If your organization is drawing on ICT professionals simply to operate and maintain ICT systems, then it is wasting money on ICT.
This was confirmed by research findings presented earlier this week at “Fuelling the European Economy,” a conference organized by Microsoft and held in Brussels. On Monday (30 January), I had the privilege of moderating a panel on “Developing Workforce Capacity” to ensure organizations have the talent necessary to make the most of cloud-based services. It was part of an event sponsored by Microsoft on “Fueling the European Economy”.
The three panelists are leaders in efforts to ensure Europe has the skills it needs to be competitive. A critical success factor of these efforts has been their multi-stakeholder approach involving leaders from business, government and academia. The panelists represented all three stakeholder groups:
From public policy, André Richier, from the European Commission (more specifically, from ICT for Competitiveness and Industrial Innovation in DG Enterprise and Industry);
From academia, Dr. Jonathan Liebenau, from the Department of Management at London School of Economics (Jonathan presented the latest report from the groundbreaking work of his and several colleagues in the Department of Management at LSE - I strongly recommend reading it at: http://www2.lse.ac.uk/home.aspx) and
From the private sector, Richard Pryor-Jones, Head of EMEA at Global Knowledge, the largest privately-held IT and business skills training provider.
Several interesting insights emerged from their presentations and discussions with audience members. From these, three especially important points stood out for me:
1. Ensuring EU citizens are e-skilled is essential to both competitiveness and employment. E-skills are essential to competitiveness, as most successful organizations today rely on ICT to both operate and innovate. E-skills are also essential for employment because emerging uses of ICT, such as cloud-based services, are lowering barriers for all size organizations – especially for SMEs – enabling more to develop new services and enter new markets. In addition, those with the right set of e-skills are in demand by large organizations and are able to start their own businesses. Andre gets this and explained how he and other are expanding EU efforts (that he pioneered) with regards to e-skills to skills for innovation (of which e-skills are a critical component).
2. Two general types of e-skilled professionals are emerging as essential: ICT experts – i.e., those who are experts in building, operating and maintaining specific technologies, including software and hardware; and Business-ICT experts – i.e., those who are experts in using ICT to enhance business processes and innovation. Both Jonathan and Richard provided important insights into what specific skills are key to making the most of cloud-based services. Their research and experience emphasized that to be competitive, organizations need access to both types of experts. This is consistent with research of mine on the expanding strategic roles of Europe’s most effective Chief Information Officers (as judged by their peers). Last year, I collaborated with CIOnet and developed a report profiling all the cool things Europe’s top CIOs were engaged in – from enhancing business processes to helping their organizations expand the boundaries of innovation. We surveyed 130 CIOs from 7 European countries on how they spend their time. The survey data show that CIOs and their IT Groups are engaged in several key activities beyond simply managing ICT services. Over the next 3 years, for example, more than a quarter of surveyed CIOs anticipated spending more time defining and managing enterprise-wide business processes. The report, with additional insights from the study, can be downloaded here. We are now collaborating on the 2nd edition of the report, profiling a new set of CIOs.
3. Ensuring a sufficient supply of and access to each type of e-skilled professional may require distinct policy approaches. Access to ICT experts does not necessarily mean the experts need to be located in the same country as the organization drawing on them. On the other hand, organizations are more likely to need a Business-ICT expert onsite to engage with non-ICT peers. These differences are critical, as each type requires very different approaches and involves a different set of stakeholder groups.
In short, the organizations that are succeeding in taking control of ICT services, such as cloud-based services, are doing so by drawing on two general types of e-skilled professionals: ICT experts and Business-ICT experts. If your organization is not relying on ICT professionals to enhance business processes or expand the way your organization innovates and engages with external customers, then it is not making the most of its investments in ICT and is losing out on critical opportunities for competitiveness. If your organization is keen to foster ICT professionals that work with non-ICT colleagues to manage ICT services, design and manage business processes, and strengthen relations with external customers, then please make sure to engage with local universities and governments to coordinate efforts at building the supply of and ensuring access to both types of e-skills professionals.