IS Lite - the next generation

Dubbed 'IS Lite', the next generation IS organisation would comprise a savvy leader in the role of strategist and services broker supported by a relatively small elite team. This is the future as predicted by Gartner analysts at Gartner Symposium ITxpo 2000 in Brisbane last week.

But to succeed IS Lite organisations would not be lightweight, but sharp outfits that retained the 'right' competencies in-house and had the ability to select the 'right' enterprise service providers (ESPs).

In separate sessions, analysts Roger Woolfe and Rolf Jester outlined processes that take the selection of the 'right' staff way beyond gut feeling and into the realm of management science, in so far as any management activity can be called a science. Unfortunately, I only have space here to outline the in-house personnel selection side of the story.

"We believe that IS is being chiselled away by two main forces - service providers and at the same time there is a significant amount of change in the business [environment] which is seeing IS being embedded in the business," Woolfe said.

"You are not going to outsource everything unless you really want to put your head in the noose, but what [competencies] to keep in-house ?" he asked his audience of mostly senior IT executives.

Woolfe couched his answer in terms of what he saw as IS Lite's five key roles - vendor management, technology advancement, business enhancement, architecture development and IT leadership - and the associated personnel 'competencies' that would be needed to make these happen.

Competency analysis has been around for quite few years, but in the past has blown out into an unwieldy mess as organisations struggled with 100 or more competency categories. To make it all more manageable, Woolfe says, Gartner has selected 'just' 25 competencies relevant to the five roles of IS Lite.

Of these, six are technical including 'designing technical architecture', nine are business based including 'communicating/listening and gathering information' and 10 are behavioural including 'leading, inspiring and building trust'. Four performance levels - basic, proficient , advanced and coach are defined for each competency.

The next step is creating a 'role profile' where for each of the five key roles competencies and performance levels are identified. Individual or 'personal' profiles of the existing workforce with a grading for each competency would be created for comparison against the role profiles. This information would allow management to identify the people the organisation 'absolutely must keep' and to describe the people it needs to recruit, according to Woolfe.

However, he did warn managers not to 'overdo it' on the competency scoring. His paper added that it was a mistake to set standards that were 'unreasonably and unnecessarily high' and that it is 'better to select the competencies that really make a difference, and set performance levels that are high but not too demanding'.

Woolfe observed that it is far easier to train for technical competencies than to train for behavioural ones. As a result, he suggested, provocatively, that when selecting staff for an IS Lite future, to select first on behavioural competencies, rather than work the other way around.

I hope my sketchy outline of 'IS Lite' is more helpful than confusing, but believe me, a few diagrams and charts make the picture a little clearer. What's not clear is how much smaller an IS Lite outfit would be and to what level the 'supporting infrastructure processes' will be outsourced throughout Australia.

What's your view on the future of Australian IT departments?

IS Lite already here?

Comments to david_beynon@idg.com.au

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