by Steve Weston

5 reasons every CIO must use contractors to survive digital transformation

Jul 14, 2017
CIODigital TransformationIT Jobs

Rapid technological advances are a sign of our time. They have enthralled users and given us access to an expanding and exciting digital bounty, but they’ve also left many IT departments scrambling to deliver IT and business transformation projects as quickly as possible in order to stay relevant.rn

digital transformation competitive
Credit: Thinkstock

So, are you one of the two-thirds of senior managers who worry that their company will no longer be competitive by the end of the decade if they don’t become more digitised? This is a very real challenge facing many businesses all over the world, it’s inevitable and unavoidable.

By its very nature, digital transformation is revolutionary. And, in order for it to be truly successful, there are few departments in your business that won’t be required to play an active role in making it happen.

The role of the CIO in driving digital transformation

As an IT leader, a huge part of the buck will ultimately stop with you. You are responsible for driving the agenda for digital disruption within your business, and ensuring a consistent mind-set of consistent innovation within your business going forward. You will need to guide your company and its people through some major changes, ensure your existing infrastructure is future-proofed, and put technology practices into place seamlessly, whilst complementing the day-to-day business as usual. All of this means you will become more and more reliant on the current skills and adaptability of the team around you, and your future talent pipeline.

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As the CIO of a global business going through similar challenges, I understand all too well that one of the biggest obstacles to reaping the benefits of digital transformation is the changes it requires, the demands it places on IT teams, and a lack of skills. So, before embarking on the path of digital transformation, we, as CIOs don’t just need to assess the technology and infrastructure currently in place – we also need to assess the talent and skills of our existing teams. This is a huge undertaking in itself and will likely highlight gaps and areas in which you need to bring in extra resources. And this is where contractors can help – here’s why:

1. Contractors will help you plug the skills gap

The fastest-growing skills gaps in labour markets around the world are in digital and tech. And most astute CIOs will be all too aware that their businesses are lacking some of the key skills needed to digitally transform their businesses. For example, the widening cyber security skills gap is one that desperately needs addressing, as technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) start to play an even greater part in any digital transformation.

Contractors can help you fill this gap, not just with the skills they bring to the table, but with the experience they will have working across multiple digital transformation projects for different companies and, potentially, in different industries. Not only is this of huge benefit to your projects, but also to your existing IT teams. After all, it is becoming increasingly common for IT teams to partner with other departments within the business – as a result, IT professionals are required to be more and more astute in this respect. Contractors will inherently have a high level of business acumen due to their wide-ranging experience, and will help your existing team become more commercially-minded – a key skill which our IT workforces of the future will need.

2. Contractors can help upskill your existing teams

And that brings me on to my next and very important point. Hiring contractors can quickly enable and facilitate the upskilling of your current IT workforce – and not just in the ways outlined above. By working side-by-side and in a collaborative way with highly skilled contractors on a daily basis, your existing teams will constantly be exposed to new skills and perspectives.

And this can only be a good thing. You will find your permanent workforce will be transformed along the journey and be reenergised far more than they would be if they were sent on a sterile training course. So, it really is a win-win – no longer will your current teams be destined to a legacy role, but you are able to future-proof your workforce in the same breath.

3. Contractors can give you flexibility

As I said earlier, the pressures of digitalising their businesses have left many CIOs scrambling to deliver IT and business transformation projects as quickly as possible in order to stay relevant. Contractors are the ideal flexible resource to help you deliver these projects on time and in budget. They can quickly, and often at short notice, be brought into your organisation to perform specific and highly skilled tasks. They will hit the ground running and offer the agility needed to adapt to immediate pressures and demands without adding to your permanent headcount. They’re quickly engaged and can be just as quickly released – which is an advantage from an employer perspective when flexibility is key and change can happen quickly.

4. Contractors can help you manage resistance to change

For me, a successful IT strategy is all about making processes faster, more efficient and easier to navigate. With this, can come a resistance to change – and that can slow progress down and mean costs and workloads ramp up. This resistance is amplified for internal digital transformation projects. For example, where a legacy customer management system is replaced with a user-friendly GUI, updated business processes and new functionality. Research reveals that 88 per cent of CIOs feel there are barriers to such internal digital projects. These barriers include: the pressure to jump into internal digital initiatives faster than they should and the business underestimating what investment is needed for such projects.Contractors can help CIOs address this resistance at a grass roots level as they work with the people affected by and working towards a digital transformation.

5. Contractors can help you drive forward your digital agenda

Your permanent staff may understand your organisation, but they may not be aware of other techniques and technologies from outside of the business or industry that could be highly useful in delivering the project in hand. In order to stay relevant and to ensure their long-term contracting success, contractor’s simply have to be ahead of the trends and are familiar with upcoming technologies – and they will bring that experience to your organisation. Hiring contractors can also be the perfect remedy to the ‘Groupthink’ disease that affects many good companies with low labour turnover, as they introduce a continuous stream of fresh ideas into your organisation.

I’ve suggested many reasons why supplementing your workforce with contractors could help you digitally transform your business. Contractors can help boost productivity, innovation, employee satisfaction and, ultimately, your bottom line.