Chief information officers (CIOs) are under increased pressure to improve IT organisation effectiveness and contribute to enterprise growth and competitiveness.

A strategic workforce planning process that aligns business and IT strategies ensures IT organisations will have the right number of people with the right skills and competencies in the right roles at the right time, according to Gartner Executive Programs (EXP), a unit of the analyst firm.

“The workforce supply challenges, coupled with the shift in demand of IT workforce capabilities present an ideal opportunity for CIOs and human resources (HR) leaders to begin strategic workforce planning that focuses on the longer-term,” said Lily Mok, research director for Gartner EXP’s human capital management content development group.

One essential differentiator of an effective IT organisation is its ability to place the right people in the right place at the right time to meet business goals, said Mok. “Workforce planning is therefore increasingly indistinguishable from organisational strategic planning in those organisations where human capital is considered the critical factor in their success,” she said.

A strategic workforce planning process translates business and IT objectives into current and future IT workforce requirements and plans to fulfil them. It enables organisations to be proactive versus being reactive in addressing business needs.

“Workforce planning should not just be an annual, one-time event. It must be an ongoing process,” said Mok. “This will be a competitive advantage that IT organisation’s need to build in order to compete and succeed in the increasing competitive global market.”

The Gartner EXP Quarterly Trending Report "Strategic IT Workforce Planning: From Process to Techniques” provides a tactic guide to formulating a strategic IT workforce plan to meet short and long term business needs.

Gartner advises the process typically involves four key steps:

Align workforce strategy with IT strategy – the workforce plan’s first focus is on core competencies and making sure the workforce plan supports the strategic objective of the organisation. Its second focus is on setting realistic goals or the ability to allocate the right resource in the right place at the right time to support the IT strategy. The third is on planning for the future, and the final focus is on making sure that workforce planning is carried out at the appropriate level of the organisation.

Conduct workforce analysis to determine the gap – workforce analysis is the process of analysing the supply and demand of the workforce and identifying the gap between the two. There are many different techniques that can be used to forecast workforce supply and demand. It is important to understand the pros and cons of each before investing time and effort. Multiple layers of managers and key stakeholders from IT, HR and finance must be involved throughout this process to ensure senior level commitment and resources.

Implement a workforce plan to close the gap – using the results from the workforce analysis, the next step is to create plans for recruitment, retention, outsourcing, development and organisation change to locate talent inside and outside the organisation, balance supply and demand, and develop and maximise the value of each employee.

Improve the effectiveness of workforce planning – being effective at workforce planning is not just about having a good plan; it’s also about being able to regularly monitor and assess progress made and effectively change workforce plans when needed. IT and HR leaders can improve their workforce planning skills and effectiveness by ensuring that they get leadership commitment from the start, defining shared responsibilities, and continually assessing, validating, reporting and implementing ongoing improvements.