People are the single biggest factor in determining the effectiveness of IT, according to CIOs responding to the 2010 Gartner Executive Programs CIO Survey. People were the biggest factor in 2009, 2008, 2007 … you get the picture.
According to CIOs this year, the outlook for IT people appears bleak. Not because they are losing their importance, but its more what CIOs and IT executives are doing or more importantly not doing.
27% of CIOs stated that their organization had the right people with the right skills. This is a surprisingly small number given the criticality of business and technical skills in executing IT projects and services. By the way these people are over represented in terms of measures of IT effectiveness, further demonstrating the criticality of people, not money or reporting position to IT success.
The remaining 73% of people say that they do not have the right skills. While that is a big number, the even bigger surprise is that less than a quarter of that 73% are doing anything about their skills issues.
That’s right only 19% of CIOs have building IT skills as one of their top 5 strategies. This leaves more than half (54%) without the right skills and no priority to get them.
CIOs who know that they do not have the right skills in IT and are not making those skills a priority are making themselves helpless in their organization. That helplessness shows up in subtle but important ways including:
- The business limiting their IT request to things that they know IT can do rather than the things that they need.
- The IT organization uses its ‘fixed supply’ status as a way to deflect projects and concentrate on keeping people fully allocated.
- IT sets their schedule ahead of business need by delaying projects until important bottleneck resources become available.
I am not saying that getting the right skills is easy in a world of headcount freezes, training freezes, etc. Re-skilling is neither impossible nor prohibitively expensive given the availability of online courses, brown bag lunches, the plethora of information available from Gartner, Vendors and other sources. All of these offer an inexpensive way to build skills and experience.
Market conditions have made some very good people available and provide another source of raising the talent pool in IT. Given that productivity gap between good people and the average, it can be easy to make the case that hiring a few good motivated people will actually save money, raise service levels and improve quality.
On a final note, CIOs and IT exec’s can point to people who do not want new skills, who are comfortable in their existing roles and technologies and fear change and learning. That is true, those people do exist and I have met a few. Think of it this way, those people may be important because the helped get you and IT to where it is today, but are they the people who are going to get you to where you need to be tomorrow?
The inability to have the right people not only weakens IT but it weakens the CIO in the C-suite.
Your people are one of the few things an executive can control over time. You may inherit an organization, but within a year or two you have the ability to get the right people in the right roles, etc.
If you can’t then your peers see you as more of a manager than an executive and defiantly not a leader.