Are CIOs doing enough to inspire tomorrow's world?

CIOs report a massive skills gap that means they and their organisations cannot find the talent they need to enable their businesses to grow.

Yet in August this year unemployment for 16-24-year-olds increased to 973,000. Something isn’t working and a new system for sourcing talent has to be found. Although the need for CIOs to understand the business is well established and will never diminish, in an increasingly technological world the need for strong technology skills will also never diminish. This title has heard plenty of stories of organisations that sleepwalked into disastrous relationships from not having the core technology skills available to assess the promises of a vendor.

As every CIO knows, strong skills come with both aptitude and passion. This title is also concerned that the CIO community will not develop and remain sustainable unless a generation of new technology leaders is joining the community at the entry level. In the short to medium term, the existing CIO community cannot thrive and deliver on its promise if the skills base for a vibrant workforce fails to exist.

So it was with great interest in March of this year when interviewing Mark Adams-Wright, at the time CIO of Suffolk County Council, that we saw how Adams-Wright and his organisation had taken steps towards creating the next generation of CIOs.

This title features CIOs at the height of their careers but, in a departure from the norm, we wanted to profile an individual at the very beginning of their career to see what insights they could offer all of us in the face of a changing world.

Adams-Wright talked animatedly of the talent discovered at a hack day that Suffolk County Council and the CIO had organised. Naturally we were keen to learn more about an individual who at a very early stage of his career exhibits the key skills of being a CIO and who already knows he wants to take on this hallowed role.

At 18 years of age, Tom O’Brien looks every inch the young university student he is about to become. Although unlikely, given his strong interest in IT, we all know from our own youths that a chance moment can change your career course. In the world of sport it is well documented by coaches and managers of great talent suddenly discovering the joys of beer, partying and the opposite sex, and the focus needed to excel loses out to the good times.

It could have been so easy for O’Brien to have followed a very different life course, but that chance initiative by a CIO and a British software company has at least secured the talents of one youngster, but the question hanging over from this interview is how many others is the industry missing out on?

App hotline

Adams-Wright originally set up a hack day to give members of the Suffolk county the chance to develop apps they felt the county needed and for the community to make decisions about how public data is used.

“We wanted a Suffolk app for Suffolk people, so we got them to tell us what they wanted,” said Adams-Wright. “We created a hotline for people to tell us app ideas and we ran workshops with staff to work out what data we had to work with and, from their ideas, what apps were needed too.

“By the hack day itself we had already amassed 60-plus concepts and on the day we had a similar amount of people join us to code and develop apps,” the CIO said.

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