by Michael Kirven

Rebuilding IT post-recession: Hire for the future, not the past

Jun 21, 20113 mins
CareersCloud ComputingEmerging Technology

By Michael Kirven

As CIOs and other tech-focused business leaders seek to rebuild IT post-recession, they need to make sure that the new talent they’re bringing in is in sync with the new technology landscape: that is to say, flexible, adaptive and collaborative.

Cloud computing, social media and mobile technologies are having an effect that some are calling “the consumerization” of IT. Consequently, demand for new skills is emerging, such as mobile “app” developers for Google’s Android, Apple’s iPhone and iPad platform along with social networking sites such as Facebook, and “hot” technologies such as Flash, Flex, PHP and Ruby.

However, it would be a mistake to end the discussion here. When we talk about hiring for the future, we’re really talking more about mindset than specific technology skillsets, which will come and go. Tomorrow’s IT pro will operate within an increasingly fast and erratic business cycle. Consider a 2010 Zenoss survey, in which 41 percent of IT professionals indicated they now prefer to deploy servers virtually and 43 percent said flexibility was their main reason for using virtualization. This illustrates a fundamental shift in the standard implementation process, which is becoming much faster and more flexibility-driven.

Therefore, one of the first attributes you should gauge with new hires is their ability to adapt.  The old school software implementation took years, cost millions and was completed come hell or high water. The new school implementation will be completed within weeks on pennies-to-the-dollar, and may be ditched even more quickly if it proves to be a bad fit or if something better comes along. So if the traditional hire can be characterized as a rigid perfectionist, the new hire needs to be someone that can go with the flow of the ever-changing needs of the business and accept that the implementation will never really be “finished.”

Also, pay close attention to social skills. Tomorrow’s IT pro will function within a communication landscape in which hierarchy has all but disappeared, and people – including employees from all departments and customers – are talking to each other 24/7 in real time through every possible channel.

These new technologies will require an IT department that is fully integrated into the flow of the company. The IT pro of the future will be fluent in the language of business, and able to talk to the company’s bottom line alongside any marketing or sales executive. The new state of business – in which the average employee relies increasingly on technology – will require it.

On a related note, look for new hires that have a collaborative outlook. Though we think of great innovators as individuals, the reality is that innovation in business is a collaborative process, and it will become even more so as social media and other technologies continue to break down departmental silos. So while you’ll want to know what a job candidate was able to accomplish as an individual, it is increasingly important to know what they were able to put into motion as part of a team. Possibly even more importantly, find out about how they collaborated with non-IT people within the company, and how their IT work made those folks more effective in their jobs.

IT is coming out of the basement. To paraphrase comedian Jerry Stiller, “That’s new school IT, baby!”

Michael Kirven is co-founder of agile business consulting firm Bluewolf, which provides lifecycle innovation, cloud implementations, IT staffing, managed services and other services to sync business and IT for efficient, adaptive performance.