by Julian Goldsmith

Who are your key staff?

Apr 29, 20124 mins
IT Leadership

I just came across this interesting article on the BBC about identifying essential workers. Its focus is on the rising tendency for certain groups of workers to go on strike, but the thought processes can easily be applied to any workforce.

As managers, CIOs often need to consider who within the team is the most valuable and what impact it might have if they suddenly left.

CIOs will take heart that the article actually suggests that IT and internet professionals across the board are key to the UK economy and acknowledges many businesses would quickly be unable to function if they all up and went on strike.

For individual IT departments, the prospect of key people disappearing isn’t so far-fetched, as yearly investment budgets have been renewed at this time and many organisations are looking for new staff to initiate IT projects.

You may find some of your team getting better offers of work elsewhere or demanding pay hikes to stay.

Other organisations, especially in the public sector are still feeling the squeeze and CIOs there may have the difficult decision to make of which of their team they will have to let go.

Here are a few questions you need to ask yourself to decide which of your team you really can’t do without:

Who is paid the most? Many IT professionals demand high salaries, because they have expert knowledge on a specific technology or they are able to complete deployments to budget and on time.

These people are often highly valuable, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that these people would have the biggest impact on the business if they weren’t there. Not everyone who is highly paid is worth the money.

Who takes care of emergencies? Although they don’t necessarily get paid the most, the people who swoop in to fix systems as soon as they are broken may be your most precious asset, especially if you have to deal with ageing systems and can’t afford an upgrade.

Who contributes to business growth? Keeping the lights on is an important job, but so is contributing to the development of the business.

It’s no longer acceptable stay in a business rut and the people you have who are capable of turning business vision into corporate strategy could mean the difference between becoming the market leader or being gobbled up by a competitor.

Who could be replaced the most easily? Some IT roles are more in demand than others. Some skills are particularly scarce. Some roles are rare now but the training in them is growing.

It may appear hard but the employment market may dictate what roles you can afford to let go now and recruit for later.

What will fail at the slowest rate? Not all business processes fall down right away if the requisite IT skills aren’t there to support them.

There may be something in your task portfolio that will act like a slow puncture, getting worse over time, but not quite failing entirely, giving you time to plan a hire in the future when you can afford to.

What could you replace from outside? The IT supplier industry is becoming more services focused. One of your suppliers may be able to perform a role that is currently within your own staff.

Who has the longest list of accreditations? You may have staff that are not particularly crucial to your team on an operational level but who are qualified in a certain area governed by some sort of regulatory compliance.

Who would be missed first by other staff? The person who services the CEO’s laptop may not be the best paid or considered a lynchpin in your organisation, but you’ll hear about it if they aren’t around and the boss’s PC crashes.

What could other staff learn to do without? It may not be the most satisfactory solution from your point of view, and business-line staff may not be enthused by the prospect, but it is usually possible to create a work-around for most business processes.

It will highlight some IT processes that are redundant and pinpoint others where the technology is crucial to the welfare of the business.

What do you need most right now? Many businesses are seasonal to some extent. All companies go through developmental cycles of change and consolidation.

Some roles only have value at certain points in time and are inactive in others. Do you need them around in the fallow period?