What to Do When Important IT Talent Quits

How to Survive When the Person Managing Your Business Applications Quits

Imagine walking into work one day to learn that a vital member of your IT team is leaving the company after years, if not decades of time with your organization. This is a shock, as beforehand you’ve never had to consider what your IT department would look like without this individual. This person had become a stable and constant figure in your organization.

Now they are gone and all of their business and specific application knowledge is gone with them. As the IT decision maker for your business, you don’t want to find yourself in the position where this individual was the sole person in charge of certain, vital business functions, so now you are scrambling to replace them.

This situation can be especially hectic if that employee was the sole person with the skills necessary to manage your business applications. If those apps require legacy programming skills, then finding a replacement can be a difficult and expensive task. Take COBOL as an example; this programming language was created in 1959 and was written into many legacy systems, to the point where still 9% of businesses say they need talent with the knowledge of COBOL.

Dealing with the Skills Gap

CIOs and IT decision makers consistently have to deal with technical skills gaps in their organizations. In fact, a Deloitte survey indicated that 39% of enterprise executives were either ‘barely able’ or ‘unable’ to find the necessary talent for their companies.

That’s not to say that the IT industry doesn’t have a competitive job market, as the reality is quite the opposite. In fact, software developers for applications will add the most new technology jobs across the U.S. by 2024.

The challenge comes in finding the right fit for your business. To continue with the COBOL example, the average age of COBOL programmers in the U.S. is between 42 and 49. Recent software engineering graduates, no matter how talented, simply do not have the skills that are no longer taught, but still necessary for many business applications.


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Identifying Legacy Skills Your Business Needs

Businesses are increasingly faced with veteran employees retiring or leaving the company with legacy skills that are no longer taught. This problem is fairly common – 35% of businesses still seek IT professionals with legacy skills.

However, despite over a third of businesses still requiring these skills, they are increasingly hard to find. If your organization requires the use of one or more of these skills in order to manage your business applications, it may be time to look toward modernization.

  • C – As one of the most recognized programming languages that has spawned the likes of C++, JavaScript, Python, and many others. 10% of businesses still support and hire for C platforms and skills.
  • COBOL – As mentioned, 9% of businesses still need COBOL skills, particularly in the financial industry, administrative corporate systems, and government.
  • Perl – Despite an original release in 1987, Perl is still supported today with the most recent update coming in 2017. 5% of businesses are still looking for software engineers and software developers with these skills.
  • Pascal – While it has mostly been replaced by C, C++, and Java since being developed in the late 1960s, 2% of businesses are still searching for this skill. Software engineers and developers with Pascal skills are exceedingly rare, but also extremely valuable.


Identify and Document Your Business Processes

The technical skills including programming languages and expertise with specific Operating Systems and frameworks can be difficult to locate – however knowledge of how to monitor and maintain your business systems can be irreplaceable. The guidelines for how to do this are often developed over years of maintenance and only resides with those working on supporting your apps. If this person leaves the company and these processes aren’t documented anywhere you can lose years of lessons learned.

Developing a culture around documenting processes has numerous benefits. While it won’t necessarily increase your retention rates – if you do have to hire a new person to support your apps this will help them out tremendously and decrease the amount of time it takes for training and onboarding.

What Are Your Options For Replacing Talent?

Most businesses consider two go-to solutions to replace legacy skills,

1) exhaustive recruitment missions (click here for hiring strategies), or

2) leverage staff augmentation to close the gap while you develop a strategy for modernizing business applications.

Neither is ideal for every company, as the former is expensive and takes an unpredictable amount of time, while the latter takes a longer term investment, especially if that business is not prepared to make such a transition.

These options work well if your app and support processes are already well-documented. If no documentation exists for how the application logic works and processes to support it, there are tools available that can analyze legacy code and format it to be readable / accessible to the new generation of developers and app specialists you bring on in order to make changes.

A Third Option – Complete Culture and Talent Overhaul

In order to prevent these situations from happening in the future, an entire culture overhaul around managing talent is in order. This would require your business to put new and intense focuses on retaining and continuously training talent on your legacy skills, as well as any modern skills, so that if an employee leaves, you have a pool of talent ready to fill that position.

The best example is AT&T’s enormous talent overhaul that it has embarked on over the last few years with the goal to create a culture of perpetual learning. Between 2013 and 2016, the telecom giant spent over $250 million on employee education and professional development programs to train employees in-house with the skills that are needed for their business to operate.

Additionally, the company has invested more than $30 million in tuition assistance every year in order to re-skill it’s existing workforce. AT&T estimates that approximately 140,000 employees are actively engaged in acquiring new skills.   

Granted, the vast majority of businesses do not have AT&T’s resources to enact such a culture change on that scale, but the premise is still the same. By creating new practices such as succession planning, the process of identifying key positions and continually developing current employees for said positions, you make your business flexible as it is then able to always have employees in place to keep your business running at full capacity.

An Oft Overlooked Fourth Option – Replace Hiring New Talent With AMS

A complete talent overhaul can be a monumental challenge for organizations, especially those who have practices that have been in place for decades. In many cases, if an employee suddenly leaves, especially if that employee was the brain behind vital business applications, there is simply no time.

If you find yourself in a position where a vital IT team member has left your company and you have nobody to look after that role and the mission critical tasks they were responsible for, in the case of your business apps, it is time to turn to Application Management Services (AMS).

With AMS, you are essentially outsourcing the parts of your IT department that manage and maintain all of your business applications.

Any tasks and maintenance associated with those mission critical apps is put into the hands of this trusted third-party. The costs of application managed services are often similar to or less than the direct labour cost needed to maintain apps internally.

No longer would you need to worry about an IT member suddenly quitting – all responsibility is placed on your AMS provider, allowing you and your IT team to focus on improving the business, rather then break-fixing apps.

Learn More About Application Managed Services,

On top of taking over the day-to-day support of your business apps, AMS providers typically have specialists and experts with wide arrays of technical skills and experience, your partner can suggest fixes and improvements that will help you grow the business. Additional benefits can include custom application development and support, 24/7 app monitoring, ad hoc data queries, and app recovery.

Resolute Technology Solutions provides complete Application Management Services that can save your business operations if an important employee quits suddenly. Contact us today to learn how outsourcing your business application support can save you future worry and allow you to focus on growing your business.



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