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An information and technology operating model represents how an enterprise orchestrates its I&T capabilities to achieve strategic business objectives. Traditionally, the IT organization alone played a material role in managing information and technology, but I&T activities are increasingly driven outside IT.

Many organizations currently have I&T operating models focused on efficiency, but this approach will not deliver the innovation and agility that today’s digital business requires. I&T capabilities must be spread across the enterprise and harnessed collectively to successfully execute on digital business strategy.

SEE: Research: Digital transformation initiatives focus on collaboration (TechRepublic Premium)

Radical changes in IT and business roles, skills and competencies are required for successful I&T operating mode transformation. Yet, talent remains one of the top challenges for CIOs in shifting operating models to align with digital business ambition. Here are four steps that CIOs should take to redesign talent strategies and optimize workforce capabilities in support of I&T operating model transformation.

Shape roles and talent profiles around digital business ambitions

As the enterprise shifts its strategic focus and advances I&T’s contribution through operating model transformation, CIOs and business executives must understand the key talent characteristics required. I&T roles must evolve based on operating model patterns to deliver desired business outcomes.

For example, enterprises shifting from a service-optimizing model to a value-optimizing model need to establish a product-centric I&T organizational structure. This structure should have a strategic focus on driving business value optimization by leveraging I&T capabilities for continuous growth and innovation in digital products and services. New roles are required to explore business growth opportunities and exploit I&T capabilities for differentiation and innovation. These include data scientist, product manager, platform manager, program manager, customer experience designer, social scientist and venture capitalist.

Moving from asset-optimizing to invention-optimizing requires progressively higher levels of IT maturity. However, the best operating model pattern for an enterprise is not determined by its IT maturity, but by how well the desired pattern aligns with business objectives. Based on the target I&T operating model pattern that aligns with the organization’s digital business ambition, CIOs should develop a plan to close gaps in key roles and desired talent profiles to progress toward the target model.

Shift mindset and behaviors to accelerate transformation

New I&T operating models will require new ways of working, such as adopting agile and enabling multidisciplinary, fusion teams to collaborate across business and IT. The desire for agility, speed and innovation demands a shift from an inside-out, IT-centric, fixed mindset toward an outside-in, business-focused growth mindset.

Therefore, it is more important than ever for CIOs to shift the focus toward equipping employees with the ability to embrace change and adopt technologies in a new way to drive competitive edge. CIOs should define the competencies for each role required by the desired I&T operating model pattern. Pay specific attention to the development of a growth mindset, along with cultivating adaptability, digital dexterity, business acumen, design thinking and innovation competencies. These competencies help I&T professionals combine technology expertise with insights from the business and customers to deliver innovative new business and customer value at scale.

Consider nontraditional approaches to talent

Shifting IT’s strategic focus from back office to front office presents significant challenges to long-held talent management assumptions.

Traditionally, IT has used standard corporate recruiting channels and processes for IT hiring and formal training for upskilling and reskilling talent to meet changing business needs. While these approaches are suited to asset- and process-optimizing I&T operating model patterns, they are no longer a good fit for value- and invention-optimizing patterns focusing on adaptability, agility and speed.

Increasingly, CIOs need to adopt nontraditional approaches to meet the diverse and dynamically changing needs of digital business, including:

  • Building future talent pipelines through strategic alliances with academic and nontraditional education programs.
  • Pervasive use of technologies (e.g. workforce analytics, AI and gamification) for talent identification and development.
  • Leveraging digital talent ecosystems for sourcing expertise and filling gaps (e.g. crowdsourcing and gig work).
  • Adopting agile learning, blending on-the-job experiential learning with mentoring and personalized, just-in-time microlearning and knowledge sharing.
  • Making robots and AI part of the talent landscape to optimize performance and business outcomes.

CIOs should establish an open and collaborative partnership with HR to address the enterprise’s fast-changing talent requirements. Develop a strategy and roadmap to reconfigure talent to enable the execution of target I&T operating model patterns. Prepare for coming workplace changes by assessing how the future of work scenarios will impact ways of working, roles people will likely have and workforce models. Identify and evaluate technologies that enable HR to reinvent talent management, and offer to use IT as an incubator for new, innovative approaches.

Share learning to cultivate talent and scale I&T capabilities

Enterprises cannot unlock the business value of technology without people. It is more important than ever to cultivate digital dexterity as an enterprise-wide competency that extends beyond IT. To get ahead in addressing the perennial I&T skills gap challenge, CIOs can play the role of champion in fostering a continuous learning culture and make developing I&T talent across the enterprise a top priority.

Transitioning to more collaborative, agile, innovative and creative ways of working requires that employees across the entire enterprise demonstrate the competencies to master technology and embrace new ways of working. To make talent truly an enabler of I&T operating model transformation, CIOs should partner with HR to design and implement continuous learning programs aimed to future-proof the workforce.

Lily Mok

Lily Mok is a VP Analyst at Gartner, Inc. covering strategic workforce planning, IT job architecture and career paths, digital leadership and more. Lily and other Gartner analysts will provide additional insights on IT talent strategies and other key topics for CIOs at Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo 2022, taking place October 17-20 in Orlando, Florida.

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