Republished with permission from the UBM Midsize Enterprise Strategies February 2012 Newsletter strategy section.
By Alicia Stein
Many middle-market CIOs lack the resources—staff and budget—to fulfill all of their organization’s IT initiatives. Even though the last recession displaced millions of workers, it still remains difficult for CIOs to find individuals with the right mix of talent and skill.
Things are so bad that nearly one in four CIOs who attended our recent Midsize Enterprise Summit West conference said their staff lacks the necessary IT skills. So, how do middle- market IT leaders overcome this resource challenge? Experts said they must develop creative leadership tactics while pursuing IT consultants and outsourcing firms to fill current gaps.
Many middle-market IT leaders are having a tough time finding staff that contain the “whole package” to cover IT needs that run from printers to support issues to networks, data delivery and storage, cloud, ERP and e-mail. Professional recruiters are leaping at the opportunity to help CIOs fill these positions.
“Some traits that we are seeing most IT departments lacking now are mostly on the software side—networking, media, wireless—so we are doing a lot of work in finding IT professionals to fit those roles,” said Rob Reeves, the CEO and president of high-tech recruiting firm Redfish Technology.
Over the last couple of years, the midsize enterprise technology market has been remarkably resilient during the economic downturn, so those middle-market companies are looking to recruit some fresh blood who could improve the IT departments. “Our hiring numbers, from a recruiting point of view, are up about 20 to 30 percent in IT. Being technology, with the need to be innovative and cutting-edge, you are behind if you aren’t investing in updated and skillful IT staff. There has, recently, been a full court press for highly skilled IT talent in middle-market companies,” said Reeves.
“Are any IT departments adequate today?” questioned Frederick Colclough, director of IT at Space Foundation. “Lately, my problem is that I get low-level techs without networking skills. Overall, my biggest challenge is obtaining staff who have a wide-ranging skill set to handle all of my areas.”
It all boils down to the need to find and hire a group of qualified and multitalented IT professionals who can play multiple roles within the IT department and make up for the deficiencies.
“What CIOs should look for, are people who know technology, know delivery and understand development methodologies,” said Martha Heller, president of Heller Search Associates, a contributing editor of CIO Magazine and author of the forthcoming book The CIO Paradox. Martha Heller is a professional recruiter who understands how hard it is to fill high-level IT positions in the middle market.
And, according to Heller, not only do middle-market CIOs need to find staff that can handle all areas within IT, but they’ve also got to be looking for someone who knows the business well enough that they could sit in both camps. Adding a shortage of resources on top of skill scarcity doesn’t make things easier for middle-market CIOs, but Heller has an idea that could improve productivity by taking things right to its source. “The big move in CIOs’ organizations now is to shift from the classic: plan, build, run—where they have a head of each sector of IT—and start having their senior IT staff be directly aligned with the various business units that IT is serving.” For example, one title that she has seen a lot is “Business Relationship Executive” or “Line of Business CIO,” who both report directly to the CIO.
Alicia Stein is the associate editor of strategic content at UBM Channel. She is also the social media personality known as @MrMidmarketCIO. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in contributing to, or being featured in, the MES newsletter.
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