Saving the CIO, Part 2: Finding talents, changing mind-sets
By Benjamin Cher January 27, 2016
- CIOs need to decide to step up, or risk being just an ‘IT manager’
- Talent: Develop inhouse people, look to build external pipelines
THE times, they are a-changing – even more so today than when Bob Dylan first penned his iconic song back in 1964.
Chief information officers (CIOs) face radically different challenges today than their predecessors, and need to address them in order to see a tomorrow.
The market today is vastly different from the market of yesteryear, when businesses were used to playing the all-in-one game. These days, it’s about specialising and leaving it to partners to fill in the gaps.
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CIOs need to adopt this new reality by deciding what to do inhouse, and what to outsource, according to Gartner research director Bard Papegaaij.
“You have to constantly go through everything you own and you do, and make that calculation of whether it is still worth doing inhouse, and whether it is worth doing differently,” he said.
“It is not easy; it also means letting go, and people are attached to systems they built – but you need to keep doing it,” he told Digital News Asia (DNA) in Singapore recently.
Letting go – divestment needs to be seen as a discipline when operating in today’s environment, he argued.
“It is also looking at the rest of the market and the opportunities are in collaboration and joining other platforms as well,” he said.
“Divestment as a discipline – every time you take on something new, what are you dropping? What are you letting go off?
“The list of stuff you are going to kill needs to be just as long as the list of stuff you are going to add,” he added.
This applies to the whole business, and CIOs have a responsibility to help the business realise this, according to Papegaaij.
“You [the CIO] have to help the business with that as well, as they don’t always see where opportunities are shifting.
“In any organisation, the business people are also attached to the old model because that gives them certainty and makes them feel safe,” he added.
The question of talent
The talent crunch is leaving companies with scarce pickings each year – the best are attracted to giants like Google and non-technical fields like banking. This leaves CIOs with the unenviable challenge of managing with the talent level they currently have.
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However, Papegaaij argued that this is also an opportunity for CIOs to search for talent within the ranks of the organisation, and relook how employees are developed.
“We have developed a lot of dysfunctional management methods, where we have tried to automate what people do,” he said.
“If it can be automated, maybe you should – but the other parts should be managed differently.
“They should be more purpose-driven, providing more autonomy and self-management; more in the form of opt-in, where people have a choice of the things they do, and where performance is measured on outcomes and not processes,” he added.
Rotation is also an important process in developing talent, giving people exposure to the rest of the business.
“As a rule of thumb, if they get really good at something, it is probably time to ask them to do something else – because people get stuck.
“Once they become experts, they stop thinking about it and keep repeating themselves,” Papegaaij argued.
That’s for looking internally. When it comes to external talents, CIOs should look to form partnerships that build pipelines for talent.
“The very first step is universities – I really think that if you are getting to be a medium-sized business and you are not working with universities, you are doing something wrong,” Papegaaij said.
“Universities are an endless source of very bright, smart and motivated employees – why aren’t you in there? They need experience, you need their smarts – collaborate on that level,” he added.
CIOs are still commonly found operating under the purview of another C-suite officer, and are often denied a seat at the C-suite table.
But the times, they are indeed a-changing, and CIOs are engineering their breakout into the leadership banquet.
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“We kind of see that happening already – we see a rise in the influence and position of the CIO,” Papegaaij said.
“There’s one important thing that CIOs have to start thinking about – as long as they think of themselves as running the IT department, they are limiting themselves,” he added.
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That could be a contributing reason to why most CIOs are subordinates rather than equals, according to Papegaaij.
“Their role is not to run an IT department, and who knows if there is even going to be an IT department anymore in a few years’ time.
“Their role is to deploy information technology in as many parts of the business as they can, in the smartest way possible,” he said.
The CIO role is now being redefined, and CIOs need to decide to step up or risk being just an ‘IT manager,’ according to Papegaaij.
“Step out of the ‘I run the IT department’ or ‘I own the IT department’ box, because that doesn’t mean anything anymore. Don’t let yourself be boxed in,” he said.
“You can also wait for others to do it, but if you let others define your career, it will never be the career you hope for.
“One part of CIOs will be pushed downwards – they become the managers of the data centres, they become the brokers with the suppliers.
“The other part will step up and own the digital future of the business,” he added.
Previous Instalment: Aligning business needs, fighting bureaucracy
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