The fight for human capital in the IT sector
IDC Canada estimates that there were more than 54,000 IT job vacancies in Canada in 2016. Considering how much IT has grown since then, both in size and its importance to business as a strategic asset, that number is sure to be even higher today. So how does a business, particularly a small to medium-sized business (SMB) cope? As the backbone of Canada’s economy, these businesses need to grow. How can they compete for those rare IT skills, and what do they do if they can’t find, attract or retain them?
These were some of the questions we asked a group of SMB CIOs and IT leaders in a recent TELUS Digital ThinkTank executive roundtable.
Outsource. Outsource. Outsource.
The forthcoming group of participating CIOs agreed that outsourcing delivers both the skills and the infrastructure they need, with predictable costs and without the risks. Outsourcing IT functions allows businesses the agility to add new servers faster, and for less, without worrying about who is available to manage and maintain them. In fact, some of the CIOs believe that in the future, their businesses won’t own much infrastructure at all.
Given their sizes, employees of SMBs frequently “wear many hats” and manage multiple functions, which makes the case for outsourcing even more compelling. They are also prepared to pay a premium for the breadth of services offered by outsourcing providers, and they look for larger, reputable and reliable providers that can deliver SLAs for mission-critical functions.
However, while outsourcing delivers significant benefits, managing multiple and varied vendors creates its own set of challenges. So what is the right number of providers or partners to have? For most of our IT leaders, three is the recommended optimal number, with 10 being too many and one being too risky.
Even with the availability of managed providers, some in-house IT personnel will always be needed. How can an SMB attract millennials today? Here, the CIOs turned the tables and asked us how we do it at TELUS. Steve Leslie, Senior VP, Business Solutions, shared that TELUS has developed a number of leadership programs and leads the field in offering very attractive workstyles options that allow team members to work where they are most effective, improving their work-life balance.
One CIO suggested that it’s also about marketing. Naming your departments “IT” and “Accounting” simply won’t attract today’s skilled younger workers. He suggested using hot catch-phrases in job titles, such as “Innovation” and “Business Transformation,” to attract their interest.
Looking to the future
Despite the extensive discussion of outsourcing, we still had time to talk about the future of IT and where SMB CIOs see things going as far as their businesses are concerned. They agreed without exception that CIOs have to be open to new ideas and understand that their role in an organization is constantly changing. Instead of concentrating on the back-end, they have to also consider what they can do for the business strategically. That means IT has to be at the table when decisions are made—and the CIO must be able to sell ideas to the CEO and the board, using quantifiable numbers that are “hard to argue with.”