Talent Wars

Competitors -- and now cloud providers -- are poaching your best IT staffers and job candidates.

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Also high on corporate IT recruiting wish lists are any and all skills having to do with cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) technologies, as well as the business process and technology integration know-how needed to link these newer technologies to legacy computing environments.

Recruiting experts say this particular need is both a blessing and a curse for corporate IT departments. On one hand, IT professionals want to work with these newer technologies, so in-house cloud and SaaS projects can help corporate IT departments attract and retain the best and brightest.

At Purdue Pharma, a privately held pharmaceutical company in Stamford, Conn., CIO Larry Pickett says a modern IT infrastructure that includes cloud technology is a big reason the company is able to retain its most talented IT employees. "We're right in the middle of implementing state-of-the-art technology and doing things that are innovative and building [IT employees'] skills, so it increases retention," Pickett says. "We are implementing a private cloud infrastructure across two data centers, so there's an opportunity to learn those skills without leaving Purdue."

Competing With Vendors

On the other hand, corporate IT's need for IT professionals with cloud, SaaS and integration skills pits corporate IT directly against technology companies themselves in the escalating war for talent.

"Vendors look at people who have worked at [user companies] as bringing institutional and cultural knowledge with them and a hands-on knowledge of workflows," says Russell Reynolds' Banerji. This makes corporate IT employees prime poaching targets for technology vendors.

What puts IT shops in an especially tough position, experts say, is that job seekers typically view technology vendor companies as more innovative and better able to offer opportunities for growth.

"If you think of corporate IT budgets and the way they spend, 80% is usually going to maintenance of old stuff and maybe 20% goes to innovation," notes Woodson Martin, a senior vice president who heads recruiting at Salesforce.com. IT professionals "want to work on cloud and languages like Ruby. They want to work on the future, not the past, but the fundamental mechanics of that 80/20 means it's hard to keep the talent happy."

Big budgets for research and development give vendors another advantage, says Steven John, strategic CIO at Workday, a SaaS vendor based in Pleasanton, Calif.

"Corporate America can't go as deep [into the technology] to challenge the best people. That's all happening on the vendor side," says John, who was previously CIO at specialty chemical maker H.B. Fuller; he joined Workday when Fuller became a Workday customer.

"Workday is doing some very cool technology. We're one of the leading cloud vendors out there, so this is one of the places high on the list of places to be on the cutting edge," he says.

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