December 26, 2000, 4:50 PM — Q I have always maintained that the most important aspect of IT is the people. The technology is just a tool by which management furthers the interests of the business and enhances shareholder value based on knowledge gained from the data that they are able to turn into useful information. If we are to believe what we read about a shortage of individuals with IT skills, it appears that one of the most vexing problems that CIOs and their staff are having is the ability to recruit and retain people. Add to this the push for developing some level of diversity (other than H-1B candidates) throughout the enterprise. What advice would you give to CIOs who are looking to increase the level of diversity within their organizations? And is diversity something that CIOs are concerned about?
A You are absolutely right when you refer to human capital as the most important asset of any enterprise. In IT, the boxes and the pipes are certainly critical. But the people behind the IT vision, the strategy, the design, the deployment and the support of the technology are what's really important. The right people can make the difference between business success and failure, between good and bad company operating performance and between market leadership and mediocrity. Most good CIOs and other business leaders know that their No. 1 job is acquiring, developing and holding on to good people. This mission-critical responsibility, exacerbated by a shortage of professional IT personnel estimated at between 300,000 and 400,000 and still growing, usually overshadows the diversity issue. That is to say, given the shortage of talent, CIOs and their management team will pursue all qualified candidates regardless of any diversity issues. Those companies and those CIOs that are tuned in to the value of diversity, and proactively seek out diversity candidates, can be rewarded by the contribution such candidates can make. There are several professional organizations and societies such as the Black Data Processing Associates (www.bdpa.org) that can help.