Critical Position IT Pulse Survey

Demographic trends are colliding with a global economic recession – how will this affect the supply of critical information technology workers is unknown.


Many are aware of the demographic trends affecting information technology occupations.  An abundance of senior workers nearing retirement and surprisingly, a dearth of younger workers entering the field. 


While the current global recession has tempered demand for IT projects, what will the supply of critical IT workers look like as the economy exits the recession and demand for IT projects rises?


Will we satisfy demand with senior workers? 

This response trades one problem for another.  While demand is satisfied, a knowledge retention problem is created for tomorrow as these workers WILL retire.


Will younger workers gravitate to the technology field? 

Without younger workers, the labor supply for future vacancies will likely be insufficient.


To understand the affects of demographics trends and the global economic recession we are initiating a monthly information technology workforce pulse survey.  Each month, the results will be distributed via email and published on our website. 


The survey is 6 questions and will take less than 2 minutes to complete – yet the collected responses from IT executives, like you, will be eye-opening!


We are releasing the survey in a few days and hope you will participate.  If you would like to be included on the distribution list, please drop me an email.


All the best,


Eric Seubert


Talent Strategy Advisors, an affiliate of Discussion Partners




Talent Practices: Making the Business Case for Social Networking

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Fresh Approach to IT Leadership Competencies

Last week, my colleage, Vaughan Merlyn ,asked me to join him on a post for his blog.  Below is the results of that collaborative work.  It builds on a piece of research we did last year called: ITC: Tomorrows Essential IT Competencies.  While the research was focused on the IT function specifically, the insights can be applied to a variety of disciplines. 

Virtually all CIO’s recognize they have a talent challenge – the competencies they have in their IT organization are often not the competencies they need today.  This is an issue I’ve wanted to post on for some time, but it’s complex and requires highly specialized expertise – people who both fully understand the Human Resources and Talent Management domains, and who really appreciate and have experience with the special needs of IT leadership.  I’ve therefore reached out to one of my wonderful colleagues, Dr. Margaret Schweer.  Margaret led our multi-company research last year on emerging IT competencies, and has worked with me on several important client engagements.  She and I have collaborated on this topic, and will post it to our respective blogs.

Being talent ready is a continuous journey – there is no steady state for talent.   Responsible IT leaders are always in the hunt for talent with key capabilities in anticipation of the organization or function’s needs.  This requires a robust competency model that describes contemporary IT leadership behaviors in observable ways.  A good IT leadership competency model helps people visualize what is needed from IT leadership in an era when technology is increasingly a strategic enabler, pervasive evolving rapidly. 

Margaret had a recent conversation with a client that wanted to design a technical competency model that would serve to stretch their functional capabilities from a high level 2 to level 3 Business-IT maturity, allowing them to develop talent in anticipation of business demands.  So what are they looking for? 

  • In terms of leadership competencies, they are looking for leaders who are always sensing in anticipation of business needs and are able to identify and clearly articulate opportunities in and out of the function.  They want people who are sensitive to how the organization functions, can position initiatives effectively, and are experienced leading organizational change on a broad basis.  The breakout competencies revolve around demonstrating strategic agility and driving innovation. 
  • In terms of technical competencies, the focus is on taking the business partner relationship to a different level, proactively planning and creating new, innovative, even transformational ways to create business value through technology.  Using their knowledge about the business, these leaders can leverage technology for revenue generation, not just automation and cost reduction.   The breakout competency is clearly relationship management. 
  • In terms of personal competencies, collaboration takes on new meaning – it’s about developing networks and building alliances across boundaries; routinely contributing to and drawing from others to inform, influence, create, and leverage ideas and services.  And traditional ‘management of others’ competencies give way to a competency that enables talent flexibility and engagement.  It’s about creating a well supported process for assessing and developing talent to fill an ‘on demand’ pipeline; quickly and seamlessly moving talent in a ‘marketplace’ approach; and engaging talent in a way that enables them to deliver a signature customer experience.  And the talent we are speaking about?  Well, they may or may not be employees.

Let us finish the discussion of IT leadership competencies with a comment about the importance of developing a global mindset.  The question here is not whether your business operates internationally, but whether your talent does.  Even in a domestic organization, a global perspective is essential in IT because the global technology talent and services market is global.  What is unique about these competencies is how they are described and applied culturally.  And I think there is real value in calling these out as transitional competencies.

It’s important to anticipate your organization’s competency needs, as many of these require a long lead time to develop.  We believe that development is best accomplished using a variety of methods, including training, feedback and coaching from others, mentoring and job experiences, including developmental assignments.  While experts agree that the most powerful development is done in the context of assignments, don’t underestimate the power of ‘social learning and networking.’  As noted researcher, Rob Cross reminds us, much of what we know or come to know is learned through others, in formal or informal networks.  Unlocking the collaborative power of your organization can be a real source of competitive advantage as you move to develop key organizational capabilities.

 For more about critical capabilities required for the NGE organization, see my post titled “The Next Generation Enterprise: The Agile Organization.”

