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Why HR and IT are now strategic partners

By working together, HR and IT can help the business win the battle of finding and retaining highly skilled employees.

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Dell EMC

Understanding the workforce

The latest Future Workforce Study from Dell EMC and Intel has some eye-opening findings for both IT and HR (Human Resources) leaders. Among them: Forty-two percent of millennials are likely to quit a job if the technology they have available to them is substandard. Across most consumer demographics, but especially millennials, most people complain that the technology they have at “home” is more modern and more valuable than the technology they have in the workplace. And while companies race to embrace new enablements like smartphones, 39 percent of workers say employee-employer trust is waning or trust isn’t there at all. Let’s just think about that for a minute.

Almost half your employees may be ready to walk out the door either because they find the technology they use at work inferior or they don’t trust their employer. Wow.

Like it or not, millennials are the first of future generations driving massive change in the workplace. There are two compounding observations to be mindful of:

  1. Millennials are ascending into the ranks of management in the workplace.
  2. The first true digital natives, known as Generation Z, are starting to enter the workplace.

  Keep in mind that the people who make up Gen Z are generally less trusting, more anti-establishment and are used to having everything personalized for them — all much more than the generations who have come before them. 

What does that mean?

If many CIOs and their IT groups have come to be known as the department of “No!”, then I suspect that HR (Human Resources) groups now sit on the precipice of becoming the department of “Oh No!”

Here is what I think is going on

CIOs are focused on delivery.

CIOs have been worried most about their capability to deliver, while CEOs, in particular, and the rest of the CXO bench in general, are focused on business outcomes. In many organizations this communications paradigm is a key disconnect. Cloud migrations are a perfect example; economic savings are seldom realized while the benefits of driving business velocity and IT agility are underappreciated.

BYOD and rogue IT are everywhere.

The race to provide mobile solutions and BYOD (bring your own device) has wreaked havoc in many organizations. This is generally because these solutions are bolted on to dinosaur-class infrastructure, legacy application extensions or retrofits, and archaic perimeter-based security solutions. And as we have seen, when IT gets in the way, millennials, more than any other group to date, empower themselves to sidestep the barriers placed in their path to success — hence the birth of rogue IT and the use of “unapproved apps,” e.g. rogue apps. In some large enterprises, I’ve witnessed more than 18,000 rogue apps in use.

Data is growing at exponential rates.

The pace of technology solutions is accelerating. Data is growing at such an exponential rate we can barely measure it. As IoT (Internet of Things) takes hold, by some estimates, upwards of 180 zettabytes will be collected by 2025. New questions are arising about how we provision, secure and analyze all this data to benefit the business.

Speed, intelligence, personalization, business velocity and agility define the new digital dawn. Great tech is not about business enablement. Great tech is about business empowerment. I think that this is what defines digital transformation.

The key issues for the CIO

For the CIO, two critical questions rise from all of this:

  1. How do they modernize IT to drive business velocity?
  2. How will they evolve their enterprise infrastructure and solutions, to be at least as agile as the employees they expect to use it?

What I’m describing isn’t about disruption. In fact, few if any CIOs or business leaders whom I speak with like the word “disruption.” It’s about digital transformation. It is about digital cohesion; seamlessly integrating the power of computing, networking, analytics and harnessing these capabilities into the future of the workplace. The objective is to foster more convenience and applied decision making that maximizes enterprise value and minimizes the mundane.

For most organizational CIOs, the critical issue is about time, not money. Competing in the era of digital business is about accelerating business velocity and business agility by orchestrating first and foremost around the cloud and mobile. Equally, at its core, a digital business is heavily dependent upon analytics, new security models and automation.

And it is about talent. Never have we faced the criticality of attracting and retaining great talent as such a make-or-break top priority. Skills that were important even just five years ago are becoming less relevant, and the new higher-level skills are scarce. What does this mean?

HR and IT as partners

I think this explains a trend I’ve been seeing over the last year. HR is becoming a buyer of IT. Now before your head explodes, let me explain that HR isn’t about to absorb or consume some of the IT budget, as some business groups and marketing have. Instead, your sales organizations might start developing the skills to talk to a generally non-technical HR executive who more than ever is emerging as a partner with IT, both as a corporate influencer and talent advocate.

 Some of the key issues facing HR from an IT perspective include:

  1. How does a solution help make our employees more productive?
  2. How will a particular solution grow as the demands of our employees’ grow?
  3. How will a particular solution help us to attract and retain great talent?
  4. Will a particular solution engender trust or alienate employees in the workplace?

  HR and IT can learn from one another and become allies for both investing in modernizing tech and in acquiring new talent. CIOs and HR are both strategic stakeholders in a company.

Enterprises should ask themselves how HR and IT can work more strategically together, so they can strengthen their joint strategic roles in the company and deliver more value to the C-Suite, and for the bottom line.

Bob Egan is chief analyst and founder of Sepharim Research Group. This article was sponsored by Dell, but the opinions are those of the author and don’t necessarily represent Dell EMC’s positions or strategies.