Non-IT Staff Find Their Way Into MIS

The fast turnover in information technology (IT) manpower has led some managers to pluck non-IT people from other departments and place them in the world of management information systems. The results have been surprisingly positive, as non-IT workers, usually from finance and accounting, seem quick to grasp the skills needed for IT work.

TRANSFERS

Noel Herrera, IT director at Century Canning Corp. told Computerworld Philippines that the company has transferred non-IT employees to the computer department a number of times.

Herrera usually gets people from the finance and accounting department because that is where the bulk of computerization is applied. "We would train them on systems development, and surprisingly, I never had difficulty in training them, because they already know the core processes of the company," said Herrera.

The Jaka Group of Companies has also changed the career paths of its non-IT people. "Because of the fast turnover in the IT department I've taken people from the audit department four times already and made them IT professionals," said Tess Lavarias, IT manager at Jaka. "It's better than having to wait for new hires and training them."

Lavarias, too, said she never had difficulty in equipping non-IT people with computer skills. "Sometimes it's easier to train the non-IT people because they already know the core procedures of the company, which is an advantage when it comes to systems design."

Petron Corp. has also pulled out people from other departments and given them IT responsibilities. When the company decided to deploy an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system four years ago, they transferred Cristina Menorca, then the manager of the purchasing department, to the IT department. They appointed her as the manager of the business systems support department and her first assignment was to head Petron's humongous ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) project. She had no experience in IT. Menorca told Computerworld Philippines that she was transferred to the IT field because she knew the company's processes very well.

At Glaxo Wellcome Philippines, however, they haven't done internal transfers for a long time. "To address shortages in IT manpower, we rely on external outsources during periods of high activity and, as best we can, train up our staff to handle IT requirements in the medium to long-term,'' said Noel R. Isberto, the company's director for corporate affairs and information management.

RETRAINING

When new technology is being deployed in the company and there is a shortage of IT manpower, many companies retrain their existing IT staff rather than hire new workers who are already trained in the new technology.

"We cannot just add manpower without the approval of management, so we retrain our current IT staff," said Lavarias of the Jaka Group. "It would be better to update the skills of current staff rather than hire already experienced IT people who would eventually leave you."

Isberto's strategy is to first assess if the technology is "core" or not. "Core technology means that we should have the IT resource internally. Hence, we will hire new people or train up our current staff,'' said Isberto. He added that non-core areas would normally be outsourced.

Geney Hufana, electronic data processing manager at All AsiaLife Assurance Corp., said that when they deploy new technology, it makes more sense to retrain current IT staff than to hire people who are already knowledgeable in that particular technology.

SENIOR VS. JUNIOR

A challenge that some IT managers face is making the attitudes and work styles of junior and senior workers gel.

"Most of the time, my problem is making the junior and senior staff work together harmoniously," said Herrera. "The senior people who have been with the company more than five years are resistant to change and are complacent, while my junior staff are aggressive and excited with new technology."

Jaka's Lavarias said she only experiences this problem at the start of a project where there are both senior and junior IT staff involved. "But eventually they click because I keep reminding them of their respective roles and responsibilities and that a project will only succeed if everybody works together as a team."

But Petron's Menorca has a different story to tell. "Surprisingly, we don't have a problem with that scenario."

Menorca's challenge was making the business people work harmoniously with the IT people during the implementation of Petron's ERP system. "The business people are used to field work and dealing with different kinds of people, while the IT people are used to sitting in front of the computer all day," she said.

Glaxo's Isberto, too, hasn't had any problems in getting the junior and senior staff working together. Isberto describes his senior staff as diligent and committed to the business. "They understand the customers well and are aware of the need to be constantly updated on new trends and technology."

On the other hand, Isberto characterizes the junior staff as confident about new technology and ambitious.

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