Retooling IT staff for the new business technology reality - managers and CIOs need to get it right

David O’Leary shared this article with me today from his past roles as chair national council of IT Deans, CEO, CIO, VP, educator, writer IDG-IT World Canada, board member, …

A fundamental change is rapidly impacting all businesses that use technology. IT Managers, CIOs, and senior business leaders of those companies who want to capture or retain leading positions in their sector need to enact a significant change and a retooling on the employee side of the house in response to that change. The unprecedented horizontal and vertical growth in all areas of technology as it impacts business is of historical proportions. Four major forces driving this are identified in a recent Gartner Research report. Social, mobile, cloud and information technologies require fundamental change for IT and IT staff. No longer is it enough to be a vertical expert in one area. The emerging requirements include a broad understanding of all technology areas that touch off and integrate with the individual employee’s area of expertise. Additionally and of utmost importance, all IT team members must understand the business and how technology impacts results. Only companies who make this adjustment within their IT staff will be successful and maintain leading positions.

So now that I have raised the alarm, and I am not the first to do so, how are you as managers and CIO going to plan and execute the change? Assuming you want to operate with in house IT, the first step is to fully assess what your business needs are and compare to the staff skills and knowledge profile of your current IT team. Once you have identified the gaps you will need to either retool your existing employees or bring on appropriately prepared new people.

Looking to the new people piece first, many post-secondary institutions are revising their programs to better align with the significant impact of these change forces. The Business Technology Management program at Canada’s Simon Fraser University is one example. Numerous universities are currently looking at providing a Business Technology Management option for their business students. Other post-secondary institutions are requiring their IT students to include business courses in their curriculum. This is a good start and graduates of those schools leading this change are in high demand.

If you want to invest in developing your in house IT staff there are significant resources available to assist you. Organizations such as the Association for Computing Machinery, through their Professional Development Committee, provide courses that can enable broadening of an employee’s technical understanding beyond their particular area of expertise. The ACM Tech Packs and the incredible Digital Library are also there to support this broadening. In addition to the knowledge side of creating this change, you will need to work with your senior business leaders to create a cross over learning opportunity for your staff and ideally for theirs as well. A software developer who spends time with the business units that use her or his work will have their perspective forever changed.

For many businesses their IT Managers and CIOs, the changes required to excel in this rapidly changing business technology world amount to nothing less than a shift in corporate culture. Get ready for a wild ride and if you choose not to get on the consequences will be dire.