Critical IT staffing shortages will put many businesses at risk in the next few years if immediate steps are not taken to change current workforce planning models.
Speaking to delegates at the annual Gartner symposium, senior analyst Diane Berry said IT leaders must break through traditional unsustainable staffing models.
Berry said IT leaders do not appreciate the magnitude of the problem and are reluctant to make the necessary changes.
“IT leaders know intuitively what they should do to address this problem but only a handful actually do anything,” she said.
Organisations are using IT to redefine business rules while maintaining old assumptions around people, staffing and workforce planning.
“This is a serious business risk that is particularly acute in IT disciplines,” Berry said.
“Aside from small points of automation, the IT profession remains highly specialised and labour intensive and is steeped in legacy investments that are losing value and currency.
“As demand for growth, revenue, innovation and profitability climb, businesses are nearing a point of unsustainable staffing that will result in missed business outcomes and poor financial results.” With two thirds of the IT budget dedicated to keeping the lights on, Berry said there is little room for business agility and competitive advantage.
She said CEOs have a greater appreciation of the staffing crisis ranking staff retention as their number two priority compared to IT organisations which relegated the problem to number six in Gartner’s 2011 end-user surveys.
“Inside that gap is a reluctance by IT to appreciate that structural change on the demand side requires them to drive structural change on the supply side,” Berry said. “The most telling symptom of the gap shows up in the traditional staffing model IT has cultivated which is now creating a stranglehold — that is, that all IT demand can be met by a set of skills that can be recruited, contracted and accumulated as if they were wholly transferrable.
“This is completely wrong,” she said.
“As information and its value start to outweigh the technology that collects it, the staffing model has to move toward context, industry insight and alliances.”
How to scale to meet business demand
Berry said putting more energy into labour intensive supply-side practices such as outsourcing, recruitment, training and workforce development, will not deliver the far-reaching scale required to meet rising business demand.
Moreover, the way people work is changing radically. For example, work outcomes will depend on the input and cooperation of two or more people, and the work will seldom be done face to face. “In other words, remote teams, projects, taskforces and collaborative ventures will become the norm,” she said.
When developing a sustainable staffing model, IT leaders need to look at environmental factors where they have little control as well as those where they have a high degree of control.
“What matters are the levers CIOs can adjust,” she said. “The process begins by looking at your organisation and points of differentiation to streamline staffing needs.
“Maintain a focus on differentiation by comparing the organisation’s strategic business priorities with industry peers.”
Another good way to relieve the staffing model is by stripping down the number of applications supported as well as integrating systems, focusing more on information and less on infrastructure. “Streamline application and technology portfolios to gain leverage from people,” she said.
“Use Cloud and SaaS services to gain functional benefits without assuming infrastructure to do so.”
To optimise an organisation’s workforce and promote versatility, Berry recommends developing a business-smart workforce through two-year rotation programs, using computing models to reach new people. “Lighter weight technologies such as virtualization, Cloud, mobile, business intelligence, social computing and software-as-a-service, emerge as ways to apply economies of scale to innovation and intellect rather than equipment,” she said.
“Lighter weight technologies reduce upfront costs, increase capacity and occupy fewer people.
“Educating executives and raising the enterprise threshold for risk play strongly here but relatively small investments can generate significant business benefits.”
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