Why HR is the CIO’s Strategic Partner

HR and IT can learn from each other and become allies in digital transformation, for both investing in modernizing tech and in acquiring new talent.

By Bob Egan, Chief Analyst, Founder, Sepharim Research Group

Forty-two percent of millennials have a likelihood to quit a job if the technology they have available to them is substandard. Across most consumer demographics, but especially millennials, most people complain that the technology they have at “home” is more modern and more valuable than the technology they have in the workplace. And while companies race to embrace new enablements like smartphones, 39 percent of workers say employee-employer trust is waning or trust isn’t there at all. Let’s just think about that for a minute.

Almost half your employees may be ready to walk out the door either because they hate the technology they use at work or they don’t trust their employer. Wow.

Like it or not, millennials are the first of future generations driving massive change in the workplace. There are two compounding observations to be mindful of:

Millennials are ascending into the ranks of management in the workplace.

The first true digital natives known as Generation Z are starting to enter the workplace.

Keep in mind that the people who make up Gen Z are generally less trusting, more anti-establishment and are used to having everything personalized for them than the generations who have come before.

What does that mean?

If many CIOs and their IT groups have come to be known as the department of “No!”, then I suspect that HR (Human Resources) groups now sit on the precipice of becoming the department of “Oh No!”

Here is what I think is going on.

First, many CIOs have been worried most about their capability to deliver, while CEOs, in particular, and the rest of the CXO bench in general, are focused on business outcomes. In many organizations this communications paradigm is a big disconnect. Cloud migrations are a perfect example; economic savings are seldom realized while the benefits of driving business velocity and IT agility are underappreciated.

Second, the race to provide mobile solutions and BYOD (bring your own device) has wreaked havoc in many organizations. This is generally because these solutions are bolted on to dinosaur class infrastructure, legacy application extensions or retrofits, and archaic perimeter based security solutions. And as we have seen, when IT gets in the way, millennials more than any other group to date, empower themselves to side step the barriers placed in their path to success – hence the birth of rogue IT and the use of “unapproved apps” e.g. rogue apps. In some large enterprises, I’ve witnessed more than 18,000 rogue apps in use.

Third, the pace of technology solutions is accelerating. Data is growing at such an exponential rate we can barely measure it. By some estimates upwards of 180 zettabytes by 2025 as IoT (Internet of Things) takes hold. New questions are arising about how we provision, secure and analyze all this data to benefit the business.

Speed, intelligence, personalization, business velocity and agility define the new digital dawn. Great tech is not about business enablement. Great tech is about business empowerment. I think that this is what defines digital transformation.

For many CIOs swimming in a sea of saturated technology options bombarding them each and every day, big key issues arise including:

How do they modernize IT to drive business velocity?

How will they evolve their enterprise infrastructure and solutions, to be at least as agile as the employees they expect to use it?

What I’m describing isn’t about disruption. In fact, few if any CIOs or business leaders whom I speak with like the word “disruption.” It’s about digital transformation. It is about digital cohesion; seamlessly integrating the power of computing, networking, analytics and harnessing these capabilities into the future of the workplace. The objective is to foster more convenience and applied decision making that maximizes enterprise value and minimizes the mundane.

For most organizational CIOs, the critical issue is about time, not money. Competing in the era of digital business is about accelerating business velocity and business agility by orchestrating around cloud-first and mobile first. Equally, at its core, a digital business is heavily dependent upon analytics, new security models and automation.

And it is about talent. Never have we faced the criticality of attracting and retaining great talent as such a make-or-break top priority. Skills that were important even just five years ago are becoming less relevant, and the new higher-level skills are scarce. What does this mean?

HR and IT as Partners

I think this explains a trend I’ve been seeing over the last year. HR is becoming a buyer of IT. Now before your head explodes, let me explain that HR isn’t about to absorb or consume some of the IT budget as some business groups and marketing have. Instead, your sales organizations might start developing the skills to talk to a generally non-technical HR executive who more than ever is emerging as a partner with IT, both as a corporate influencer and talent advocate.

Some of the key issues facing HR from an IT perspective include:

  1. How does a solution help make our employees more productive?
  2. How will a particular solution grow as the demands of our employees’ grow?
  3. How will a particular solutions help us to attract and retain great talent?
  4. Will a particular solution engender trust or alienate employees in the workplace?

HR and IT can learn from each other and become allies for both investing in modernizing tech and in acquiring new talent. CIOs and HR are both strategic stakeholders in a company.

Enterprises should ask themselves how HR and IT can work more strategically together, so they can strengthen their joint strategic roles in the company and deliver more value to the C-Suite and for the bottom line.

This article was sponsored by Dell, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dell’s positions or strategies.