IT Staffing Strategy Considerations

What are the elements of a staffing strategy? What are the the things to consider when developing a staffing strategy? These are the questions I want to address in this post.

Division of work: What is that taxonomy into which you divide the work into that helps you decide how to staff?

Often IT organizations divide along lines of administration and delivery. Sometimes delivery is divided between support and development. For product organizations that don’t support installed customer platform, administration includes platform or infrastructure. For enterprise IT delivery includes platform or infrastructure. For product companies that also host their product on shared infrastructure, platform may be divided between administration and delivery.

Occasionally, IT organizations will have a sales or relationship function, separate from administration and delivery. Sometimes an R&D function will included, separate from administration and delivery. Sometimes both of these are included in the delivery organization.

Value/Non-Value: For each category in that taxonomy what are the value chain and non-value chain activities, what is the ratio between them?

Depending on your organization’s mission, each division will have some allocation to value and non-value work. Administration is typically tilted heavily to non-value work. Delivery is tilted heavily toward value work, or at least it should be. Some people say that R&D is totally value, others say it is totally non-value. Again, it depends on the mission of the company.

Customer: How does your relationship with your paying customer impact your staffing. How does your sales/demand forecast affect staffing?

How responsive is your organization designed to be toward your customer. What is the ratio of support staff to customer predicated on? How does new business or capital funding impact your staffing size? What parts of your staff need to scale (grow) as new business is won or capital becomes available?

Alignment (skill, customer, product, other): How is your organization aligned? Is it by skill set? by customer or customer base? by product? Hybrid of these?

Do you favor a silo model either by product or customer group? Do you favor a skill matrix, with pools of highly skilled specialists forming virtual teams to complete projects? Do your application development groups follow one model and your infrastructure teams follow another model.

Capacity (dynamics): How do you grow, scale, reduce your capacity in reaction to market/funding changes? What is your static/minimum staff needed to “keep the lights on”? How large can your staff grow with the current leadership?

Do you use contract staff to manage scale? Do you also contract leadership when necessary? What policies are in place that make it difficult to scale effectively? Is leadership a challenge (do you have too few leaders to scale effectively)? What is the largest your organization can scale to while remaining reasonably efficient and effective?

Development (leadership capacity): How do you increase the effectiveness of your staff? How do you decide whether a new hire requires competence, talent, or leadership (which are you hiring?).

Are the people that will become your next leaders already on your staff? How do you prepare them for their first official leadership role? When you hire contract staff, do you have a view towards retaining the most competent, talented, or lead capable as permanent staff? Do you have any formal leadership development programs? Mentoring, training, shadowing? How do you differentiate leaders of work, from leaders of people?

Experience: What role does experience play in your hiring decisions? Your internal promotions?

When you hire, do you look for “experienced” resources? Does longevity matter to you or diversity? In your mind, does experience produce skill, competence, or talent? What about internal seniority? Or is experience merely a chance to demonstrate skill, competence, talent or leadership?

Cost: What role does salary or rate play in your hiring decisions?

Do you have a standard rate card for contract staff in various roles? How flexible are your salary bands for permanent staff? How do you think of reducing staff cost? Use better staff or cheaper staff? Do you use offshore? Does your salary policy inhibit your ability to hire high potential candidates in entry level positions?

Mobility: What options do you provide for staff with talent, or leadership capacity to grow and develop in new ways?

How much authority do managers have to hold back promotions or transfers? How do managers evaluate talent and leadership capacity within their own staff? How are succession plans developed and coordinated? What percent of leadership is hired via internal promotion vs. external search? What form of coaching or mentoring do you offer to individuals who are identified as talented or having leadership capacity.

Longevity: How do you retain valuable staff members? How do you displace lower value employees to make room for higher value candidates?

The cost of capability and knowledge leaving an organization is very high. On the other hand, the cost of preventing new talent ad capability from entering is high as well. The traditional talent retention factors, compensation, accomplishment and mobility are important, but culture and environment are becoming more significant. Policies that allow managers to terminate low capability, low potential, non-mobile employees to make room to hire higher capability, potential, mobility is important to keep the talent pool full.
While I call these things strategy considerations, they are really policy considerations as well.  As senior leaders of IT organizations, we need to have answers to these kinds of questions, so that we can formulate a cohesive plan for building a forward-looking staffing model.  We probably will need to look at our current policies and spending to determine whether the current policies are moving us closer to or further from our desired target state.

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