It is critically important to develop and maintain a skills inventory of the people in your department. First and foremost, this requires defining taxonomy relative to those skills. Then, it's essential to have all employees document the skills they currently possess. This skills inventory should be refreshed whenever there is a new hire, and through each evaluation cycle, providing an "as is" picture of the skills of your staff.
Develop a workforce plan reflecting the skills the IT department will need in the future based on where the company is headed, business and IT strategy, and so forth. This is the "to be" state of the staff's skills. The gulf between the "as is" picture and the "to be" state should then be evaluated; this will drive your training, recruiting and vendor-engagement strategies.
Meaningful evaluations must be conducted to identify your best employees. "As a leader, the worst thing you can do is treat unequal people equally," says Michael Capone, corporate vice president and CIO of Automatic Data Processing (ADP). "Remind your best people of the value they bring to the organization. This is the way to motivate them to do extraordinary things during difficult times."
Likewise, it is critically important to have an "as is" and "to be" understanding of the IT infrastructure that is in place; both scenarios should be represented in your infrastructure road map. By plotting software, hardware, applications, networks and such into a road map--and maintaining that road map--you will have a clear picture of which components of your infrastructure are on the verge of being implemented, which are being maintained and added to, and which should be retired.
The CIO and other IT leaders must make it part of their jobs to engage in regular, formal and informal communications with their business-side colleagues. This is important in order to get a preview of strategy before it is fully formed and to engender trust with business colleagues. It will also enable you to suggest ideas to the business.
Weaving IT into the fabric of the strategic plans of the business is critical. IT leaders must push business leaders to articulate their plans in a uniform manner. This way, IT can easily digest those plans and use them as valuable inputs to the aforementioned workforce plan and infrastructure road map. It is especially important that IT leaders make themselves strategically relevant when times are good.
"If you were not relevant in the business strategy before a downturn," Capone says, "you are not going to become relevant during times of crisis."
Once the business articulates its plans, IT should contemplate what those plans collectively indicate in terms of IT imperatives. Sample questions to consider: What are the business intelligence needs of our company's various divisions now? What will our needs be in 12 months? In 24 months? How do these needs impact the IT investments we need to make today in order to support that long-term vision?