Bruce F. Webster: Looking to the Future

By Bruce F. Webster Print this article Print

Study the past; learn about the future, writes Bruce F. Webster. By studying he means reading and gaining classic knowledge. If you do that as an IT organization, you will constantly improve as an IT organization.

Now on to the second issue: looking to the future. A major concern – perhaps the major concern – of your best IT engineers and managers is the fear of becoming obsolete. Some new technology, programming language, methodology or operating system comes out, and they want to learn about it. More than that, they want to be sufficiently familiar with it so that they could work with it if necessary.

So help them. Have as a staff benefit – possibly tied to performance and/or position – a certain annual budget for travel and registration for technical conferences and/or training seminars of the employee’s choice.  If you’re worried about the employee using the benefit and then leaving, set forth a pro-rated reimbursement schedule – say, over a six- or twelve-month period.

Now, the usual argument against such a benefit is, “If I train the employees in these technologies, they’ll just leave for a better job elsewhere.” This ignores several truths.

First, if you don’t provide such an opportunity, then your best people will almost certainly leave in order to learn those new technologies elsewhere – leading to what I’ve termed the “Dead Sea Effect” (your best employees depart, leaving behind the less talented IT workers). 

Second, if you don’t provide such an opportunity, your IT group as a whole will stagnate due to the lack of new ideas, practices, and technologies, regardless of whether anyone leaves. Finally, if you do provide such an opportunity and your people leave anyway, you almost certainly have other problems within your IT group (or your organization overall) – which is valuable feedback.

Study the past; learn about the future. If you do that as an IT organization, you will constantly improve as an IT organization. You will attract and keep great personnel; you will reduce overruns and failures; and you will be in a position to leverage new methods and technologies as appropriate. Those organizations that do neither will find themselves stuck in the tar pits of IT.

Think of it as evolution in action.

Bruce F. Webster is an international IT consultant. You can reach him at [email protected] or via his websites at brucefwebster.com and bfwa.com.

© Bruce F. Webster 2008

This article was originally published on 2008-10-31
Webster is Principal and Founder at at Bruce F. Webster & Associates LLC. He works with organizations to help them evaluate troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects, or to assess IT systems and products for possible investment/acquisition. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan.
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