IT Skills Inventory Starts With Your IT Staffing Model

Before investing a ton of time in an extensive IT skills inventory and the maintenance nightmare of keeping a individual IT skills matrix up to date, think about starting with a simple IT staffing model. That was the approach I recently took with a client who sensed their imbalance in IT costs and operational issues might be due to an IT skills gaps.

IT Skill Inventory

As it turns out, the IT department already had a pretty good IT skills inventory model in use which were mostly up to date for the current staff. If there was a weakness in the approach they were using it was that it only took inventory of the technical skills.

Ideally, an IT skills inventory should use a skills matrix that also accounts for general business knowledge of your industry and the functional departments to be supported. Likewise, the IT skill matrix should have at least a few items related to general IT support processes like incident management as well as customer service.

Somehow I would also like to stress the importance of taking inventory of the knowledge and skills required for developing business intimacy and relationships. These can be the more difficult soft skills, including leadership skills, but it is worth the time and may go a long way towards creating an ascension plan.

Like I said at the beginning, this can quickly get out of hand with dozens of skills being tracked on dozens of personnel. A regular maintenance nightmare than rarely yields actionable results without a strategic workforce planning system in place.

IT Staffing Model as IT Skills Inventory

IT Skills Invetory Using an IT Staffing Model

I have found that creating a role-based IT skills inventory using a simple IT staffing model can be very effective for the most common issues faced by managers including understanding the IT cost issue.

To create a simple IT skills inventory using a role-based approach I usually follow the concept of the technology stack. I line up the typical roles using the architecture layers and the corresponding IT service roles that are found in the IT support model including the departmental roles.

With a few possible exceptions, this will also produce a support model with the more expensive resources on the bottom and the less costly ones at the top.

I then try to denote with colors and the use of brackets which roles are covered by the various IT support teams, departmental resources and which ones can be fulfilled by the various vendors.

You can, and should, include roles that do not exist on staff that you do rely on through vendors. That may be programmers, web developers, or DBA’s.

You might also denote very specialized skills such as social media or mobile applications. And, you can include roles for IT processes and other administrative functions such as procurement or IT accounting.

Using Your IT Staffing Model

This is of course is a bit of a generalization, but it can be a powerful starting point for a conversation with your IT governance committee on the effects of certain technology and service decisions that force IT to cover roles it does not support today. It is also very useful  in illustrating how an increase in demand for certain roles might mean it is too costly to use outside resources or why a cloud service makes more sense.

Maybe you will use the IT staffing model as a conversation starter with your managers who are considering switching platforms but are not thinking about the effects on the current roles and the impact a new technology will have on productivity.

The use of an IT staffing model of this type instead of a complex IT skills inventory is that it simplifies other discussions like the distinctions between a database administrator (the propeller head DBA) and the data architect who works in the application layer. This understanding will also help bring clarity to compensation questions.

Similarly, the role of departmental resources can be brought forward and analyzed to better assess the amount of hidden IT support occurring by departmental resources which may be more effectively delivered using centralized IT resources. But this can also lead to formalizing a virtual support model to improve efficiencies.

So before you invest a ton of time and effort in taking a traditional IT skills inventory think about using a simplified IT staffing model using the typical IT roles to get the discussion going. If you are trying to uncover an imbalance in costs this is usually much more useful. You may also find this kind of visual is very useful in your annual strategic planning work as a way of focusing your strategy to simplify the portfolio or transfer specific support to the vendors.

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10 Responses to IT Skills Inventory Starts With Your IT Staffing Model

  1. Pingback: IT Skills Inventory Starts With Your IT Staffing Model | Hi-Tech Professional Development in Higher Education |

  2. Nicholas Yong says:

    It’s interesting to note the apparent frustration you’ve expressed in “Somehow I would also like to stress the importance of taking inventory of the knowledge and skills required for developing business intimacy and relationships. These can be the more difficult soft skills, including leadership skills, but it is worth the time and may go a long way towards creating an ascension plan.”

    It appears that you may have gone up against organizations where leadership has stated “we’ve got the best people” or “nothing is wrong here!”

    The soft skills you describe not only are the reasons IT isn’t seen as strategic by other C level executives, it’s the reason why staff typically don’t like asking for IT for assistance until it’s absolutely critical such as devices full of malware and viruses.

    Being able to solve technical problems is a wonderful talent. Being able to relate and not make the end user feel stupid in the process is priceless.

    Negotiation/mediation/rapport building should be the first place that IT looks when enhancing their image. Looking at the model you have, network engineers could learn alot from their 1st level responders — the help desk and desktop support. Typically these individuals have better communication skills because there may be a more formalized process of customer service training involved.

    The difficult part is convincing the CIO/CTO.

  3. The Higher Ed CIO says:

    Nicholas – I was just trying to use some shorthand. In general, as a manager and consultant, I prefer to hire for soft skills and train for the technical and process skills.

  4. Nicholas Yong says:

    And you’re one of the enlightened few that recognize those facts and are able to pursue training for technical skills and hiring for soft skills first!

    … that’s what attracted me to your blog and compelled me to post.

  5. The Higher Ed CIO says:

    Thanks for your kind words. You may find these earlier posts to be of interest to you as well:
    TRS-80 to Customer Focus
    6 Tips for Hiring Great Teams

  6. IT placement says:

    The job isn’t over once a candidate is placed. In fact, what happens after the placement is as crucial to the company’s success as the placement itself. Account managers should keep in regular contact with both candidate and client throughout the duration of the assignment. They should know if the experience is a positive one for the IT professional and if the client is satisfied with the work being performed by the candidate.

  7. The Higher Ed CIO says:

    Absolutely. If you use a placement firm there should be a warranty period of sorts and continual follow-up.

  8. Jay Adams says:

    Once you’ve identified a high level inventory of roles, at some point do you drill deeper and answer things like: 1) Do the right people have the right access? 2) Are skill sets being utilized at the right level? I’m curious to the approach the average CIO takes once they’ve identified roles in their organization.

  9. The Higher Ed CIO says:

    Certainly many CIO’s go down that path right away when they are working to answer those questions. I am not sure I connect the access question with skills except by asking if people have too much access for their skill level.

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