The Next Generation Enterprise: Creating the Agile Organization

Naisbitt begins his book, Mindset!, by saying that the future is always with us . . . social media acts as our collaborator, offering stories, facts, and opinions.  But it’s not just the information that’s important.  It’s the sifting process . . . the way in which we select and verify that allows us to bring the information we collect together to create a credible picture of the future that becomes key.   So how are organizations ‘sifting’ through the profound changes in technology, demographics, and the economy to identify their inflection points for change?  I think we are starting to see deep changes in the fundamental structure and operating principles of the corporation . . . for me a clearer picture of what it means to be NGE is beginning to emerge:

The very nature of work will change . . . and I say this with the full understanding that many of us have some amount of our organization involved in process based work.  While that type of work is different that knowledge work, we’re even seeing challenges to traditional process models with examples like manufacturing networks.  Processes, like software, can lend themselves to peer production too.  So, NGE work tends to be:

  • Project driven . . . based on roles not jobs.  Many of us are already transitioning away from jobs to roles to project based work for some portion of our organization.  This is an important paradigm shift for leaders — ownership for talent is shared and needs to be flexibly deployed against the areas of highest value for the organization.  This is particularly true given talent may come from inside or outside of the organization. 
  • Community based . . . the active use of collaboration tools to share information, create relationships, develop insight or create product is the work itself.  I often have senior leaders ask me about the value of social networking as though its ‘time wasted’ rather than an opportunity to enable and accelerate the real work of the organization.  Serena Software has “Social Networking Fridays.”  I mention it not because it is exceptional but because it’s simple.  Employees are encouraged to spend time each week on various social networking sites updating profiles, collaborating with colleagues and clients or recruiting for Serena. 
  • On demand . . .the style of work is ‘bursty’ meaning it’s discontinuous and done when required by the work not necessarily during ‘work hours.’  Productivity can be seen and measured through results as opposed to ‘face time.’   Much easier said than done.  In my mind, Best Buy’s ROWE performance management system, judging output rather than hours, is an example of responding to the bursty nature of NGE work.  To sum it up, my colleague, Tammy Erickson, wrote a wonderful blog on “Do we need weekends?” The upshot . . .work is bursty, and we need to recognize it from an organizational point of view. 
  • ‘Glocal’. . . requires that we simultaneously take a global and local approach and mindset to work.  Whether your business is global is not the issue . . . talent is. 

How we do the work will also change . . .  organizations will be networked with a more fluid structure and transparent processes that are:

  • More horizontal and self organizing in nature.
  • Peer oriented with minimal control being provided from the center of the organization.
  • Supported by processes that are modular and can be assembled and re-assembled in a flexible repeatable way.

The organization chart in an NGE world is not necessarily vertical.  It may in fact, be circular.  Mozilla, the non-profit producer of Firefox web browser, has an incredibly effective peer development model.  With a tread bare budget and a small cadre of internal developers, it has effectively marshaled an external development community of 400 regular volunteer contributors, and thousands more who patch and test to create viable product. 

The NGE organization will embrace . . .

  • Agile experimentation for innovation . . . it will use shorter development cycles with fast feedback enabling the organization to rapidly accelerate when an experiment is successful. 
  • Industrial analytics or embedded process based analytics that are used to assess business performance on an on-going basis. 

My favorite example of an organization demonstrating NGE behavior is British Telecom.  This organization has embraced a wide range of on-line tools . . .  using wikis and internal social networking applications that act like Facebook and Twitter, for example, to create a peering culture of collaboration.  Doing so, has allowed them to see how groups organically develop . . . so that they can deploy them against important projects, accelerating the rate of effective collaboration.  Using social networking tools, they can also identify key talent hidden deep in the organization . . . people who don’t show up on the organization chart or in key talent reviews but are the ‘super communicators’ or key enablers in the organization.  Talent the organization can’t afford to lose. 

The tools we leverage will also change . . . we are already seeing wonderful examples of web based tools that reside on responsive platforms . . . that are available on demand . . . instantly reconfigurable. . . agile and adaptive to circumstances.  Products, services, or interactions are co-created with customers and vendors, blurring roles.  A wonderful example of a platform business is, of course, Amazon.  Starting as an on-line book seller it has morphed into a portal for purchasing options.   Simple examples abound.  My son David, pointed me to Faceforce, a mashup that integrates Facebook with sales force data enabling you to leverage your social network in a new way.  Check out the demo.  At the core of all of this, is of course the interesting but thorny issue of who owns your social network.

As you identify your inflection points for this change . . . here are some parting questions that may help you sift through the information to create a picture of your organization’s future:

  • Where is your business model experiencing the most pressure . . . and in what ways will the NGE model facilitate your transformation?
  • What is the right level of openness, flexibility, and agility for your organization?  And how can HR facilitate it?
  • How can you harness the power of the “community” and for what purpose . . . are there natural pockets of “peering” . . . what collaboration tools make sense for your organization?
  • How will this change your talent proposition?  How are you preparing leaders for this new world?  How will your core capabilities need to change?

What NGE examples have you seen?  What are you doing in your own organization?

The Information Technology Perfect Storm

The concept of workforce planning has been a core Information Technology (IT) initiative for quite some time. For the most part, it is a mathematical or formulamatic exercise focused on predicted labor growth minus anticipated departures equals hiring needs. Oftentimes there are bells and whistles in the process: but if we are being candid, the above, for the most part, constitutes a workforce plan.


This calculation was easier to do over the last four years during the recession, but as you will see, the ability to create a meaningful workforce plan is becoming a very difficult challenge for IT managers.  The complexity is derived from the reality that as we move further into the new millennium, we are encountering a labor market “perfect storm.” This phenomenon can be attributed directly to the shifting demographics of both the domestic and global workforce, post-recession increase in enterprise growth opportunities, and diminishing levels of employee commitment. The storm becomes even more intensified due to the ever-increasing emphasis on globalization coupled with the demand that IT professionals be “innovative” while staying within budget.


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