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The race for tech talent isn't a marathon, it's a sprint

CIOs must build a strong technology workforce in 2016. Those who pick up the pace to attract and retain top talent will be best positioned to shape a workforce with the skills required for the future.

The reason as noted in the Accenture Technology Vision 2016: “Winners in the digital age do much more than tick off a checklist of technology capabilities. They know their success hinges on people.” Furthermore, “the real deciding factor in the era of intelligence will be a company’s ability to evolve its corporate culture to not only take advantage of emerging technologies, but also, critically, embrace the new business strategies that those technologies drive.”

It will be no small feat, and the CIO’s team will play a key role in helping the business make the culture change and rapidly adopt the right technology. That fact is not lost on companies. More than 85 percent of the organizations surveyed for Accenture Strategy believe they need to win the war for talent to secure a competitive advantage, and nearly 60 percent believe the biggest challenge their IT organization faces is having workers with the right skills.

Suffice it to say this will be a hotly contested race for talent that is in high demand. CIOs must take steps to overcome the hurdles that could otherwise hold them back.

Yesterday’s talent doesn’t fit tomorrow’s business needs

Sourcing the talent needed for the future won’t be easy, according to a majority of business leaders surveyed (80 percent) for Accenture Strategy. Not only are skilled IT workers difficult to find, their skills may be mismatched for future requirements in a digital era. More than 80 percent of those surveyed believe the workers they hired five years ago are not the workers they need now.

To address the skills gap, CIOs must reimagine their workforce based on their future needs, recognizing the need for humans and machines to do more together. To that end, they will need to establish a plan to acquire the skills that will help them reap the benefits of human talent and intelligent technology working side by side. Options include upskilling the current workforce or going outside the organization to recruit the talent that is required. Both methods are essential, given the difficulty of achieving the requisite workforce to drive the future of technology and to enable the two to work together.

CIOs also may need to take additional steps and think more creatively about how to staff for the future as the labor market continues to change. Through emerging workforce options, such as crowdsourcing, labor can be hired on demand to handle the ebb and flow of the workload and shifting needs for specific skills.

IT and the business are in a tug-of-war for technology talent

As the lines between business and technology blur in today’s digital world, the business and functional areas (e.g. marketing and operations) are increasingly focused on digital innovation and solutions. They hire digital and technology talent to create solutions, leading to larger footprints of technology workers outside of the traditional IT organization. More than half of Accenture Strategy survey respondents (55 percent) said that some technology work is performed outside of the IT organization.

In response, CIOs should consider collaborating with business leaders to manage technology talent across the enterprise. The IT organization should stand out as a strategic, innovative arm of the business—not just a back-office function. Changing ingrained perceptions about IT requires CIOs to concentrate on business-focused technology.

Furthermore, the business as a whole must refresh its brand to attract the digital talent of the future. Many businesses have been focused on external digital transformation to improve the customer experience. But how can the business show that it is digital inside? What types of experiences can you promise new digital-savvy workers — collaborative environments that are digitally enabled? Flat hierarchies that cut bureaucracy and speed the lifecycle of ideas to innovation? More than 40 percent of businesses we surveyed are using flexible work arrangements, social media and revitalizing their brand to appeal to the new workforce.

The digital curve has many twists and turns

Digital is not only transforming businesses, digital itself is evolving daily with new breakthroughs in emerging technologies. One way for businesses to keep up with, or better yet, stay ahead of the digital curve, is to work with universities to influence content and provide the right training to shape skills in potential employees early on.

Many companies are getting involved by teaching at universities or advising on curricula. In some cases, businesses are engaging with students even earlier, working with high schools to influence what is taught, or offer internship opportunities.

Relationships with providers are changing

Finding the right talent who can operate effectively within the organization and partner in the broader ecosystem, is critical to the IT organization’s future. As many companies change the way they use providers, some are previously outsourced work back in house. In fact, 60 percent of organizations expect to perform more technology work in house.

In many instances, these are knee-jerk reactions based on a heightened level of discomfort with the amount of work that was being performed outside their IT shop. In other cases, companies have pulled work in-house to revisit how they manage provider relationships and establish a more effective model.

CIOs need to take a broad look at the work that needs to be done and evaluate what functions are core to what the technology group does; what are the generic activities that can be cost-effectively managed via a service provider; and how can they improve their provider relationship governance so they achieve desired outcomes. Once CIOs have segmented the work that way, they should develop a sourcing strategy that defines how service providers will be used and what mechanisms they will need to achieve results.

The future starts now

This is a perfect time to evaluate and re-energize an organization’s talent agenda. CIOs can take quick action to overcome internal struggles for technology and digital talent across the enterprise, and to find the skills that can position the business for the future. Once CIOs find the right talent, they must figure out how to keep it. That will be a topic for a future column. Without a doubt, talent is a hot topic that will require CIO attention this year.

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