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BIG THINKER
“Talent development is the only way to develop robust future leaders, but something so important takes considerable time and commitment.”
Dana Deasy, BP Group CIO
Creating a talent pipeline at BP
Image: Nick Ballon
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Creating a talent pipeline at BP

Kenny MacIver – October 2012

BP’s Dana Deasy outlines his approach to mentoring and developing the organization’s IT leaders of tomorrow.

Fittingly for someone whose career has been shaped by the insight and guidance of others  mentors, business leaders, fellow CIOs and academics – Dana Deasy is passionate about ensuring his 3,000+ IT professionals reach their full potential. Over his five years as head of the global IT function at oil and gas industry giant BP, he has championed the creation of a comprehensive talent development structure that runs from early stage career development through to an executive CIO of the Future program – with mentoring and coaching throughout.

The catalyst for this was his vision for future-proofing the IT function – a vision that needed to be backed by the right people with the right skills. “Global CIOs are about creating vision and purpose. But it doesn't matter how great those are if you don’t have an organization around you that can then execute. So early on in my career I learned that if I’m going to get the things done that we need to, it’s going to take an organization that has the ability to deliver,” says Deasy.

Back in 2007/8, BP spent a full year defining the IT skills profile it was going to need, benchmarking the organization's strengths and weaknesses. “We mapped that against the crucial things we had to do over the next two to three years, and what jumped out was we had some gaps,” says Deasy. And he set about addressing those in a comprehensive fashion. Over the next three years, BP created the IT&S Academy, a virtual learning and development center structured around eight core IT professions – including architecture, project and program management, information security, service delivery and business analysis – with every employee formally aligned to one area for their professional development.

Building on strong foundations

The Academy is highly valued among BP’s IT&S team. “Today if you survey people about different aspects of their job, the Academy is rated the highest,” says Deasy. Moreover, accreditation through the Academy, coupled with a commitment to spend time mentoring others, gives individuals a Licence to Work and helps them grow in their particular profession.

But, for Deasy, the Academy was just the foundation for an even wider talent development agenda. “After three years, our ‘heat map’ of skills was getting greener. So we started to think about the future leaders of BP’s IT organization, and we realized we didn’t have a way to sustain the pipeline. The solution – implemented progressively over the past two years – was a talent development program, with three distinct strands:

1) Early career
As a first stage, this four-year program brings in high-potential people with a postgraduate qualification who have already worked in industry and have shown they have the talent to move into future leadership roles.

2) Aspire
Aspire takes high-performing first-level managers and readies them for senior leadership roles by giving them broader experience through stretch projects and exposure to senior leaders.

3) CIO of the future
The 18-month program – centered on strategy, performance, future trends, and people and change – takes cadres of 25-30 current or potential CIOs and current IT leaders at BP’s smaller business units and develops their potential for the highest levels of IT leadership.

• Alongside real-world experience across BP operations, the handpicked group spends a month in total in bespoke classes at Boston University School of Management and the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley. The weeks in Boston are designed to provide the leaders with access to world-class professors and thought-leadership; Berkeley, on the other hand, was chosen because of its proximity to Silicon Valley, with its culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, and presence of venture capitalists and start-ups.

• Each budding global CIO is assigned three different types of mentor over the 18 months: an executive drawn directly from Deasy's leadership team who knows what it takes to become a successful global IT leader; a professor from Boston management school who works with them on core IT leadership competencies and supports inter-module project work; and an outside industry CIO who offers a different perspective.

The whole talent development program is clearly a major undertaking, agrees Deasy. “We feel it’s the only way to develop robust future leaders. It’s a long wavelength approach, but we know that something so important takes considerable time and commitment.”

Update: Dana Deasy is due to become CIO at JPMorgan Chase in December 2013.

First published
October 2012
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About: Dana Deasy
Dana Deasy, group CIO at energy multinational BP and mentor to aspiring global IT leaders, shares his unique perspective on what it takes to reach the highest levels of business.
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