Digital transformation initiatives accelerated during the pandemic, as vast segments of the global workforce shifted to remote work. And that triggered other impacts, such as an increase in cyberthreats and evolving data privacy concerns. At the same time, other initiatives, which may have been put on hold at the outset, are now full steam ahead.
It’s no wonder that acquiring the IT talent needed to drive those initiatives is keeping executives awake at night. As CIO Dive reported, “The ability to attract and retain technology workers, essential for execution on IT projects and priorities, sits atop C-suite priorities.”
Filling Critical Roles to Support Tech and Digital Initiatives
RGP’s Talent Acquisition team provides vital support to bring in professionals with the skills and experience to successfully execute these strategic initiatives. We talked with VP Talent Acquisition Dane Carlton and Talent Management Director Erin Hollek to learn how they’re navigating the tech talent crunch.
How is the so-called Great Resignation impacting your job to find the right people for important technology and digital roles?
Erin: The biggest impact right now is that it’s a candidates’ market. A lot of people are attracted to technology because it’s always evolving, and if their work isn’t evolving, they can get bored. They don’t want to do the same thing forever—they want to work on new, exciting things. Consulting can be a great opportunity for these professionals because technology is ever-changing, ever-growing, always advancing.
If you’re in a traditional role with an organization for 10 years, maybe they’ll upgrade their technology, but maybe not. So you could be working with that same technology stack the entire time you’re there. With consulting, you do a project, you fix the client’s issues and implement or optimize their systems—and then you move on to the next engagement with new challenges, new systems, new applications. So you’re continually developing your skills and always growing.
Dane: It really started with the beginning of the pandemic. The work-from-home movement was always a slow burn until 2020. While a lot of people were able to work from anywhere for quite some time, the vast majority of people were still going into an office every day.
Some companies were more at the forefront of remote work than others, but the pandemic forced everybody’s hand. As it’s become possible to work anywhere, people want more flexibility for their workspace. So organizations have been making a lot of capital investments to modernize their environments.
Building and Supporting the Modern Workplace
That upward trend will almost certainly continue. A recent Gartner survey indicates that IT spending will increase more than it has in a decade—with much of that investment going toward cybersecurity, data and cloud. It’s all about building and protecting a resilient, sustainable infrastructure that’s ready for the Now of Work.
What’s driving the intense demand for IT talent right now?
Dane: Companies are always evolving, but with this work-from-anywhere reality that we live in, companies have been forced to change and to modernize. So they’re upgrading, updating and sunsetting old technologies, and implementing new business systems. This is driving demand for program, portfolio and project managers who have strong experience in digital transformation and the Agile methodology. I see a lot of demand for talented professionals who can drive change while helping to execute on the deliverables.
Erin: SAP S/4HANA implementation initiatives are definitely the biggest trend we’re seeing right now. Full support for SAP ECC 6.0 ends in 2027, which means companies need to migrate to S/4HANA before then, and for most that is a massive undertaking. Many companies are moving their initial implementation from ECC up, or they’re embarking on subsequent phases of their implementations. Maybe they began and then held off due to resource constraints, or until the timing was right for the business. Or they just implemented the modules for part of their business—maybe finance and accounting or supply chain—and now they’re ready to do the rest.
I think there were a lot of companies that were ready to make the move before or during COVID, and they put it off thinking it might just be a couple of months delayed. They put all these resources and project plans together, and now, they just need to go forward. It’s kind of a race to the finish.
Easing the Tech Talent Crunch
Whether it’s for a cloud migration or other transformational initiative, the talent gap makes it harder to win that race. In a global survey of technology and digital executives, more than two-thirds reported being unable to keep pace with change because of a lack of expertise (Digital Leadership Report 2021, Harvey Nash Group).
How are you recruiting to meet these surging demands?
Erin: When we look at an implementation, we focus on business process analysts, project managers and data specialists. We are not the system implementer—we deliver great value as the liaison between the system implementer and our client, focusing primarily on business processes and integration. This ensures the business gets what it needs from the technology being implemented. The majority of what we do is related to accounting and finance and supply chain modules within ERPs.
Our consultants typically have an accounting or other functional background, and they understand the business processes within the system that’s being implemented. They help ensure that all the right applications are moved over and set up appropriately.
Dane: I’m usually looking for someone with a consulting background and/or a background in information technology and services organizations. Sometimes they have a certification that’s relevant in the project management or Agile space, such as a PMP, ITIL or Certified SAFe Practitioner. But their background is truly in functional project management, program management and portfolio management. For our purposes—for areas like software development lifecycle, post-acquisition system integration—that means a focus on reengineering and improving business processes.
It’s about getting the exact right person with the right background for the position. But there’s also the human aspect of it. RGP has a distinctively human-first, “sleeves up” culture and employee experience, values we express as “L.I.F.E.A.T. RGP.” That means each employee experiences and contributes to a work-life built on:
Those attributes are important. We hope to attract talented individuals who come to us not only with subject matter expertise but also a point of view. It’s that “T shape,” where they’re very broad, but they can go extremely deep in very specific ways. For those consultants who have multi-year client relationships, soft skills are just as important as hard skills. It’s not just about what you know, but what you could do with what you know. And those are two different things.
We’re unlikely to see the demand for tech-savvy talent let up anytime soon. If anything, the gap is likely to grow, as companies invest in future-ready operating models and the people, processes and technology to support them.