The future of your company depends on next-gen IT talent
By: Danielle Phaneuf, Jim Harris, Sainath Nagarajan, Emily Drori | Published: March 8, 2018
The digitization of IT and associated transformation to a smarter, faster, stronger IT operating model is dependent on a new type of IT worker. The distinctive characteristics of these workers are hard to come by, so much so that in a recent forum with several CIOs, the topic most discussed was how to attract, retain and develop the next generation technology employee. The new IT worker is an amalgamation of role archetypes, and while there are countless combinations, one thing is for certain – IT’s biggest limiting factor to successfully leveraging technology to drive and sustain growth is its “people” challenge.
The IT talent crisis
Several factors are impacting the shape of IT organizations; firstly, the increased consumerization of technology has led to a more educated and sophisticated end-user, compounded by the generational shift of decision makers within businesses, which has led to increased expectations of IT to directly drive growth and enable the delivery of the business’s differentiation strategy. Secondly, and almost paradoxically, IT organizations are still expected to support and run “business critical” legacy systems in tandem with modern digital platforms. This duality requires flexibility across the organization, which has led to the proliferation of the multi-modal operating model.
As organizations modernize, technology leadership must become adept at finding and cultivating a new group of talent capable of flourishing in this hybrid environment. Demand for this talent will continue to grow – and demand already outweighs supply. There are also shifting demographics to consider – and an incongruence between how companies approach attracting and retaining top technology talent, as well as understanding what motivates the next generation workforce.
The next-generation talent pool is characterized by a set of motivators that differ from its predecessors; monetary incentives are table stakes, while a personalized experience and work-life balance are distinguishing benefits. This cohort is highly influenced by the perception of the job – whether or not the position (and the function) is cool enough. To remain (or become) attractive, IT needs to rebrand itself as the enabler of digital superiority and growth, where innovation and creativity are nurtured and the ability to experiment and drive change are championed.
The next-gen IT workforce
As more organizations adopt a multi-modal operating model, they will need to quickly find a new mix of talent to fill in their capabilities gaps. Strategy& has identified 5 role archetypes that will proliferate in the next-generation IT workforce. Different roles will have elements of multiple archetypes, to differing degrees. As an organization is mapping out new positions, it can look to these archetypes to embody the requisite skillset and influence hiring, retention, and development plans.
The multi-modal best
The orchestrator is the key link between the different operating modes within the IT organization – they are flexible in their delivery methodology, know how the current state IT environment works, and how to coordinate the back-end systems and data integration platforms that enable mainstay business processes to “keep the lights on”. They have a thorough understanding of the traditional IT business systems that will always exist, and apply structured problem solving to craft a thoughtful approach to integrating new systems and improve inefficiencies. Although Orchestrators have a deep understanding of legacy technology, they are technologists at heart and have an appreciation for cloud platforms, modern development languages and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible within the existing environment. This role is critical as the organization transitions to the multi-modal model, as it provides a stable connection between modes, ensuring that new platforms and solutions can integrate with existing service offerings in a sustainable manner.
The orchestrator is motivated by opportunities to own the integration of “new tech” or processes into the existing IT operating model, and makes an excellent leader of internal task forces for change.
The multi-modal best athlete (MMBA) is the all-star of the new, fluid IT organization, shifting across a variety of teams, cadences, and demands with ease. They are the next-gen BRM, someone who can proactively lead the technology agenda through a combination of expert relationship building, interpersonal skills, and a business first approach. They utilize a capabilities driven approach to developing technology-enabled strategies, leveraging their business and financial acumen to take a consultative lens to problem solving. They are grounded in the business environment, and are likely MBA graduates with functional expertise coupled with an interest or background in the associated technologies. While they are not deeply technical in the traditional sense, the MMBA drives business value creation by focusing on the desired outcomes across the end-to-end business activities, and defining how technology can act as the catalyst to create business benefit and improvements.
The MMBA is motivated by taking complex business challenges and using data to empirically analyze and develop solutions that can drive measurable productivity or financial metrics.
The producer knows how to get it done – they are more pragmatic and willing to prototype and iterate to see things through to completion – distinguished by an ability to quickly create elegant yet simple solutions to complex problems, with a “fail fast” mentality. They have an architecture-centric background with a focus on leveraging emerging technologies to meet process and organizational challenges. They work well with both business and operations teams in a DevOps model to deliver differentiated business value through the employment of rapid development cycles and proofs of concept. The Producer is entrenched in cutting edge technology stacks, and modern programming languages and platforms. The Producer has a clear understanding of product sensibility and works within this context to develop technology solutions that are scalable and integrated to meet current and future business challenges.
Producers are motivated by tangible progress and change through technical delivery. They are problem solvers at heart, so rapidly developing solutions that create capabilities enhancements is what ultimately drives them.
The incubator is capable of envisioning innovative ways of combining emerging technologies to generate new capabilities that create immense business value. They are visionary technologists and innovators at heart – largely unfettered by tech debt. Their entrepreneurial endeavors have viable market potential, and when coupled with their strong salesmanship skills, are able to gain the sponsorship and buy in they need to survive. Success of their role and ideas relies on their skills as charismatic manager who is able to attract and develop budding entrepreneurs, and harness this enthusiasm to create change across the business. The Incubator recognizes there is a balance between build and buy, and looks to either acquire emerging tech stars or build capabilities through strategic partnerships.
Incubators are motivated by implementing change, challenging the norm, and creating creative solutions that drive the business forward. They do not care about “the old ways of doing things” and could become disillusioned if progress is too slow.
The dreamer-story teller brings news solutions to life for the business by taking a User Experience first approach, to develop the future state look and feel. They work collaboratively with the end users to story board, visualize an end state, and iterate solutions. This is a shift for many enterprise focused IT organizations, but adds value by transforming the requirements gathering and process definition phase of many projects into an immersive process, where solutions can be created on the fly. In the age of IT consumerization and tech savvy user bases, this role represents the biggest shift towards agile development, where IT brings their customers along in real-time. While it may seem the furthest away from how “Corporate IT” works today, the benefits are an increased ability to build usability, and the always challenging training, user uptake, and acceptance. As companies move to internal mobile development, enterprise data and analytics platforms, and RPA and machine learning, the value of this role should not be underestimated.
Dreamer-story tellers, are motivated by solving the unsolvable from the end user’s perspective. They thrive in environments where out of the box thinking and agile development techniques (show vs. tell, build vs. document) are encouraged and employed.
In summary, as companies across all industries demand more of their IT organizations to develop and sustain their differentiation strategies to meet increased customer expectations, it is apparent that talent is the key bottleneck to success. One of the most common themes we hear when we interview senior business stakeholders on IT transformations is that IT needs to be more business savvy, take more risks, and drive change proactively through innovation and new technologies. Leveraging technology, or introducing streamlined processes is part of the solution, but the long term survival and evolution of IT organizations is contingent upon filling in gaps in the workforce through roles that blend several archetypes – the Orchestrator, the MMBA, the Producer, the Incubator, and the Dreamer-Story Teller. In the end, the competition to find the right blend of next-generation IT talent will be decided by how companies are able to tailor an approach to attracting talent that addresses the unique needs of today’s generation from the start.