Impossible task of finding the perfect IT leader - HR Future helps people prepare for the Future of Work and is South Africa's leading print, digital and online Human Resources magazine.

Impossible task of finding the perfect IT leader


Today's fast-paced business environment is characterised by change and innovation, especially in the complex ICT environment.
Considering the vast list of expectations, finding the perfect IT manager has become an impossible task.

Many medium-sized organisations think IT managers are a special breed, especially considering their list of expectations. They often require one person to do the following: be the technical expert, implement BI projects, provide strategic advice, run the IT department, manage staff and vendors and of course be happy to jump in and help any user whenever needed.

These unrealistic job descriptions are often initiated by the business leader responsible for the IT function. In small and medium companies this is usually the financial director or even the managing director.

The problem is that the finance and HR departments often involved in drawing up the job description don't really know much about IT - not enough to fully understand what can be expected from a single individual.

Also in the small and medium market segment, no real templates exist and job specs are usually put together from a wish list compiled by a number of executives and business unit leaders.

Many of these expectations are difficult to combine into one person or are even mutually exclusive. Many of the tasks are also on different levels of maturity - a strategic thinker will no longer want to perform hands-on operational tasks. A single IT resource can only have a generalist capability across such a wide area of expertise.

Of course, the IT job seekers don't help matters by claiming they can do everything, and amongst all the tech jargon, the candidate or the standard the placement agent uses, no-one can determine whether they are right or not.

Typically, the individuals fulfilling a generalist IT role, both within the IT industry and businesses in general, come from technical implementation and support backgrounds. Most often this leads to a technical approach to addressing areas for growth instead of the business value proposition, thereby inadvertently widening the business-IT divide even further.

Even in situations where business leaders are aware of these challenges, the fact that they don't know of viable alternatives still sees them proceed to appoint a single 'jack of all trades' leader. This is done in the hope that this individual will over time, address the most pressing needs. Unfortunately, this almost never works out and leads to disappointment and unfulfilled expectations.

While it may be possible to find these 'super humans', there are not many around. They will typically demand a higher salary than what many SMEs are willing to pay. Also, if one is so lucky to find one, they normally don't stay long enough, and being one person, can only do so much.

Solving the IT leader problem is actually easier than it sounds and we are surprised that not more SMEs are following this route.

We believe the reason is that many SMEs first have to undergo a mindset change and appreciate that there are up to four strategic value propositions information technology can have for a business.

At present, most businesses only know how to tap into one of the four possible opportunities, leaving a lot of untapped value on the table.

This view is very different from just seeing IT as a cost that needs to be minimised and places focus on finding ways to leverage technology insights strategically.

Once this change of perspective has taken place, business leaders will realise that the first question should not be about how much a specific IT leaders cost, but how much business value they want to generate from information technology.

Everything else thereafter just falls into place.

Mathias Tölken is the COO at Xuviate.

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