It is no secret that a lack of technology skills is holding IT departments back with 42% not able to meet current business demands due to staff shortages. Clearly, this is holding businesses back. Why don’t boards take action and what can be done about it?

This Information Age article reported the conclusions of this survey which was commissioned by network solutions provider Brocade. It argued that:

  • IT departments themselves lack the skills to influence boards
  • IT planning needs to be aligned with other areas of business planning and avoid siloism
  • IT departments need to take responsibility for their own destiny

While capability on the IT side is clearly lacking, I’d also argue that boards aren’t taking IT departments and their requirements seriously enough. And they're not recognising the competitive edge digitalisation can give. So, how can IT departments better influence their boards and the wider enterprise?

Time and again, I have handled search mandates from clients requesting technology leaders who can be better influencers and more specifically, influence non-technology parties. Developing these competencies within an organisation is crucial. But it is not easy. Over the years, some of the technology leaders in my network have made major decisions around improving the influencing skills of technology managers and creating a business culture that can respond better to new or improved technologies.  Some of these, at first glance, seem counterintuitive or even wrong-headed; however, few regret them. These very varied moves have included: 

  • Promoting junior internal technology managers over more senior and seemingly better skilled external candidates, because strong internal relationships are so crucial for influence . Then, upskilling the junior managers so to address their knowledge gaps.
  • Having board-sponsored  schemes where any staff member can volunteer to improve activities such as data management and be recognised by the business for doing so
  • Launching vertical mentoring: where younger, more technologically savvy members of staff mentor older members of staff on subjects such as social media marketing or personal cybersecurity
  • Sponsoring IT influencers of the future: where high potentials in the IT function are not only developed but are also 'betted on'; in this way, they are 'invested in' by a director-level leader who actively supports these protégés in preparing for, identifying and getting promoted into technology-orientated leadership roles