner and protect the business from disruption or, better yet, lead disruption and digital transformation.
Second, there are specific skills that must be developed across the IT organization to evolve through each stage of the Maturity Curve, and you simply can’t skip any steps.
For example, if IT is in Stage 1 as a basic Supplier of Services (in “keep the lights on” mode), it typically won’t be included in new business initiatives. But when these teams develop specific skills, including service excellence, project management and business requirements management, they become regarded as a Solution Provider — Stage 2 of the Maturity Curve.
The Stage 2 IT organization matures to Stage 3, Strategic Partner, when they excel at internal consulting — becoming a trusted adviser. They also develop the credibility to negotiate with their business partners to drive better strategic decisions. Another key to evolving from Stage 2 to Stage 3 is capturing and communicating metrics that are meaningful to the business. These teams are effective at communicating their contributions, or marketing the value of IT.
The Stage 3 Strategic Partners become Innovative Anticipators ™ at Stage 4 when they consistently lead change and establish a culture of innovation. These teams have generally completed their Agile transformation and are consistently delivering rapid, measurable business value.
Our own experience transforming thousands of IT organizations tells us that certain competencies are prerequisites to growing through the stages of the IT Maturity Curve. It’s no wonder that Achieving IT Service Excellence is our most popular workshop, followed closely by Internal Consulting Skills and Marketing Your Organization’s Value.
Your own experience probably bears this out: When you achieve excellent service, IT sees a dramatic improvement in their reputation with the business. When you become better internal consultants, the business trusts you. And when you demonstrate the real business value of IT, you gain the confidence of the business to move into a partnership and, eventually, leadership role.
You Won’t Get There Without an IT Workforce Strategy
The required competencies don’t just happen. You need a strategy to develop and continuously improve in these areas.
Whether your IT organization is at Stage 1 or Stage 4 or somewhere in between, now more than ever you need an IT workforce strategy. The talent war is underway. Many believe it will be more challenging then during the dot-com era. That makes sense with so much emphasis on digital transformation and disruption.
Leading CIOs are looking out three years and contemplating what their team will need to look like. They’re assessing talent, making plans to develop people and identifying the new roles that they’ll need to hire. These leaders are building their workforce, now, in anticipation of what the business will need in the next few years.
The reality is, if you’re not looking three years ahead, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise.
And remember, your workforce strategy will have a lot of focus on those “soft skills,” which are now considered the required core competencies.
Don’t go it alone: Get in touch for expert advice and help on building your disruption-proof IT workforce strategy.
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