IT, we have a problem

IT, we have a problem

If IT departments do not reskill their organisations to deliver greater innovation, they risk becoming mere commodity serviceproviders.

Last issue, I talked about how digitisation continues to drive change in the business landscape and the impact this was having on IT,including potential for the IT budget to move to other departments within the organisation. (,linda,price) Another significant change being wrought by the advent of digitisation is the need to reassess the skills required by IT and by the organisation. We need to adapt our talent attraction, development and retention programmes accordingly.

One enjoyable requirement of my job is to travel extensively through Asia Pacific and meet CIOs and IT leaders. Despite the differences in economic and employment conditions, CIOs across the region bemoan the fact that although there are ample numbers of applicants for any open positions, the specific skill sets required to leverage the opportunities presented by the current digitisation of the front office are very scarce.

They also point to the fact that we are operating in a truly global market now. Any applicants with an attractive skill set are being approached by global organisations and this is pushing the cost for scarce skills to new levels.

The impetus for this change in IT skills is that IT itself is changing -- from being primarily about service delivery to being required to design and implement technology enabled, information rich transformed business processes. Expertise in this area requires a new type of IT professional.

Traditionally, the CIO has relied on external sourcing to identify talent for open roles. This method will no longer return the benefit previously enjoyed. This is because the typical IT organisation currently devotes approximately 70 percent of its resources to running operations, 25 percent to designing and building applications required by the business and only five percent to innovation.

Over time this will significantly change. This is the cause of the talent dilemma currently facing CIOs right across the region. Gartner predicts that by 2020, only 35 percent of resources will be required to maintain operations, 50 percent will be dedicated to designing and building and 15 percent will be required to continually foster and support innovation if the enterprise is to continue to compete.

CIOs need to seriously consider how they are going to support the new service delivery model of lighter-weight technologies via the cloud, social computing, and the need for technology-driven innovation.

Current models will not easily adapt. Importantly, if IT departments do not reskill their organisations to deliver greater innovation,they risk becoming mere commodity service providers.

A new talent strategy is required -- one that is a key part of the evolving IT strategy and one that focuses on a blend of business and modern IT skills. CIOs should use the following approaches to cultivate the newIT skills:

Buy from the market in the short term.

Contribute to the market in the intermediate term by building internal capabilities through continuing education and reskilling.

Influence the market in the long term by working with educators/academic communities and suppliers. The practice of working closelywith academic institutions to provide for future requirements is maturing wellin India in particular.

As parts of IT become commoditised, a new, lighter IT is emerging. Most CIOs will need the following capabilities to define andestablish roles:

" The ability to operate effectively by providing quality infrastructure and application services, and business operations support.

" The ability to design and build IT services that meet business demands to accomplish more with technology.

" The ability to create business solutions with innovations that exploit new technologies.

Work with your external academic institutions, your HR professionals, and your business partners to ensure your future IT skill requirements are covered. Taking a proactive approach to the provision of the right talent will establish a platform from which you can leverage all the opportunity digitisation will provide.

Linda Price is group vice-president, executive programmes, Gartner. Email comments to

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