An article on the McKinsey site recently discussed the issue of developing and retaining IT talent, especially the key skills it believes are necessary for organisations planning to become a digital enterprise. For an enterprise to become digitized it needs to implement transformative IT-oriented projects, and without the necessary IT knowledge and experience, projects often overrun on budget and time, and don’t deliver value. However, being McKinsey, the article is targeted at large organisations, whereas I am more interested in how small or mid-size businesses (SMBs) can apply their advice.
McKinsey highlights three IT roles which companies should keep in-house.
- IT program manager
needs to oversee the project, understand both the business context and the technology involved, and have strong management capabilities. He or she must also be able to talk about technology and business decisions in a language that business managers understand.
- Business change leader
responsible for ensuring that the organization adopts the new solution. This role requires strong communication skills and an understanding of the full amplitude of the transformation and its implications for the business side, including required organizational, process, and mind-set changes.
- Lead IT architect
responsible for reviewing and challenging technical proposals and deliverables such as solution design and IT architecture. He or she needs to understand the current IT architecture and also have a good view of the transformation journey to ensure that decisions fit with the architecture road map.
Why could this not apply to SMBs? Because SMBs typically have staff with multiple or overlapping responsibilities, while larger companies tend to have more specialised, narrow roles. SMBs also dont’ usually have the budget to hire such specialised staff.
Therefore I would modify the McKinsey article for SMBs. Here are three existing roles in an SMB which could take on the responsibilities mentioned above.
- CFO or Financial Director – IT program manager role
In most SMBs I have dealt with, the overall responsibility for IT has been with the CFO or FD. Therefore this dual role should not pose a major problem for most SMBs.
- Human Resources Manager – business change leader role
This is the dual role that could be controversial. In some SMBs, the HR manager role can be mainly administrative, however unless the CEO wants to take on this responsibility, HR would seem to be only only other option.
- IT manager – lead IT architect role
A non-brainer in my opinion. The only manager in an SMB with the background and skills to do the IT architect role is the IT manager.
I would be interested to hear if any alternatives are suggested.