The future tech leadership talent is you

As the technology industry continues to evolve, meeting future demands requires new leadership talent.

Mastery of technology skills + knowledge.
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Throughout my career, I’ve unfortunately seen many experienced technology leaders in Australia and New Zealand (A/NZ) fall behind in the talent stakes. Frustratingly, I see teams that are just the same as their leader – CIOs of an old generation mindset attracting old school talent.

Some of the most experienced leaders and technologists in emerging technologies have found themselves unsuccessful in the job market due to the lack of new world competencies, behaviours and mindsets.

Over the last two years, and particularly since COVID-19 disrupted businesses across A/NZ, there has been greater traction from local CEOs and boards demanding strong technology leadership to future proof their businesses. I’ve witnessed so many changes in leadership during this time, which brings the focus on CIO talent to a tipping point.

Two types of CIOs 

There are two macro examples at play within the local industry. The first is experienced CIOs that have willfully disrupted themselves and are now being elevated to executive committee level. They’re taking on technology and innovation for the whole organisation, even for operational technologies.

The second is experienced CIOs that have accepted they can’t make a difference and are constantly pointing to limited CEO and board interaction, blaming them for the lack of technology traction. There are many cases in A/NZ where these CIOs have been pushed down the chain or asked to leave as they’re no longer seen to fit the scope of the future.

A CIO in the Australian resources sector, for example, was recently replaced by the head of procurement due to their passion and knowledge about future technology and how it can drive the business forward. Similarly, the head of HR in a local utilities business replaced the CIO when the company restructured for growth, as the HR leader understood how important technology is to building the future workforce.

In both examples, business people have been empowered by extending technology as a key enabler of the workforce.

Determine future requirements

Gartner has recently experienced an increase in enquiries from CEOs to help recruit the right technology talent, ranging from CIOs to the head of functional technology owners. It’s clear from these discussions that the focus of these business leaders has shifted and they’re now expecting future technology talent.

When I talk with them about their requirements, I cunningly shape six themes into the conversation to gauge if they have a clear and fundamental view about the future:

  • What is your philosophy about digital/emerging technologies, how will it support the business and how do you manage it as an enterprise asset?
  • How do you view and approach the vendor ecosystem and what is your view of its interaction with your business?
  • Where will you go to find and how will you approach finding talent for your team?
  • How is technology placed in the business and what are your views about democratisation of technology?
  • Where does the job of technology innovation belong today?
  • What do you look for in a CEO and a Board that makes you feel it’s a great opportunity to be a technology leader in that business?

As a CIO in the spotlight, ask yourself these six questions and see where you land. Be critical about your ability to meet future talent expectations. Then score yourself out of 10 on four execution capabilities:

  1. Do you have a business approach to technology?
  2. Do you know how technology will future proof the business?
  3. Are you capable of making traction quickly and successfully?
  4. Are you capable of interacting at Board level and able to support the Board with decision-making?

Once you’ve determined where you sit, then it’s time to explore your next level down talent and ensure you attract the right skills and expertise to meet the company’s future requirements.

Finding the right talent

At its core, the future of technology talent lies in artificial intelligence (AI), data & analytics, user experience (UX) and platforms. CIOs won’t be able to employ all this talent directly.

Apart from capabilities, behaviours and mindsets, a carefully plotted talent acquisition plan determines whether there’s a business person that can take up application and data roles. Can the ownership of data quality be shifted to super users no longer using business analysts? Can a business person be appointed to drive your digital and change management programs?

Other things to consider are whether there’s a vendor person that can drive your infrastructure and operations strategy; if you can transfer parts of your required technology talent to strategic partners for execution; or if you’ve expanded the possibility of a trusted open-source talent pool. The list of possibilities is endless and broad.

It has been really encouraging to see some CIOs in A/NZ ahead of this conversation. For the future of the digital capability, economic prosperity and technology enhancing workforce productivity in both countries, hopefully more CIOs will be brutally honest about their leadership talent and make an impactful shift.

Brian Ferreira is a VP and managing executive partner at Gartner. He advises C-Suite clients across Australia and New Zealand on shifting to a digital strategy to achieve new business outcomes and how best to approach technology, risk, governance, digital and agile investment for CFOs.

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