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Reformatting IT Strategy and Moving Beyond Tech for Tech Sake
by Fred F. Farkel, Thursday, September 8th, 2011

 

Ty Howard, CIO

Biz-Nova

“Clouds of Change”

In the mist of one of the greatest economic crisis faced since the Great Depression, and the collapse of businesses and financial industries that once stood firmly rooted in the past and tradition, IT moved quietly and further into the shadows of the back office.  In attempt to save money and cut cost, companies were quick to reduce IT spending and eliminate project managers, business analyst, and anything that during more normal times would be considered “non-core.”

In the defense of IT Executives, when executives are forced to cut cost, they are stuck with little time and become caught up violently executing on measures that had they had time or the wherewithal, they would have done things much differently—consider the long-term needs in addition to the short-term and make the right blend of cuts.

However, hindsight is twenty-twenty, the clouds of change (and cloud computing) have set in where the landscape has become globally competitive. Education and skill development is increasingly becoming the new currency, and many organizations are lost and not sure where to go from here and what to invest in. Furthermore, institutional knowledge and IT staff reductions will have further implications downstream when companies attempt to rehire.

Questions that must be asked by IT Leaders: What has been lost in the process? And will I be able to buy that same talent back, should the IT market become competitive for talent as it did years prior to the real-estate boom. If you recall, after the Dot.com bust, many of the highly paid IT professionals went into real-estate and mortgages…is there an inverse relationship between IT and real-estate? If there is then perhaps there will be increased demand for IT over the next several months. All of these questions need to be answered regarding the business needs as technology leaders do their part to lead the way back to organizational recovery: Ergo the new IT Executive Reformatted with a business-minded operating system, that is capable of interpreting the language of the business and resolving complex problems with strategic solutions (not Technical).

“The Worlds is Flat”

As a CIO, and through talking with peers, the days of pursuing “Tech for Tech Sake” is indeed a thing of the past and that IT spending should have an ROI that can be quantifiable whether as a savings or as increased profitability that converts to dollars and sense. Let’s face it, budgets are smaller, and much like Thomas Friedman’s theory, “The World is Flat” everyone is a simple Google search away of being knowledgeable of what their options are and what technology could solve their problems. The true value is becoming the translator and integrator of these solutions.

Generally speaking, IT professionals have had the comfort and ability to talk over the heads of the business units in the room, over the past decade there has been a great shift. The business is no longer challenged with speaking IT, rather, IT is challenged with speaking “business”—a skill that is assumed, yet is extremely difficult if you have spent most of your professional years in the back-office or did not actively obtain the educational underpinnings required to understand business strategy, sales, procurement, contracts, portfolio management, businesses analysis and project management.

What are the skills that will be in demand?

Linda Leung wrote about the Global Knowledge/TechRepublic 2010 Salary Survey, conducted at that end of last year, one of the questions put to respondents was “What skill set will your company be looking to add in 2010?” In her write up, she discussed the heavy emphasis on business. Her top ten included Project Manager, Business Analysis, Business Process Improvement, and Security, all of which reflect the strong emphasis and the “Reformatting of IT Leadership”.

1. PROJECT MANAGEMENT: *Must understand the business

2. SECURITY: *Must understand the business

3. NETWORK ADMINISTRATION:

4. VIRTUALIZATION – CLOUD:

5. BUSINESS ANALYSIS: *Must understand the business

6. BUSINESS PROCESS IMPROVEMENT: *Must understand the business

7. WEB DEVELOPMENT:

8. DATABASE MANAGEMENT:

9. WINDOWS ADMINISTRATION:

10. DESKTOP SUPPORT:

New Version of IT Leadership 2.0

Given the need for IT to move away from the days of “Tech for Tech Sake,” the new IT Executive will be not taking a techno-centric view of the world, rather they will be focused on the universal language of business. We are indeed in a global market, and business is universal. In order to be successful, the new IT leader must be willing to reformat their thinking and move more towards interfacing with the business units in a more user-friendly manner.

What this means to IT leaders, is that they (all levels) are actively involved in having whiteboard sessions in which the marker is past around from IT to the Business, and from the Business to IT?  After all, although prehistoric, drawing and sketching is arguably our most universal language.

Conversely, public speaking is ranked ahead of people’s fear of dying—and communications has been identified as the cornerstone of moving up the career ladder. With all of this considered, it is clear that IT leaders become facilitators, project managers and “friends of the business.” These are no longer “nice to have skills,” rather they are “must have skills!”

These skills can only be done through training of staff, reaching out to identify problems, calculated risk taking and an intense curiosity to study and examine the business with a scientific curiosity. Additionally, new IT leaders should have the ability to become one of the arts: that is fluent in blending all of colors (markers), tools, words, emotions, shapes, drawings (diagramming), creative thought, and merge them into one romantic-holistic view of the organization as a living-breathing-organism, that appreciates poetry in motion.

Ty Howard is the founder of Biz-Nova Consulting and has several years experience as a Senior IT Leader and CIO. Mr. Howard has been recognized by both CIO and Computer World magazine for his leadership. He is a Project Management Professional (PMP), a professional facilitator, trainer and can be reached at tyhoward@biz-nova.com or 877 494 8342.

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