ANN ARBOR – Gary Erickson, managing director of Executive Search Partners, provides tips on how CIOs can land top jobs at major companies even during a pandemic. In fact, he said, demand for CIOs that know the business completely that can develop products that drive sales can write their own ticket. You’re going to want to watch this video.

Q: – the pandemic has had a significant impact on all of our lives and jobs.  How has it specifically affected IT positions overall?

We all recognize that the front line workers have been the heroes of this pandemic.   I think that IT people are right behind them.  The ability of IT to rapidly provide remote access to company systems and remote collaborations tools

like Zoom and Slack has helped people stay employed and safe.

The pandemic has increased the stature of IT people – not sure that it has had any impact on salaries. But fewer companies are looking at IT as a cost center, and now look at IT as an enable of the business. At a minimum, it should make it easier for CIO’s to defend their IT headcount from company wide cut backs.

Many industries have found that their people can work from anywhere – because of the tools for access, and collaboration.  This is particularly true for IT professionals.  As an example, my son works for a now successful start-up company in California and his girlfriend works for Google.  They live in San Francisco, but have spent a month working from Florida and are now working from Boulder, CA.    I don’t think either wants to go back to the working from their offices in Mountain View and the long commuter. 

From a recruiting perspective, we are beginning to see companies willing to consider remote candidates, not just local candidates – especially if you are in a high cost area like California and can get equally skilled IT professionals at a lower cost elsewhere.   But, this is a trend, not a tidal wave.

Q: Has the pandemic changed the role of senior IT positions?   

This is most evident at the CIO position but has significant implications for all senior level IT positions.   The CIO role has been slowly shifting from Technology Leader to cross-functional business leader.  The pandemic significantly accelerated this shift.   I think we are going to see a shake out in senior level IT positions over the next year or two as those IT leaders who cannot make the shift will be replaced with cross functional business leaders.   And an increasing number of them will come from outside of IT.

Q: What advice do you have for existing IT leaders so they do not get replaced?

First – recognize the shift in the perception of IT as a business enabler, not a cost center.  

Second – review all of your strategic and tactical plans.   How many of these are focused on implementing new or replacement technologies and how many are focused on transforming the business?  What do you talk about with other members of the executive team? Do you spend time trying to explain AWS to them or do you spend time talking about business strategies and how IT can enable better customer connectivity?   What do you talk to IT employees about?  How much time do you spend with the business?  How much time do your IT people spend with the business?

Third – Look at your measurements of IT success.  Do you focus on uptime and cost as a percentage of sales, or do you focus on customer engagement measures, sales number, time to market for new products and services etc.

Fourth – really really increase your knowledge of your business. 

                     i.      How much do you really know about the business?  What was the last time you met with real customers of the business – not just your internal customers.   What do you know about your competitors?  Have you visited any of them?  Have you talked to any of their customers?   When was the last time you went to the operational parts your organization and watched what they do?   Asked them about what they need?  Asked them about what they like and dislike about their computer systems and what could you be doing to help them do their jobs better?

                    ii.      What conferences do you go to?  Are they all IT conferences?   Or do you only go to industry conferences?

                  iii.      What do you read? 

Lets say you are an IT leader looking for a new position.  What is your #1 piece of advice:

Recognize that IT exists to help the business – helping the business cut costs and improve efficiency.  Help the business improve sales and increase customer engagement.    

Change your resume so your accomplishments are business enablement accomplishments. 

                   i.      Throw out the ones where you talk about the new email system you put in or the cloud enablement project you led. 

                 ii.      Use business metrics not IT metrics like increased sales by x or reduce manufacturing costs by y. 

                 iii.      Use the PAR format:  what was the business PROBLEM you were solving;  what ACTIONS did you take, and what RESULTS did you achieve.  The results should be business results, not IT results.

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