All in Retirement

The IT Director in a Large Manufacturing Company Discusses "Baby Boomer Brain Drain"

Last week I interviewed “Ferris” (not his real name) about how his company is handling the pending retirement of senior IT staff. Ferris is the IT Director in a large manufacturing company. Ferris’ company doesn’t have the mix of custom legacy Cobol and Assembler based mainframe systems that Boris the Insurance Company CIO has.
Last week I interviewed “Boris” (not his real name) about his and his company’s handling of the pending retirement of senior IT staff who are critical to the maintenance and operation of a number of his company’s business-critical mainframe legacy systems. I was initially interested in learning whether Boris thought that modern social networking and collaboration tools might be useful in documenting and transferring the specialised expertise staff needed for maintaining critical systems. Instead, the discussion took a different direction and revealed some underlying issues that go beyond technology enabled knowledge sharing.
Back on July 17 I wrote about the potential impact of pending retirement related “baby boomer brain drain” on IT departments, especially those heavily invested in supporting legacy mainframe systems. As a followup I asked for research interviews with several CIO’s I know in order to get a better handle on the issue and to find out whether emerging Web 2.0 and social networking and collaboration technologies might be supportive of knowledge transfer to younger staff.
Once upon a time I helped manage a complex post-merger system consolidation project where two mainframe based systems were being integrated. The client hadn’t done a lot of projects like that and hired outside consultants to help with the project planning, management, and execution. We found out quickly that a few key client staff members were extremely scarce resources. One was a senior consultant who had been brought back by the client after his retirement. He was, hands-down, THE absolute expert on the target system’s very large and very complex database. I’ll call him “Alex.”