Does your company attract top development talent?
For the past decade, I have listened to CIOs explain that they don’t have resources to compete for top development talent. This is a common response to one of my favorite questions - “What is holding you back from executing innovative development projects?”
CIOs, like most people, appreciate their jobs and work to execute the projects that they have in queue with allocated budget and internal talent resources. Internal headcount, and their respective specialties, are a reflection of the company’s budget and planned initiatives.
To sympathize a little with the CIOs that I meet with, many of them have a hard time competing for talent with companies offering perks lavish enough to fuel the storyline of a major movie, and resort to hiring internal specialists that they can afford.
While the importance of technical talent is not up for debate, the way companies should be looking at sourcing the technical talent is.
While developers are becoming the most valuable resource in business, businesses need to change the way they think of the new developer-centric landscape. Thanks to advancements in technology and social collaboration, today's globally distributed workforce is also highly collaborative. Crowdsourcing is indisputably a viable development model, but most internal IT departments are not organized to effectively leverage crowdsourcing projects and continue to tap only internal headcount and fixed resources to execute projects.
The worst kept secret about crowdsourcing is that top developer talent, employed by some of the world’s largest technology companies, including Google and large systems integrators, work on projects other than those that their day job assigns. Things like cloud technology and application programming interfaces (APIs) have empowered developers and those in need of development work with the ability to contribute to projects from anywhere in the world, at any time. This notion is particularly liberating when trying to source specialized skill sets for specific business challenges, particularly when an internal IT team is already tapped.
The paradigm of how you look at internal resources needs to change.
In the past, IT departments have valued employees with general skill sets more than those with highly specialized talents because generalists can work on a variety of projects and tasks. Today, a blend of generalists and specialists are needed to navigate the rapidly changing and highly specialized technology landscape. Internal IT departments ideally consist of a few generalists armed with a network of specialists that they can tap at just the right time.
These generalists need to shift from being execution specialists to coordinators or general contractors as an analogy to building. Managing tasks with a distributed workforce requires planning, time management and creativity in addition to technical expertise. Their ability to adapt to this role will increase the value that generalists provide to employers and help them adapt to future opportunities.
Harnessing developer talent the right way is give and take.
Few companies truly harness and empower developer talent the right way, which is like any good business relationship - mutually beneficial. Existing communities of developers like CloudSpokes and uTest invest in growing their talent base and allow companies to tap the communities for development needs.
These communities ensure that their members benefit from the work that they create in multiple ways, not least of which is fair compensation for created work product and feedback. However, this does not include fair compensation for the community member’s effort. For most community models, the desired outcome is quality work, as opposed to rewarding effort and highly effective (i.e. productive and skilled) members.
To engage the less skilled members and grow their talent, communities invest in rewarding milestone achievements and methods for members to learn from others. It’s important for the communities to provide transparency into its member achievements and many reward their members with badges and other forms of gamification for both individual milestones and specific technology benchmarks. This not only gives members a way to track their progress, it provides resume proof points.
There are ways to know that you’re doing it right.
If companies leverage crowdsourcing effectively, they can expect to scale development teams without needing to recruit and train new talent, or pay for idle talent. A small team of generalists trained to effectively crowdsource an army of specialists, allows for teams to make the switch from being a group of people managers, to a group focused on solving the business problems at hand.
Companies that leverage a crowdsourcing model effectively have the ability to elastically harness top talent at any time, ultimately, delivering business value faster and more efficiently.
Mike Morris is General Manager of CloudSpokes
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