How To Make IT A Competitive Differentiator And Career Enabler For Non-IT Staff

One of our clients recently asked us to help them with an interesting query:

We’re looking for companies that use their internal IT as a competitive differentiator — attracting employees and enabling their success in a noticeably different way. This would focus on the non-IT staff, rather than IT staff.

Since the end of the Internet bubble and Nicholas Carr’s Harvard Business Review article, “IT Doesn’t Matter,” 10 years ago, IT executives have worked very hard to increase IT’s business relevance. They put internal IT through several waves of consolidation, outsourcing, and reorganization aimed to make IT more efficient, reliable, and service-oriented. But how many of these actions also managed to make IT a differentiating, more attractive place to work?

I have seen different approaches for making IT a more attractive workplace, for non-IT staff in particular. While trying to escape the traditional IT cliché, these models have some similarities with the three archetypes of IT — and different value propositions:

  1. Solid utilities extend their scope beyond IT services to support corporate processes. For example, Procter & Gamble’s GBS and Volkswagen’s Konzern IT use business analysts and positions to attract non-IT talent.
  2. Trusted suppliers are providers of high-tech specialized business solutions, such as Bloomberg or FactSet in the finance sector, looking for specialized engineers motivated to find their competitive IT edge.
  3. Partner players are IT functions integrated into the business operations. Such functions attract non-IT candidates, engineers and mathematicians interested in IT and also in understanding, for example, the trading floor or how R&D works.

I would very much appreciate your comments and ideas on how to make IT a more competitive differentiator and career enabler for non-IT staff. Are the discussed approaches the right ones? What should do IT executives differently? How could business executives help? It would also be helpful if you would share other examples of internal IT functions that make a difference and explain why.

 Thank you in advance.


Focus on the friction

In the past, I've seen the most success when IT focuses on removing friction - not just in the sense "what's broken with your computer" but by working with process improvement professionals, and implementing or building tools that smooth out the rough parts of the organization's processes.

The IT group can't be just reactionary, it needs to take a look at the basics of the business: sales, recruitment, meetings, communications, etc and identify areas for improvement. Removing friction from the daily activities of the employees will not only build a stronger relationship with IT, but will also improve the performance of the organization.

I'm biased (disclosure - I'm the co-founder of TribeHR) but I believe that HR software is a key place to do this, particularly in the SMB space where retaining top talent can be a huge edge.