Building an IT Career in the Midst of Change (Part 2)

Insightful analysis of unemployment data by Foote Partners, an independent IT benchmarking research and advisory firm, concludes that “A lot of the jobs lost during this recession are not coming back because employers have changed their human capital investment models and practices. Instead of focusing on jobs, the accent is on skills acquisition.” Let’s further review how these issues are impacting IT professionals.

Do More With Less. Moving email systems to the cloud is becoming common and the cost benefits are easy to demonstrate. But email is only the beginning. With software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), infrastructure as a service (Iaas), and data as a service (DaaS) you can expect to see a major shift in the way that technology is provisioned across the entire spectrum from infrastructure to business applications.

Many organizations are making the business transition to managed services for very practical financial reasons. It’s an easy decision to choose SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS during volatile times when investments in long-term projects, costly infrastructure, and permanent employees are beyond an organization’s reach. Cloud-based services are the next generation of IT outsourcing. Yet cloud computing is no silver bullet; it resolves some long-standing problems and creates some new questions. The wise business will move forward cautiously, avoid the temptation of optimistic projections that lead to ill-informed decisions.

It is the responsibility of IT to engage the business in discussions and to educate them about all the issues surrounding this new outsourcing model. IT executives who can clearly describe how they developed their strategy for moving to the cloud, and the business issues and risks they considered will find a responsive business.

IT Transparency. IT departments that are shrouded in secrecy amplify the perception of IT as a massive cost center with questionable business value. Hidden processes, priorities, and finances cause IT to be viewed as a black box – or worse yet as a “black hole into which we throw money.” Some estimates indicate that IT accounts for nearly one-half of all capital expenditure in US corporations. For such large investments, business executives need to believe that they are receiving value for their money and that the services provided by IT are at the right level and at the right cost.

In the book ‘The Real Business of IT: How CIOs Create and Communicate Value’1, the authors write that successful CIOs ‘link the cost of IT operations to the quality and volume of service. And they use unit costs and standard performance metrics to compare their services with those of other units or enterprises in an apples-to-apples way.’ IT needs to address this method of substantiating costs and demonstrating business value in language the business will understand and appreciate.

Collaboration. Before we discuss collaborative relationships, we need to understand its meaning. Collaboration is a style of working together that is characterized by communication, discussion, and collective decision making. It is important in two ways: (1) because business/IT collaboration is one of the ways to create real value through technology, and (2) because connected and collaborative are defining behavioral traits of the new generation of business managers.

It should come as no surprise that tech-savvy business professionals are changing the IT landscape. They have radically different expectations of what technology can and should do that signals the decreased need for outside technical skills. The closing of the skills gap between technical and business professionals will continue to shrink.

IT professionals and IT executives must embrace technology and technical skills outside of their own domain and give business units the acknowledgment that they can implement their own technology solutions; IT will provide enough standardization to enable technology use and selection that doesn’t result in chaos. Engaging business people in these conversations creates a collaborative IT that is tightly woven into the business infrastructure. Creating a resume that describes an ability to balance independence, autonomy, and standards will speak to the business.