IT Succession Planning: How to Prepare for the Inevitable

IT Succession Planning: How to Prepare for the Inevitable

The Great Resignation. The Big Retirement. In November 2021, 4.5 million workers left or changed their jobs. On one end are the Baby Boomers who have critical skills and possess business knowledge that’s scarce in today’s job market. These skills and knowledge form the backbone of many businesses that have run on Oracle and SAP for decades. And as platforms such as Salesforce and other SaaS options enter the market, companies are struggling to find applicants with the training and experience to manage and optimize these new systems.

Instead of waiting until a role goes unfilled through retirement, promotion, voluntary or involuntary separation, or a new need arises, organizations need to develop a succession plan.  A succession planning model is a documented strategy to fill critical skills and roles when employee turnover inevitably happens and to help you plan for skills you’ll need in the future. For example, two full-time employees (FTEs) run your Oracle CX system, and one leaves. Do you hire another Oracle-experienced FTE? Move to Salesforce and retrain the remaining FTE? Go with a managed services provider and reskill the remaining FTE to support your AI/ML initiatives?

These are not decisions you want to make under pressure, yet the Association for Talent Development reports that only 35% of surveyed organizations have a formalized succession planning process. Darren Penn, senior client success manager at Rimini Street, explained, “Many times, organizations get caught off guard. They’ve got a key person that leaves with a couple of weeks’ notice with 30 years’ worth of knowledge in their head that’s not anywhere else. There’s no documentation. There’s no training plan. There’s no succession plan. They then find themselves in some pretty deep trouble pretty fast.” With a well-defined succession plan, these decisions will already be made before that role is vacated.


“With Rimini Street Application Management Services for Salesforce, for about the same cost of hiring one reasonably experienced Salesforce administrator, I have access to a worldwide group of highly qualified engineers. Not only have I expanded the skills and depth of my team, I now get the benefits 24/7.”

– Patrick Haley, Sr. Director of Sales Operations, NTT Global Data Centers Americas

Read how NTT Global address resource gaps

4 Elements of a Solid Succession Plan

Penn recommends creating a comprehensive succession plan that includes the following elements to protect your IT estate:

  • Identify key roles: Prioritize your IT ecosystem based on the systems that would create the most disruption in the case of an outage. Who’s responsible for running them? What skills do they contribute to the team? To assume that replacing a Salesforce developer with another Salesforce developer might cause you to overlook that your existing Salesforce developer may wear multiple hats.
  • Assess how to backfill those roles: You may not be able to replace a Salesforce developer who wears many hats with one candidate. Backfilling may require staffing two different skillsets with two different candidates. On the other hand, some roles may offer the opportunity to automate and consolidate roles. Knowing this upfront allows you to start thinking about channels for filling those skillsets.
  • Look for internal learning opportunities: For many companies, when a role opens up, there’s no time to invest the hours and resources needed to quickly reskill existing team members. A proactive approach to cross training helps to ensure that there’s more than one person able to manage systems in case of an emergency or attrition.
  • Invest in professional development: As IT leaders see technologies aging out and new technologies emerging, they should incentivize the team to expand their skillsets. One of the top barriers to advanced training is figuring out how to pay for it. By offering tuition reimbursement or funding certifications for the skills that you’ll need in the future, you’re better equipped with talent that understands how to apply cutting-edge technologies to your business. A happy by-product of making the investment, according to a GetSmarter survey, is that 92% percent of respondents across all generations reported feeling more engaged with their employer when learning opportunities were offered.

How to Minimize Disruption

If you’re like the 65% of survey respondents without a formalized succession planning process and find yourself with critical skills gaps, all is not lost. Here are some common ways to quickly find specialized IT talent to keep your business running:

  • Temporary staff augmentation: Able to provide highly specialized skills on a short-term basis but generally do not provide broad strategic support.
  • External systems integrators: Known for their experience with internally deployed and legacy systems but often don’t have the cloud and AI/ML experience that organizations need.
  • New FTEs: With the current skills gap in both legacy and emerging technologies, you’ll face challenges in not only finding the right skills but also being able to afford talent.
  • Application management services (AMS) provider: Offer a broad range of services to cover multiple expertise areas and provide both near-term and long-term strategic advice and direction.


Which option is best for you? This article takes a deep dive into how these options stack up.

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