THE BAD NEWS: There's not a lot of what we call “industry-grown” information technology talent in home building. That's simply because the industry isn't known for being a hub of activity and innovation in that discipline. But here's the good news: The sluggishness of the information technology sector as a whole has made talent from other industries relatively abundant—at least far more abundant than in certain other home building functions. As a result, the top information technology jobs at big builders often go to people who have spent sizable chunks of their careers outside of the industry.
Further, because information technology is somewhat of a support function, it's possible to industry jump, even for a CIO position. “It's a position that can come from other industries,” says Jim McGuire, director at Pittsburgh-based Specialty Consultants. Ideally, if someone taking a high-level information technology post doesn't come from home building, he will come out of the manufacturing sector, says Bill Carpitella, CEO at the Sharrow Group, which is based in Rochester, N.Y., given the overlap in areas such as materials and scheduling.
Typically the CIO comes from the development side, as opposed to the operations side, because the CIO is charged with choosing new software, overseeing the rewriting of off-the-shelf products, and building new programs. “The biggest headache is when you're installing the system,” says McGuire.
Don't underestimate the importance of the help desk people and the director of information technology operations. This side of the discipline fixes your PCs, and the director of operations is charged with managing the builder's data, the demand for which is growing across all builder functions. All day-to-day reporting tools are his domain.
Carpitella ranks information technology among the least active in terms of builder demand. As the industry continues to rely more heavily on information technology and the data it produces, Carpitella predicts that the trend of hiring from outside the industry will wane.