The need for strategic IT workforce planning

diagram of work team

The availability of high-quality talent is one of the most underappreciated risks in the IT portfolio today. CEB research indicates that IT roles and competencies will evolve to address four emerging realities: an increase in the importance of collaboration to complete daily tasks, more-frequent organizational change, greater technology choice, and the need for more analytical rigor and judgment to drive daily decisions.

Unfortunately, CEB research also shows a troublesome situation for IT leaders: 90 percent of IT employees lack the collaborative skills needed to succeed in the new work environment, and 53 percent lack the necessary analytical skills and judgment. On average, four out of five IT roles will have to adapt to handle widespread changes in the capabilities demanded of IT employees.

In addition to significant skill changes, government agencies are experiencing talent-related pressures due to an increase in departing employees. The 2012 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey indicates that 26 percent to 36 percent of feds are considering leaving their organizations in the next year. Retirements have also increased steadily — from 3 percent of the total IT workforce in fiscal 2009 to 4.6 percent in fiscal 2012. Given sequestration pressures, those numbers are expected to rise again in 2013.

Those trends are certain to continue at a high rate in the next few years unless CIOs make a fundamental shift in the way they assess, develop and engage IT talent. Leaders should take two important steps to address those risks:

1. Proactively anticipate changes in IT skills and roles. Our research finds that, despite the severity of potential skill gaps, 61 percent of organizations do not have skills forecasts for IT, while up to 80 percent do not provide training or coaching for skills that they expect to increase in importance.

We anticipate that the demand for skilled employees will significantly outpace supply in three emerging IT roles that are particularly important: cyber risk analyst, service manager and data scientist. Cyber risk analysts focus on proactively identifying internal and external threats based on likelihood and impact, and they help business partners manage their risk exposure. Service managers develop and deliver customer-focused IT services and anticipate the impact that changes in technologies and business models might have on IT services. Data scientists identify knowledge workers' information needs and develop frameworks and processes to gain value from structured and unstructured information assets.

2. Create a strategic plan for the IT workforce. A successful strategic workforce plan encompasses recruiting, developing, managing, retaining and redeploying talent to maximize the effectiveness of the current and future workforce. Currently, more than 90 percent of IT organizations conduct staff planning, which identifies and fills immediate staffing gaps and supports annual business plans. However, CEB research indicates that only 39 percent of IT organizations have strategic workforce plans that define competencies and roles needed to meet IT goals across a three- to five-year horizon.

The most progressive organizations develop strategic IT workforce plans that:

* Align with enterprise and IT strategic goals.

* Identify obstacles in moving toward the desired future state.

* Clearly define metrics for that future state.

* Summarize the profiles and competencies needed for emerging roles.

Proactive development of critical skill sets and strategic workforce plans will help ensure the availability of the full portfolio of IT talent needed to deliver on mission objectives for the future.

About the Authors

Kris van Riper is a managing director at CEB.

Benjamin Knopf is a senior analyst at CEB.


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