David Foote, Co-Founder, CEO and Chief Research Officer
David Foote is an IT industry research pioneer, innovator, and one of the most quoted industry authorities on global IT workforce and compensation trends and multiple facets of the human side of technology value creation. His two decades of ground-breaking deep research and analysis on IT/business cross-skilling and the integration of technology and business management earned him an unquestioned place on a shortlist of thought leaders in these areas.
A keen predictive trends analyst, he built his reputation at Gartner, META Group, and at several Silicon Valley technology companies. David’s foundation work defining and benchmarking a new generation of high impact IT/business hybrid workers has grown significantly since 1997, when he assumed leadership of Foote Partners’ analytical/advisory services and proprietary decision support survey research business, targeting the ‘execution’ side of managing technology resources and capabilities.
A popular opinion columnist, conference speaker, and social media commentator, his contributions appear regularly in dozens of online and print publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, Time Magazine and Forbes, to CIO Magazine, Computerworld, Information Week, Network World andWorldatWork(HR); in appearances on television and National Public Radio, and on podcasts and numerous blog sites. David’s research-backed analyses and forecasts of IT market behavior and management trends reach a weekly global audience of business and technology professionals.
David leads a senior team of experienced former McKinsey & Company, Gartner, META Group, and Towers Watson analysts and consultants and former HR, IT, and business executives in publishing more than 140 quarterly-updated IT compensation benchmark and market trends reports, supported by continuous data collection involving 135,000 IT professionals at 2,350 research partner employers in 83 US and Canadian cities. Benefitting from Foote Partners extensive proprietary research foundation, the firm publishes the IT Insider series which includes the industry’s most innovative and comprehensive IT salary and skills pay surveys, IT management and workforce trend research and market forecasts, enjoyed by more than 1,800 organizations on six continents. The firm’s IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index™ is the oldest (1998) and most comprehensive survey of premium pay and market demand forecasting for more than 530 technology skills and certifications.
An IT compensation research pioneer and innovator, David is widely credited with creating and publishing in 1994 the first survey-based IT compensation research in the U.S., that defined and benchmarked emerging “new breed” information management positions in Web, e-Commerce, Data Warehousing, Business Intelligence, and Business Technology, and later SAP (1997).
Prior to his groundbreaking work as an analyst at Gartner and META Group, where he founded the latter’s executive service for Chief Information Officers and IT Human Capital Management and Compensation research practices, he held executive and management positions with technology and consumer products companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. He also worked for six years for a Silicon Valley based consulting firm advising trailblazing exceptional growth high technology companies on innovative business and product strategies and solutions.
David received his BA from Vassar College and his MBA from Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management, with additional coursework at Cornell’s Graduate School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He completed post-graduate studies in business innovation at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Management.
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Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
David, can you profile your history prior to your current role and provide defining and usable lessons you wish to share from major events and roles in your history?
“….We started a whole new business that didn’t exist before (essentially bringing hard benchmark decision support research to the IT industry), focusing it not on the vendor side, but on the user side. It turned out that my background (a combination of business, HR and IT), seemed to be the best way to 360 this problem…..It is benchmark research to help companies understand what do they have to know to actually get stuff done, to do it predictably with finite resources, and do it within an atmosphere which is under amazing change and constant tumult….”
David can you profile your current role even deeper? You are leading this organization and are clearly differentiated from the other research groups and delivering value. Can you frame that value in terms of goals for organizations?
“….What we’ve realized is that for a lot of companies, a lot of the solutions to this problem are if they had seen this coming earlier they could have developed the capabilities internally….There are some solutions there that are reachable for most companies, it’s just a matter of having the right information at the right time….”
You’ve talked about corporations out there with skills shortages and then find that employees (in whom they may have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in an individual employee) leaves to a competing company. Your reports will give the corporation the necessary tools to retain those employees because they know what’s upcoming and then can ensure they are properly motivated or trained, etc. Now let’s turn that around and look at it from an IT professional’s standpoint: for example where one Java programmer has trouble finding work, but another one doesn’t. Why is that?
