​IT Teams of Tomorrow – ​Part ​1

managing-your-careerIntroduction

What does it take to build a successful team? Experienced professionals? Enthusiastic new blood? Or a mixture of the two? Manchester United’s supremely talented young team was written off in 1995 by BBC football pundit Alan Hansen, who famously pronounced: ‘You can’t win anything with kids’. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, featuring David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, went on to win a historic league and cup double that season – then many titles after that. Similarly, Mark Zuckerberg and his young, inexperienced team at Facebook enjoyed unprecedented, enduring success that few could have predicted when the company was formed in 2004. Of course these team triumphs can fairly be viewed as anomalies. There’s no doubt it is difficult to succeed with an inexperienced team – in sport and business. But what if those teams with emerging talent also possess legacy knowledge? What if managers and owners introduce a talent sourcing and teambuilding programme that imbues their teams with the skills they need for the next ten years, as well as those that defined the previous ten? Sir Alex knew that by supplementing youthful brio with peer training and the experience of a couple of senior staffers, he would have a formidable team. Similarly, Zuckerberg bolstered his Facebook team with experience. He knew what had come before Facebook, how it was made and what he could learn from experience…

As far-fetched as it may sound, the directors and managers who build technology teams can learn from the team-building success stories of Facebook and Manchester United. As this report will demonstrate, the IT department model we know is constantly evolving. While traditional functions (such as device management and system maintenance) are still required, IT teams now have a big opportunity to innovate and contribute so much more to the wider business. However, in order to build departments that are fit for the future, rigorous, industry-wide change in how tech specialists are recruited needs to take place. To get a handle on how IT teams will be built and nurtured in the coming years, IT resourcing specialist Experis commissioned independent research exploring the changing make-up of modern IT departments. The findings suggest a level of frustration with the constraints and conditions IT teams are working in. There also appears to be a pressing need to transform how teams are created – combining the fervour and knowledge of youth, with the wisdom and reassurance of experience. The old approach of making a hire to fill a specific operational need cannot work in a framework that has, as its outcome, a strategic transformation. Instead, more thought must be put into how teams are built, structured, trained and developed.

Experis spoke to 1,000 IT workers, and 200 senior IT managers in charge of hiring. Respondents worked in a variety of sectors, including tech, manufacturing, finance, education, retail and the public sector. Their average length of service was six years, with 31% having worked in their organisation for over 10 years. The vast majority (85%) of those surveyed are permanent workers.

Tech transformation

Traditionally, IT departments have been seen as enablers, rather than major strategic players. Their role has been to help their businesses achieve their objectives in a very practical sense, through device supply, troubleshooting, or acquiring and installing systems that allow modern working practices to function. 

What is a traditional IT department?

  • Service based
  • Insular
  • Troubleshooting 
  • A wing of a business

But research shows businesses need more from their tech teams, with almost three-quarters (71%) of IT worker and manager respondents reporting an increase in skillset requirements from their organisation over the last year. Cloud computing, mobile enablement, strategic insight and influence on whole-business decision-making is the future for IT departments (even the present for some). And there is an appetite from workers to deliver on those goals. Simultaneously, businesses recognise the need to reshape their IT departments, positioning them as more integral parts of the organisation – contributing to strategy, wider change initiatives and influencing what the company will look like in five, 10 and 20 years’ time. Technology is one of the most important contributors to economic growth. But to deliver on that, the way tech departments source and recruit has to keep up with what businesses demand. A wholly service-focused department, adept only at fixing things that go wrong and setting up new workstations, cannot possibly contribute effectively to the core aims detailed.

What do businesses want from their IT teams?

  • 61% More services delivered over the cloud
  • 57% Strategic input to business decision making
  • 53% Increase in mobile apps
  • 51% Turn data into insight

The research shows that 85% of IT managers perceive themselves to be either progressive or moderately progressive in their thinking. So the ambition for transformation is there – but it’s being stymied by process. This is leading to the shared belief between managers and employees that their departments are over four years behind the most innovative IT teams out there.

Away from budgetary matters, the primary concerns highlighted as barriers to tech transformation can all be traced back to the utilisation of skills and people. Either a lack of training, understrength leadership, or skilled people being put to work on the wrong things.