CIO: Focusing on people

Published on Monday 21 January 2013 by in Blog with no comments

In a recent news item I mentioned Herman van Bolhuis’s ‘The Perfect Storm’ and how we in IT are currently facing what he calls ‘the tipping point’Most IT organizations are faced with a need to transform their capabilities. In this blog I want to tell you what 1 CIO is doing to address this.

The need to transform….

Increasing business demands and dependency on IT, emerging disruptive technologies, new delivery and sourcing models, the new generation of IT’ers and IT savvy business users, an increasing demand for IT to deliver value. For many IT organizations this represents a major culture change,  one which they are poorly equipped to face. This was one of the reasons for Herman to announce the launch of the new CIO foundation program.

At the launch of the program Jerry Luftman from the Global Institute of IT Management presented some of his latest global findings. Key findings reveal:

  • Top on the list of CIO priorities are leadership development and staff training. Staff training not just to focus on technology skills but more importantly on business skills and on softer skills (such as team working, communication, empathy)
  • It organizations must develop more understanding of the business
  • The business must develop a better understanding of IT

The CIO foundation program is aimed at helping IT leaders deal with the ‘Perfect Storm’.

Some IT organizations are already busy successfully transforming IT. This week I spoke with CIO Pieter Schoehuijs (AkzoNobel) who briefly explained his journey so far. What is he doing to ensure the right skills are developed and to ensure the transformation is a success?

New talent, Existing talent, Management talent

Pieter told me how, together with 3 other CIOs, he had launched a program for IT Traineeships(nl). The program would help address the shortage of IT skills and make the organization attractive for new talent. A recent article in computer weekly seems to confirm the CIOs’ worries. The 4 CIOs were working together with an organization who would hire in the ‘new generation’ of high potentials. These high potentials would undergo a trainee program which includes both theory and hands-on practice. Helping develop the new type of skills to create what Pieter calls ‘bridge builders’. People able to bridge the understanding between Business & IT, people able to become service delivery managers, managing complex sourcing constructions. These trainees then go into one of the four organizations, bringing new skills, new energie and a new flexibility for change. helping shape the IT organization of the future.

Existing talent

Pieter also recognized the need to change the attitude, behavior and culture of existing IT staff. IT staff traditionally have a strong technology focus and a strong internal focus. Three years ago, he explained, his organization developed a strategy to shift the focus – IT as a value generating business partner. This required a culture change. A program was started, one action item was to send all IT staff through training to develop ‘core skills’, these core skills would focus more on team-working, group dynamics, people, behavior, human interaction.  ‘With the majority of IT employees having undergone the training it is having a clear impact on the culture within IT’. Another CIO also revealed to me how she had sent her IT staff through similar training to develop ‘collaboration skills‘ in IT.

As well as technology skills, process skills and understanding are also required, not just the ITIL and IT type processes, but more importantly understanding of the business processes and how IT brings value to these.

Management talent

To be able to manage the new talent coming into IT, to be able to bring about the culture change, to be able to manage the IT staff who have gone through the core skills training also requires new core skills from the management team. Pieter explained that it started with him, leading-by-example and setting out a clear vision for the organization and more particularly the people side of IT. The MT would have to change and develop consistent leadership skills and a stronger business focus. Sometimes hard choices had to be made, the existing MT set up and skill sets were not in line with the new vision and the new role of IT. Some new MT members and service delivery managers were taken on board – from the business! Bringing business understanding and skills into IT.  I asked the Pieter if the CIO foundation program would help a CIO and leadership team develop the required skills, and I asked him how he had managed this and realized leadership development. ‘Yes a customized program, tailored to my specific organizational needs would have helped, however what we did was make leadership development part of our day to day work’. Pieter had embedded leadership development in a CSI approach. IT MT members would attend business meetings, business managers would be involved in IT meetings, managers would evaluate and give feedback in meetings and focus on leadership ‘expected behavior’. ‘Leadership development has to be an integral part of the way we work’. MT members are more active in business meetings and business managers also get to learn more about IT.

Is this approach paying off? “I am convinced it does.  Some things are not easily measured, you just know they are the right things to do“.



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