“….Your example of Java is a great example, because I could introduce you to 10 Java programmers with 5 to 7 years of experience who are not working and I can introduce you to 10 Java programmers with 5 to 7 years of experience who are not only working, but are in high demand and making a lot of money and their jobs are secure. The difference is the ones that are working noticed that Java is the underlying foundation of Big Data and all these analytics and all these open systems solutions right now….The fact is that some Java people did actually say there’s a lot more and it’s the combination of what I add on top of my Java knowledge and experience that makes that basic Java foundation expertise that I have valuable….”
David talks further about of the 24 to 28 million people in the United States who could currently be called IT professionals, that only 20 percent work in IT organizations and the other 80 percent are spread throughout the enterprise.
“….You’ve got the management of IT resources distributed all through the company….The other 80 percent are really mattering in companies right now. They are out there managing strategies, forecasting into the future, they are the very people that are planning, architecting and delivering things like cloud computing, big data analytics, mobile applications, platforms and working on information security problems, etc….That’s not to say that the infrastructure parts of the business (all the traditional things that the IT department have done) are not important, it’s just that so much of that is now being managed as a service. The model has changed in how it’s managed and delivered….”
Do you have any idea, from a global perspective, what the market is for IT workers?
“….I don’t know what the global market is for IT workers right now. We focus a lot on the U.S. because there is so much demand….and it’s very specific….I would agree with you that there absolutely are differences around the world for the supply and demand for talent; supply and demand for certain kinds of skills….”
What do you see as the top upcoming disruptive technologies?
“….I call them influencers and disruptors, because some of them are technology and some of them are what I would call organizational….”
What are the skills that IT professionals should have and what kinds of skills should be being taught so that they are employable? Is there something you can point to such as abstracts or upcoming reports where these questions can be answered?
“….We also put out to our customers here a report every three months…..IT Skills Demand and Patrons Report….Hotlists Forecast….Volatility Index….”
David talks the value of hardcore, traditional benchmark research on the user side (especially to a very specific data-driven audience such as HR people who are responsible for benefits, rewards and incentive programs, compensation, etc).
“….I’m happy to see that a number of companies have really seen what the market is like right now and they are really focusing on not clean-sheeting their IT capabilities, but they are really looking at it from a business transformation point of view….There’s a lot of intelligence that we can and we do share with companies right now on what we’ve learned from other companies and what you need to do going forward as to what you are facing. Not from the vendor standpoint, but from the point of view of execution and from the user side in terms on how you are going to manage this and create value….”
You’ve talked about these workforce changes occurring and the evolution of technology and how it has integrated into everything and everywhere. Do you see this impacting leadership and management styles and if so, how will leadership and management styles evolve?
“….First you have look at who’s leading what? I read an interesting statistic that came out of Gartner Group recently, which said by the year 2017 it’s very likely that that Chief Marketing Officers will have larger budgets than Chief Information Officers. Think about that for a second….”
What are your views on competency frameworks, especially this thing that is coming out in Europe and is sweeping parts of the European Union?
“….That’s a huge conversation….It goes back to this capabilities conversation that I was just having with you….”
Do you feel computing should be a recognized profession on par with accounting, medicine and law with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, personal responsibility, public accountability, quality assurance and recognized credentials?
[See http://www.ipthree.org and the Global Industry Council, http://www.ipthree.org/about-ip3/global-advisory-council]
“….You’ve got these hybrid individuals and there hasn’t been a certification program for these hybrid individuals that I’ve seen come along, and I don’t think there’s going to be one that you’re going to see come along for a long time, if ever. The certification of people within the IT profession will probably ultimately be a combination of the certification programs in law and medicine and all these professions that you’ve mentioned and how they’ve added into their certification programs, additional certification for the delivery of technology and technology solutions….In other words it’s not going to be something that IT is going to push into those professions, it’s going to be those professions pulling into their certification programs all of the aspects from Information Technology….”
David, with your demanding schedule, we are indeed fortunate to have you come in to do this interview. Thank you for sharing your deep experiences with our audience.
Music by Sunny Smith Productions and Shaun O’Leary