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Talent fuels IT success, but the talent market is changing

Peter Lumley
PA Consulting Group 
Financial Times
28 November 2008

One of the key challenges for today’s CIO is developing an outstanding pool of IT talent, ensuring that the best talent works on the projects with the highest business impact, and thereby creating the space for the CIO to play an even more influential role in the business.

But with current shifts in the labour market, CIOs are being forced to re-think their strategies for managing talent. There are now three significant factors that influence the ability of IT Departments to build talent:

● The ageing workforce in developed countries and the resulting skills shortfalls.

● The supply of technical skills from the emerging markets that continues to grow exponentially.

● Recognition that active management of talent can make a difference – external hires at the senior executive level have a higher failure rate than internal hires (34 per cent against 19 per cent), forcing companies to absorb replacement costs even more frequently.

Faced with a reducing, more competitive pool of resources in western markets and the flood of skills from the emerging markets, what actions must today’s CIO take to ensure they can deliver the necessary talent to the business?.

PA’s experience, backed up by its research, allows us to conclude that active management of talent is essential – successful CIOs will be the ones that work with the business to define the competency sets that are critical; make managers accountable for building the talent pools; manage assignments and rotations to build talent (at speed); and differentiate between good and exceptional performers.

There are real opportunities to “pull” talented people up the organisation by giving them a higher profile and build sponsorship among the existing senior management team. The types of enablers that are at the CIO’s disposal are sponsorship; mentoring; high profile projects; culture of merit; and stretch opportunities.

CIOs should also extend their resource sourcing model to include active engagement in the emerging markets; linking into local academia; and building collaborative ventures with service providers, amonng others. Keeping the pipeline of new talent flowing is critical as organisations can no longer take the supply of talent for granted at a local level

The above observations may resonate, but leave CIOs still asking “what should I do?”. Here are my tips:

● Make talent a priority for everyone

● Broker talent across the organisation

● Spotlight the best talent

● Move mediocre people out of key roles

Most large organisations are investing in talent management as either a direct or precautionary response to changing labour markets. It is clear that the successful CIOs of the future are those who are actively deploying talent management strategies and thereby growing their organisation’s ability to respond to the road ahead.

Peter Lumley is a business information and technology specialist at PA Consulting Group

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