Raising your synergy quotient

To create value, CIOs must assess how to apply technology to transform their organizations, engage with their business peers and keep the lights on. What these CIOs need is good IT people with synergy.

Synergy in IT people means an ability to work together among themselves and with their business colleagues to create an effect that is greater than could be achieved by acting alone. Synergy capabilities come from organizational developmental activities, hiring in the right people and active modification of organizational culture. In short, it is one of the outcomes of properly executed workforce planning.

The first step to upping your synergy quotient using a workforce planning process is to determine the level of demand for it. Do this by figuring out the business needs in terms of IT changes and the IT delivery strategies needed. Then determine how many people with a high synergy quotient you have, examining your employees’ profiles and demographics.

Once you have an understanding of demand vs. supply, focus on identifying potential sources to fill the synergy roles and skills gaps that are the highest priority. While sourcing from within is preferred over external sourcing, due to potential time and cost savings, this is not always possible. Another way to build synergy skills is to tap qualified candidates from business units to which you currently provide IT services.


To be successful, workforce planning and development depends on a sound understanding of what sorts of skills you actually need. According to Gartner’s IT HR gurus, there are seven critical skills that raise an enterprise’s synergy quotient. These can be sorted into three types: those related to business acumen for solving business problems, those related to creativity and innovation, and those related to the day-to-day IT delivery.

But even with these skills in place, you may have people that choose not to apply them or who work in an environment that prevents them from doing so. Thus, the final part of the process to up your synergy quotient deals with one of those frequently abused terms: culture.

Organizational culture embodies the beliefs, values and established rules that are communicated, practiced and reinforced by leaders of the organization. A cultural change plan can enable workforce members to engage in behavioral change that will foster greater synergy in IT organizations.

To instill a culture of synergy in the workforce, CIOs need to first put the right IT leadership team in place, one that shares the same vision for the future as they do. To change culture to one with a much higher synergy quotient, the notions of synergy must be integrated much more tightly into IT strategy and plans, and reinforced in every interaction across IT and the rest of the enterprise. Once a leadership tier is in place, next comes the building of a service mindset that focuses IT outside itself.


In addition to cultural change and skills-based workforce planning, it is possible to set up a synergy centre of excellence (COE). COEs are typically created to concentrate and nurture critical skills with a focus on leveraging them throughout the enterprise. COEs can also yield direct synergy benefits by grouping together people with high synergy skills (in actual or virtual organizational structures), allowing them to build off each other and develop.

CIOs are being called upon to continually grow the contribution of IT to the business. By focusing on synergy as a workforce strategy, developing it through a skills-based approach to workforce planning, and coupling it to a culture change initiative, CIOs can build the next-generation IT workforce that supports enterprise growth and increased competitiveness. 074359

Andrew Rowsell-Jones is vice president and research director for Gartner’s CIO Executive Programs.

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