Gold for Experts: developing technology experts as leaders – Atos with University of Cambridge (IfM) and Paderborn University SICP

– SILVER WINNER OF THE 2018 EXCELLENCE IN PRACTICE AWARDS –

How do you combine technical expertise with business acumen to create the best outcomes for customers… and in doing so, develop and retain your top technical talent?

The Challenge

Atos is a global leader in digital transformation with around 100,000 employees in 73 countries. The Group is the Worldwide Information Technology Partner for the Olympic & Paralympic Games.

Atos recognises that its solutions and services business requires exceptionally talented expert people who can work with clients to create innovative solutions. The company wanted to create a new breed of business technologists to be trusted advisors for customers and who would have the strategic perspective and business acumen to complement their deep technical knowledge.

Following the success of its group-wide “Gold for Managers” talent programme for high potential business managers and leaders, Atos’ Talent Management team was given responsibility for building an equivalent programme to support the development of high-potential expert business technology leaders. Thus the “Gold for Experts” programme was born.

The programme would need to address leadership development for people with a broad technical background, and make sure that it remained relevant and up to date in the ever-evolving world of Atos and information technology. It would also need to take the changing internal business structure and environment into account as well as align with the growing ambitions of the organisation.

The collaborative partnership

To achieve this, Atos sought long-term programme partners with aligned academic interests and high credentials. A world-leading university with a proven track record and leadership in technology and innovation management research and professional education expertise was required and the University of Cambridge, Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) met these criteria.

For expertise in computer science, the preferred partner was Paderborn University allowing Atos to leverage their existing 30-year long research collaboration, initially developed with Siemens. The strength of this unique partnership has exceeded expectations.

The Learning & Development Initiative

The Gold for Experts programme design was developed over a period of eight months led by IfM Education and Consultancy Services, which employed the Kirkpatrick business partnership model to ensure the desired results were kept in the foreground at all times.

First run in 2013/2014, the six-month programme is a combination of three one-week residential modules, a major project and webinars. Two modules take place in inspirational Cambridge and one in historic Paderborn. The modules include interactive taught sessions, facilitated workshops where proven tools are learned and applied, simulation exercises, and project discussions and presentations. A collaborative and cooperative learning environment is maintained throughout the programme to maximise delegate learning from the programme and each other.

By the end of the programme, delegates are enabled to combine broader, end-to-end technical knowledge with an understanding of the global business context and how it is changing. They are equipped to become trusted advisors to external clients, helping them to think through strategic technology options during the early stages of their forward plans.

The delegate journey

The definition of the “delegate journey” is a core mantra of the programme, and describes the delegates’ development pathways:

• From a “focused” expert to an expert with a strategic “end-to-end” view who can connect their role to the bigger Atos picture and appreciate the impact of their work on different stakeholders.

• From a “local contributor” to a “networked influencer” who can proactively shape innovative Atos solutions and strategy.

• From a “technology expert” to a “technology entrepreneur” who can co-create innovative solutions to meet client business needs.

• From a “problem solver” to a ”trusted advisor” who is sought after by clients, colleagues and partners to help them anticipate and navigate the challenges of tomorrow.

Real projects to achieve learning and business outcomes

Undertaking real projects to create impactful learning is a core part of IfM’s teaching practice. Group projects run throughout the entire programme culminating in a presentation made to Atos senior executives on the final day. The projects require delegates to work in teams of five people and tackle a real and significant opportunity for Atos, originally proposed by the delegates, and propose a solution that generates value for clients and Atos alike.

This opportunity to develop innovative technology ideas is recognised as a source of innovation in Atos. Forty-eight projects have been completed to date and continue to attract significant interest from Atos senior executives. Of these projects, 65% have been taken further for organisational impact or to add new or enhance existing portfolio items and the remaining 35% have contributed to valuable strategic decision making.

The ongoing impact

To date, the programme has welcomed 300 delegates from 23 different nationalities across all entities of Atos. It continues to deliver impact for Atos, with 96% of alumni retained in the company.

The programme’s impact also includes increased cross-division integration of senior experts, as well as an active global network of alumni sharing ideas and best practices. Eighty per cent of delegates is actively pursuing personal and professional development after completing the programme. There is a clearer career path for the expert community, and promotion of participants is twice as high as comparable profiles.

For ongoing improvement of the programme itself, substantive feedback is collected from delegates and Atos stakeholders and a stringent review process is held to refine and improve the programme and keep the programme aligned with current research and Atos strategy.

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