Have you ever worked in a company where the IT leadership was suspect at best? Now I’m not speaking from an IT staff member point of view where most IT staff at some point questions their fearless leaders’ management and technical skills. I’m speaking from the business side where leadership in the organization just doesn’t have confidence in the IT leadership and has become very frustrated with the lack of results, late projects, no work getting done, problem after problem that is band-aided as a solution.
Recently I was contacted by a company in need of a senior IT leader. This leader was to head the IT organization, both locally and globally. The opportunity at hand was a direct result of hiring an IT director approximately ten months earlier only to discover that this person wasn’t qualified to be running this IT organization. Sound familiar? I would suggest that most IT directors do know how to run an IT organization. A root cause, in this case, is that the people responsible for determining needs and qualifications of this senior level position did not understand the needs and qualifications and themselves were not qualified to perform the task of identifying candidates. They could not evaluate this person’s technical know-how nor their IT vision. Each of these business leaders was typical company leadership. Unfortunately, most work in silos and are unaware of the business needs outside of their immediate business unit. That is an everyday reality in the corporate world.
To make this story even more fun, the astounding part is that this company went through a technical recruiting agency to staff this IT leader. The recruiter involved provided people that met the requirements as defined by the company. Also, since this recruiter was a technical recruiter, they were able to fill in some of the gaps. However, something went terribly wrong. Why wasn’t the recruiter able to ensure a better result from this new IT director? Is it the fault of the recruiting agency for delivering someone that cannot perform the job duties and functions? Was it just plain misinformation provided by the company leadership that resulted in this travesty? I would say that both are culpable for the result.
As I met with this company’s leadership team, I consistently heard that there was no leadership in IT. “People in our IT organization don’t listen to the new director because they don’t see him as a leader or even knowledgeable about their area”. Now, there is no IT director in this world that is knowledgeable about every technology area of IT. I have said many times that IT is like the medical field. There are many areas of expertise. If you are having a heart problem, are you going to see a cardiologist or a podiatrist? Both are medical doctors, yet neither are qualified to provide expertise in their counterpart’s area. Unfortunately, in IT we often expect that podiatrist to handle cardio issues and vice versa.
The key in filling these senior IT roles is finding that person who has a big picture view of the world. One who can see ahead of the field of play and in essence forecast the future when developing plans. This person must be able to understand the different technologies and how they can be used to better a business organization. They should have experience in leading teams in IT, maybe small teams in large organizations before stepping up and taking on the senior role in a smaller IT organization. All of this matters when finding that right person. However, none of the above is the root cause to this situation.
What went wrong? Well, simply put, no one took the time to understand the company’s business needs fully. No one translated those business needs to IT needs. No one translated those IT needs into required skill sets that is absolutely needed to run an IT organization to fit the business and technology needs. It is really that simple. The recruiting agency definitely didn’t come in and perform some assessment and make recommendations to the leadership team. The internal staff, protecting their turf and working in those silos, certainly couldn’t and didn’t deliver such an assessment. The measuring stick, in this case, was “ the previous guy was a .NET person and the department seemed to run OK thus we need another .NET person to run the IT department”. That is exactly what I heard from the recruiter. Unbelievable! This event was in a medium sized global organization. You wouldn’t think this would happen.
Solution? I stated it earlier. Companies must invest time and money in assessments of their business and technology needs. Most companies really don’t have that picture. Most companies, unfortunately, don’t take the time to develop a short and long-term strategy. This is key in mitigating technology and staffing risks for the future. It is key in mitigating risks in future projects. It is key in providing the right technologies at the right time.
Are you unsure of your business and technology needs? Is your staff delivering at the level required to support your business? Do you have staffing needs to fill yet are unsure how to identify the right skill sets and right people for the job? Start with a business and technology assessment which will, in turn, be used to develop that roadmap for your company’s business and technology future. Give it a try. As the saying goes, you can pay now or you can pay later. This company described here is paying again and again.