Learning’s Role in Transforming the IT Workforce

» Posted by Jeanne Meister  » Posted on 12.03.07

Published May 2005

Increasingly, CLOs are pulled into discussions on how to improve the productivity and performance of specific strategic workforces—sales, customer service, research and development, and the information technology workforce. The need for “IT transformation” is boldly proclaimed by CIOs, yet the transformative actions are not often as bold as their words. Where IT transformation has produced tangible and measurable benefits, executives have looked beyond familiar technology issues. They also focus intensely on their people: who and where they are, what they know and can do, and how different groups can be brought together and synchronized for the greatest overall benefit.

Learning professionals play a key role in helping to lay the groundwork for long-term success by creating IT organizations that are inherently agile—learning, growing and changing as the business evolves.

At the heart of successful IT transformation is the recognition that IT is not just a technology business, but also a people business. It requires an orientation toward workforce enablement that goes well beyond “training.” Training will be effective only as part of a more comprehensive program that:

  • Sets clear performance goals.
  • Identifies needed skills and competencies.
  • Identifies competency gaps.
  • Provides access to the right resources.
  • Supports collaboration and knowledge sharing.

A transformation program should establish clear learning and performance goals for the IT organization that are aligned with the company’s overall business objectives. For example, at one communications company, an assessment of business needs and IT performance led the CEO and CIO to set aggressive goals in the areas of IT service stability, solution delivery and business value. The CEO realized that goals such as “increase customer orientation of IT staff” were much too vague. By contrast, a precise, tangible goal—“reduce number of failed changes by 50 percent through better teaming and quality of development”—has the potential to engage the staff’s commitment to drive results.

When the IT transformation program is on course, it makes sense to examine competencies. A recent Forrester Research report, “IT Skills Shortages On The Horizon,” identified eight IT skills that will be most in demand in 2005 and beyond:

  • Business analysis and relationship management: The ability to comfortably move between business and technology.
  • Business intelligence and Web-enabled analytics: Companies have collected customer and market data for years. The focus now is on turning that data into knowledge and using it to increase revenues, capture more market share and improve profitability.
  • Enterprise architecture: One of the top priorities for companies is to rationalize, consolidate and simplify their infrastructures.
  • Security: Exposure to security-related incidents represents one of the largest business risks.
  • Linux/open-source: The open-source movement is gaining momentum every day.
  • Agile programming: Creating agile processes for internal application development efforts.
  • Business process modeling: The ability to quickly model and automate business processes.
  • Web services: SOAP, XML, .NET and WebSphere experience and certifications will be needed, with demand likely to outstrip supply, especially during the next several years.

An important part of IT transformation is the development of a collaborative knowledge-sharing environment, enabled by new tools and technologies that unify all the applications individuals need on their desktops. These solutions combine portal technologies, expert searches, e-learning, online collaboration tools and visibility-to-performance metrics. However, the success of these technologies requires a focus on the right business outcomes.In the end, IT workforce transformation is part of a complex system where all parts must work together to achieve high performance. Learning professionals have the opportunity to boldly lead and apply their expertise to the concrete needs of a strategic workforce such as IT.

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