The five predictions that I’d made in my February editorial
on changing IT department dynamics have led to a series of conversations with CIOs, most of whom agreed that direct reports are going to be less about technology skills and more about the soft power aspects of management. Imagine my delight when the World Economic Forum’s recent report ‘New Vision For Education—Unlocking The Potential of Technology’ said the following: “To thrive in a rapidly evolving, technology-mediated world,” the report begins, “students must not only possess strong skills in areas such as language arts, mathematics and science, but they must also be adept at skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, persistence, collaboration and curiosity.” Outside of what the report terms foundational literacies like math, science and culture, the report points to competencies and traits that are now critical. Competencies like problem solving, creativity, communication and collaboration and qualities like curiosity, initiative, grit, adaptability and social awareness. Given that core technology skills can be hired with greater ease than before, aren’t these that competencies and traits that you really need in the IT department to make yours a digital enterprise? As technology delivery and sourcing increasingly is the responsibility of third-party IT providers—cloud or outsourcing—it’s clear that your department has to prove it’s worth in areas that are beyond the pale of IT. For instance, in handling relationships with lines of business as well as technology providers or in improving processes that allow better ‘speccing’ or improving the rigor of delivery estimates or even applying frameworks that reduce variability in output. These are where I see the gaps today. I see departments that are still too much about the technology and not enough about the business. And, its worrying that when the baton of technology passes to providers beyond an organization’s perimeter, questions are bound to be asked about the value that the IT department provides. If that value lies in just the monitoring of delivery and sourcing, then that will likely be transient at best. Change your department’s goalposts now or you might have to deal with someone changing them for you.