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CIO Manchester Roundtable: Key Takeaways

17/06/2019 By Helen Fleming

La Fosse was delighted to host a roundtable event focused on how to build a high-performing technology workforce for CIOs. The event took place in Manchester, and was facilitated by Tim Jones – CIO of Moneysupermarket. We took away the following points: 

Sourcing strategies: Breadth is key

London has always been a draw for graduates, with most well-known businesses having their central HQ located in the capital. As a result, retaining talent in the North has, historically, been a difficult feat.  

To counter the desirability of moving to London, many IT leaders have been forced to look at different measures to retain talent outside of the capital. With graduate recruitment high on the agenda, companies have been using a model aimed at fostering growth through long-term ‘grassroots development’ initiatives to entice uni leavers. These initiatives, promise real, on-the-job skill development and a clear career trajectory.  

In addition, apprenticeships and fast-track bootcamps are springing up around the North apace, offering an alternative to university - and its associated debt - thanks to funding from the government’s apprenticeship levy. 

On top of this, businesses are exploring a variety of talent pools – including apprenticeships, return-to-workers and ex-forces. These individuals bring a variety of skill sets - like the ability to work to time and under pressure - to both software development teams themselves and wider operational roles.

Diversity means a lot of things

It’s widely accepted that the industry has a diversity problem. One of the first steps to tackling diversity is looking at inclusion. This involves creating a working environment where people feel they can be themselves while having policies put in place to reinforce this. 

Crucially, when discussing diversity it is imperative that this doesn’t just pertain to race or socio-economic background. One of the main driving forces for change it was revealed, comes from including people based on age. In a recent survey carried out by Stack Overflow, about 75% of professional Developers are under 35. With recruitment strategies increasingly dependant on graduates, the benefit of an experienced candidate brings a vital new perspective to a team. 

Get your story straight

People value authenticity, so it’s essential companies practice what their employer brand preaches. If you're claiming to have an innovative culture, you need to be able to demonstrate this with full transparency to keep your staff.

Positive cultural change means allowing employees the freedom and space to innovate – having the trust and respect in your employees to grant a certain degree of autonomy rather than a command and control model has demonstrated success. This doesn't have to necessitate the creation of some kind of "hub" – it might just mean letting them have a management-free discussion zone once every six weeks, empowering them to come up with their own ideas and present them back to the senior team.

Legacy: not just a tech issue

With technology's half life now often only around five years, the battle to maintain legacy rages strong, and always needs updated weapons in its arsenal. This has a massive impact on the ability to hire, in a frustratingly self-perpetuating structure: you're not going to be able to recruit the best people on a five year old tech stack. 

Slow and steady wins the race - no matter what age you are as a business, you need to be chewing away constantly at your legacy code, so you're not suddenly confronted with a massive programme of debt reduction.

Structuring tech teams: keep your structure soft, your business goals aligned, and avoid the superheroes

Having good people with consistently developing skill sets means consistently having to change organisational structure. Talented people need to feel comfortable working in a company that supports them and gives them room to grow, so pay heed and be adaptable. 

The best talent also always wants to learn. This is useful, because a key goal for IT Leaders should be to enable knowledge transfer away from the "superheroes" -  the people who get called at 2am when there’s a crisis, because no-one else quite knows how the code works in the same way (obviously, the less of these, the better.)

The aim is to have an organisation where everyone is striving towards shared goals, and where the teams are built by the CIO but for the business, and aligned to the business strategy, with a structure and KPIs which reflect this. 

If you're interested in attending our next event for CIOs, please don't hesitate to reach out at helen.fleming@lafosse.com.

Feedback:

"Thank you for an excellent evening. These events succeed or fail based on the attendee mix, venue and hosts and on all three fronts it was thoroughly successful. Had an enjoyable and constructive night which I took a number of learning lessons from."

"Great food, great company and some great insights. Loads of fun. Thank you."

"This was one of the best events of this type I have attended. Excellent attendee selection added to value of session. Excellent venue."

"I genuinely enjoyed the event – I am very selective about what I attend. It was extremely refreshing to talk about people at a CIO event."

"Great investment of time, thoroughly enjoyable, definitely do it again. Thanks!"

 
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