Inteva CIO, Dennis Hodges, discusses his approach to recruiting and developing talent in 3 of the most important areas of technology today.
Human resources and talent acquisition professionals have a very difficult task today. IT is going in three directions: cloud computing, business intelligence, and process analysis. Since some of these areas are relatively new, it is difficult to fully understand the technical and organizational challenges facing people moving into these specialty areas.
1. Cloud Skills
Cloud computing offers the ability to more quickly leverage infrastructure and software by utilizing outside entities. Solutions such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services provide world class production environments, but you still need to build up expertise in how to use the technology.
This specialization requires even more than one can “get away with” in a standard on-premise environment. You can meter your spend better by understanding the environment. The same holds true for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). While you may not need an infrastructure team for a multi-tenant database application, you do need to know how to exploit and secure such an environment.
As Cloud has burst on the scene recently, some companies and individuals don’t understand the need to build expertise in this area. Here at Inteva, we have been in the Cloud since 2008, and we have learned that you do need that expertise. For example, we use Microsoft Azure to host our financial consolidation system. There are so many options for hosting there that we can tune our performance and affect pricing significantly, because we better understand its capabilities. You can’t achieve that if you don’t have someone working on it continuously.
2. Business Intelligence (BI) Talent
When it comes to Business intelligence (BI), many people believe that the most important skillset revolves around data science. While people that can turn data into information are as rare as a good alchemist, there are other functions that can really drive performance and value using data.
In our organization, we’ve had a good deal of success enhancing the skills of people who understand SQL and data, so they are able to extract the right data from the right systems in the right format. This allows me to place less “scientific” people into the data analysis role. This does three things: 1. it simplifies the steps necessary to build a high performing team, 2. it expands the talent pool for the application, and 3. it saves money.
Your BI talent needs can therefore be met through a combination of different, existing skill sets. The technical ability to manipulate data doesn’t require a degree in Computer Science. SQL database manipulation is a fairly simple construct for someone with a logical thought process. And a strong business person is a very good fit for the data analysis portion of BI.
While I am definitely blessed to have a great team that over time has developed the technical and business acumen to truly slice and dice the information, it’s not something that can be built overnight.
3. Process Analysis Skills
Process analysis is the competency of understanding how something is done, how to improve it, and how to systematize. It is a skill set that has no real degree tied to it, but such a person is worth their weight in gold. This is a skill that should be fairly system agnostic. The ability to understand a process is more important than a deep understanding of any specific technology or system, unless that system is particularly difficult to use.
This is not necessarily a new role, but it is just catching on at more and more companies. Cloud computing has allowed the IT organization to focus more deliberately on improving the processes of a company and leveraging software, rather than implementing software and trying to improve the processes it supports. In this way, cloud computing is a game changer for smaller IT groups that don’t have the luxury of doing both well.
To the HR and talent managers out there - the game has changed in the IT world. While the number of Computer Science majors has dropped, the new environment doesn’t necessarily mean the sky is falling. My advice is to look for people with strong analytical skills and degrees in functional areas such as finance, supply chain, and engineering.
To the college graduate – I urge you to look to IT for an interesting, challenging, and rewarding career. IT is at the nexus of almost everything going on in a company these days, from building and re-engineering processes to leading cross-functional, global projects. IT is a great way to get a head start on understanding much of what’s going on in business.
Since many of the newer systems don’t require the years of hands on experience to understand them, many college graduates we’ve hired have had the chance to jump right into very important projects.
I think the days of trying to outsource everything in IT are over. Sensible minds understand that it’s critical to have employees that understand the company and what it does. We may outsource some of our hands and feet, but never our brains.