What CIOs Can Learn From the Anaheim Ducks

By Jack Rosenberger

Soon after the Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007, a group of parents whose children attended JSerra High in San Juan Capistrano, a city of 35,000 located 30 miles south of the Duck’s arena in Anaheim, Calif., approached Art Trottier, a Ducks executive, and asked him if the organization would help finance a high school hockey team. The parents’ request was not unusual—plenty of organizations, including public libraries, finance local sports teams—but the Ducks’ response was unusual in both its boldness and long-term vision. Not only did the Ducks agree to help fund the JSerra team, but it launched an enterprising initiative to establish hockey as a high school sport in Orange County, where the Ducks arena is located, and more broadly in southern California.  

Over the last six years, the Ducks have purchased and refurbished seven ice and roller rinks in Orange County, enabling it to provide the high school teams with ice time for practices and games. And the Ducks’ financial support has grown from providing skates, gloves and other gear for one team to establishing its own high school hockey league. The Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League now includes 28 teams in two varsity divisions and one junior varsity division. The majority of the teams are located in Orange County, but a few are as far away as San Jose, which is 371 miles south of Orange County.

As a business, the Ducks compete against baseball, basketball and football, all of which are more popular sports than hockey in southern California. When Henry Samueli bought the Ducks in 2005, the new management team strategically set out to build the organization’s fan base so regular-season attendance at Honda Center was less dependent on the team’s position in the Pacific Division standings. Hence, the creation of the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League meshed very well with the Ducks’ efforts to build a community of loyal and, hopefully, lifelong fans.

Just as the Ducks executives started to address a fan base issue in 2005, CIOs and other executives need to address an IT talent shortage today. Most organizations, unless they are a top-tier outfit like Google, are suffering from a lack of skilled workers. Seven in 10 executives complain there is a shortage of needed tech talent, according to a recent TECHNA poll of more than 1,700 C-suite level technology and business executives. Likewise, a Robert Half Technology poll of more than 2,300 CIOs found that seven in 10 executives say it’s “challenging” to find skilled IT workers.

In order to develop a pipeline of tech workers and ensure their IT organization is adequately if not well staffed, CIOs should look to the following three models.

Establish a Sector-Based Innovation Program
One of the best examples of sector-based tech programs is The FinTech Innovation Lab, an annual program established by New York City’s financial services sector in 2010. To ensure the banking sector is both technologically competitive and innovative, JPMorgan, CitiGroup and a dozen other major banks created the 12-week financial technology accelerator program in which a selected handful of tech startups get advice, product feedback and mentorship from CIOs, CEOs and other executives at New York’s leading banks and venture capital firms. Last year’s FinTech Innovation Lab produced ground-breaking tablet apps, security and storage solutions, analytics software, and more, specifically tailored for the financial services sector.   

Develop a Skills-Based Ecosystem
One of the revenue-producing mainstays of IBM’s hardware division is its mainframe computers. Big Iron, of course, requires specialized programming languages and other skills, and to help guarantee a steady supply of knowledgeable mainframe workers, IBM launched the System z Academic Initiative, a collaborative program between IBM and governments and academia in more than 70 countries. One of initiative’s projects is the Master the Mainframe Contest, which IBM says “has enabled more than 65,000 students to learn sought-after computing skills” since its 2005 inception.

Create an IT Academy
To expand the IT workforce in Washington, Microsoft launched the Microsoft IT Academy that has taught high school students a variety of job-ready skills, ranging from web navigation to database development. In late 2013, the Washington state legislature approved $1.5 million for the program, which now offers Microsoft IT Academy classes online to 380 public colleges, community colleges, technical colleges and tribal libraries throughout the state. The result: Microsoft is making IT skills development and certification available to hundreds of thousands of high school and college students throughout its home state.    

Just as the Ducks needed to actively participate in the development of its fans, CIOs need to address their organization’s need for IT workers. In order to build your own talent pipeline, you must decide which of the above models work for your organization—and execute.

About the Author

Jack Rosenberger is the managing editor of CIO Insight. You can follow him on Twitter via @CIOInsight. To read his previous CIO Insight blog post, “Does Your To-Do List Contain a Live Frog?”, click here.

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