In the media – Bridging the gap between HR and CIO

High rates of project failure – particularly among IT projects – negatively impact corporate reputations and the bottom line. Eddie Kilkelly, examines how HR can work with chief information officers to improve results.

This article was featured in HR Magazine

Studies suggest that between 65% and 80% of IT projects fail to meet their objectives, significantly over-running time or cost targets. Poor project management is usually cited, but most organisations use proven methodologies and there are more trained project management professionals than ever before.

So why do failure rates remain stubbornly high?

IT projects are particularly challenging because systems can vary massively between offices and countries and technology itself changes so rapidly an original brief may no longer fit for purpose.

This complexity is unavoidable when managing organisations in fast-moving global markets – the difference between success and failure is the people involved.

Businesses need employees who are competent in delivering projects and stakeholders who have bought into the change. In both respects, HR directors (HRDs) and chief information officers (CIOs) have a role to play.

The ownership gap

While the HRD is responsible for staffing issues, the CIO will have targets around service levels and IT project delivery. These typical organisational silos create a gap – who “owns” the change agenda, ensuring the right people are in place now and in the future to deliver the right projects for business success?

Some organisations are starting to realise that ownership must be shared, with additional KPIs related to the success of overarching change programmes assigned to departments like HR and IT. This gives both the HRD and the CIO a personal interest in contributing to change projects.

In fact, the behaviours, emotional intelligence and commitment of senior managers are critical to successful change leadership. HR can help senior management implement peer assessments of behaviour that measure emotional intelligence. Visible, professional co-operation at a senior level sets an example, breaking down silos and focusing minds on project success.

Capable people

Across the organisation, employees need the professional and technical skills to undertake their allocated project role, whether that is developer, project manager, sponsor or user representative.

These roles and the required skills can differ from the individual’s day job and HR can play a critical role in assessing competences to identify skills gaps within the project team.

The accelerated pace of change of IT projects means it is particularly important to ensure the right skills are available when needed.

Again, both HR and the CIO will need to work together to gain an insight into the technical skills required now and in the future. From an HR perspective, succession planning can help to reduce staff churn (this is particularly important as there is a global shortage of skilled IT professionals) and provide early visibility of future skills shortages, which can be addressed to ensure that the right skills are available to the project as and when needed.

In addition, in-work mentoring and coaching programmes that go beyond project management training can help IT project managers to implement their learning in a way that fits with the organisation’s real business needs.

Tips in delivering successful change projects

IT projects often require specific technical skills that may be new to the organisation. HR can help to bridge skills gaps and deliver IT project success by:

  1. Developing a technical specialism within HR to understand evolving technologies
  2. Performing regular competence assessments to determine current skill-sets prior to project allocation
  3. Compiling a central register of competencies and technical skills
  4. Sharing portfolio plans between CIO and HR to give early visibility and advance warning of peak demand
  5. Maintaining clear visibility of resource allocation, both technical staff and project expertise
  6. Ensure Project Reviews include a section on resource allocation to determine whether staffing can be improved for future projects.
150 150 Eddie Kilkelly

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