Bold hiring strategies from fearless CIOs

Everyone's afraid. You can't read an article, watch a news broadcast or speak to another human being without tasting the fear. We all may agree that we'd be stupid not to be cautious, but smart leaders are working to mitigate fear and move their organizations forward.

Gone are the days of planning a three-year project and hiring 100 people to support it on day one. But are multiyear project initiatives also a thing of the past? The threat of a double-dip recession is prompting such discussions. But Michelle Garvey, CIO of Warnaco, a global apparel distributor, is one leader not buying into that chatter. She views phased implementations as a proven way to mitigate risk and manage fear, and thinks CIOs should be them doing more often, not less.

"We have a complex business that we manage across multiple geographies, channels and brands," she says. "While we have plenty of projects with short time horizons, we are definitely continuing multiyear initiatives-mostly in the supply chain, retail and business intelligence areas."

Garvey says that in this market you need "a bigger shift to phased implementations that carry pay-as-you-go benefits to fund the next phase with proven results." Incremental improvements are key to achieving the longer-term plan, but Garvey made it clear that CIOs must have "a laser-like focus on initiatives that add value within the planning horizon."

Robert Juliano, CIO of Brandywine Realty Trust, concurs. "We continue to have and execute a multiyear strategic plan. IT investments are the best answer in a do-more-with-less business world. Good IT is a lever to amplify strengths, and there's never been a more important time to be an effective strength multiplier for your company."

You Can't Save Your Way to SuccessNo one is saying you should go all in on hiring, but you do need to get creative and keep moving forward. "We're hiring, but very strategically," Garvey explains. "We don't always replace departing people, sometimes we reorganize to better match upcoming needs, but we do hire new positions for key skill sets that we need and to support our growth globally."

Juliano pays attention and works to maximize each hire. "We upgraded a Web development role as part of hiring a backfill," he says. "With the increased focus on data access and on digital marketing, the Web development role has become increasingly important." Juliano says Brandywine has also selectively outsourced and augmented staffing to speed time to market or to free core team resources to concentrate on strategic objectives.

Greg Flay, CIO at Green Mountain Energy, is in the middle of a multiyear implementation of a customer management and billing platform capable of supporting rapid enterprisewide growth. He says his company is continually assessing its capabilities to ensure it has the right mix of internal employees and outsourced resources to support development. "As a result, this year we have both hired new employees and reassigned existing employees to key positions in the new IT organization in the areas of project management, enterprise architecture, and operations management."

To Flay, working fearlessly is mission critical for today's CIO. "The bottom line is that a CIO that is not helping the rest of senior management lead the battle against market competition is a CIO waiting for his or her company to die," he says. "That should be the scariest outcome of all."

Ask yourself: Would you be hiring right now if you weren't so afraid? CIOs need to keep the long term in focus while managing projects using today's information-no small feat. But no one has any definite answers, so take what you do know and decide what you're going to do.

Kristen Lamoreaux is president and CEO of Lamoreaux Search, which focuses on finding IT professionals for hiring managers.

Read more about project management in CIO's Project Management Drilldown.

This story, "Bold hiring strategies from fearless CIOs" was originally published by CIO.

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