Nick Folkes is a managing director with responsibility for global IT at MSCI Barra, a provider of risk management and portfolio analysis tools to fund managers for managing equity, fixed-income and multi-asset class portfolios. He took up his role earlier this year after three years as IT director of operations and infrastructure at Tesco. Computer Weekly caught up with some of Folkes' views on best practice in IT management.
How do you go about picking up on someone else's strategy?
The first thing is to find out what was the problem they were trying to address. Often, strategies jump straight ahead into an agenda and they look at input-based specifications, such as "I want a new network", but what was the new network meant to solve? It is about defining the problem and then from there you can determine what the strategy was going to deliver against the issue or if you need to change course.
What is your advice for heads of IT starting in a new role?
Don't obsess about inputs. Look at what you are trying to achieve, what is the outcome you seek. If a developer wants a new system, they will say "I want the fastest and biggest server you can give me", but that is an input-based specification, which can increase the cost base. If what you want to achieve is high availability, then give that to the correct engineer to come up with the answer.
What is the best way to go in terms of developing IT leadership?
You will find technologists, people who like to run processes such as project managers, as well as people who are man managers. It is about understanding what people's strengths are and not putting them in the wrong roles. Just because someone is the best technologist doesn't mean they are the best leader. Also, ensure that the technology staff have a career path. Success in a career is not purely about the number of people you manage, it is about your contribution to the firm.
Does the UK IT skills gap concern you?
Yes. The fight for talent in the IT marketplace is as tough as it has ever been, if not getting worse. But I think it is more global now because very few companies single-source their IT talent in one country. The fight for expertise globally is getting more challenging, especially in places like India, where many organisations have moved their IT functions. So we are now fighting for the same resource in India that we were fighting for in the UK 10 years ago.