Career Watch: The rise of people architecture

David Foote, the chief analyst at IT workforce research firm Foote Partners says people architecture is gaining popularity.

David Foote
David Foote, chief analyst, Foote Partners

What is people architecture? It's very similar in principle to traditional IT architecture initiatives, but applied to workforce management and IT human capital practices. There are capability road maps, phase-gate blueprints and performance metrics. Governance issues need attention, and business strategy drives it all. But with people architecture, it's about how key human capital management elements such as job definition, skills acquisition, compensation, professional development, work/life balance and recognition plug into an overall optimized operational model. The model is tuned to new technologies, business strategy, organizational goals, and culture and performance philosophies, and it promotes flexibility and scalability, like any disciplined architecture approach.

For employers, people architecture can mean improved individual and team performance and more predictable execution, more consistent availability and quality of skills and workers, higher utilization rates, and optimized resource supply/demand management. For IT professionals, it can mean more tangible career paths, more useful feedback on how they fit into the overall IT and business mission, and less confusion about job options. And we hear stories about better morale.

How is it implemented? People architecture has a long tail; much can be implemented in months, but it is really built incrementally over years. It starts with adopting a model in which technology professionals inhabit broad, horizontal roles rather than hundreds of siloed and somewhat disconnected jobs. Typical roles include analyst, architect, project and program manager, consultant and tech specialist. Standards are logically defined and aligned within each role, covering things like proficiency in the technical, business and soft skills necessary for moving along development and promotion paths. Jobs that fall within each role can then be defined, titled, graded and leveled with appropriate compensation structures, incentive designs, skills pay programs and performance plans.

It sounds difficult. It might not be easy, but it's necessary. CIOs are having difficulty finding and retaining people who can perform at a high caliber on increasingly more difficult tasks, and at the same time they're feeling immense performance pressure. Plus, the IT workforce today is spread throughout the enterprise doing multidimensional jobs that are hard to categorize, price and manage. In this environment, many IT leaders and business executives have come to see the architecting of people management as the next logical frontier.

Who is employing it so far? The IT professional services and business consulting industries have been practicing people architecture for years, and for good reason: Their assets walk out the door every night. Just to stay competitive, they've had to pioneer a lot of very effective human capital management programs for attracting, developing, promoting and retaining great people. But people architecture principles are within reach of every employer. We're seeing interest growing in many industries.

And in companies of all sizes? It's more natural for small-to-midsize businesses to put people architecture practices in place. Meanwhile, larger enterprises have adopted too many workarounds in dealing with disruptive technology, skills gaps and a rapidly evolving IT workforce. Many are now reorganizing around substantive rethinking of the role of technology in the enterprise and these reorgs have been exposing serious structural weaknesses in how IT talent is acquired and managed. That's why people architecture is getting traction. Failure to execute is a very real threat to CIO job security, and in the end it always comes down to the people who do the work.

Linux Pros Are in Demand

Here's a look at some key numbers from the 2014 Linux Jobs Survey:

• 77% of hiring managers have "hiring Linux talent" on their list of priorities for 2014, up from 70% a year earlier.

• 46% of hiring managers are beefing up their plans for recruiting Linux talent over the next six months, up from 43%.

• 93% of hiring managers plan to hire Linux professionals in the next six months.

• 55% of Linux professionals believe it would be "very easy" or "fairly easy" to find a new, favorable job.

Source: Linux Foundation/Dice survey of over 1,100 hiring managers and Linux professionals worldwide, February 2014

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