Being in the IT industry for 17 years has given me the privilege of seeing many changes in technology and the way we use it. This experience reminds me of talking to my great grandmother before she died and hearing a vivid description of the many changes society went through from the 19th to the 21st century. Any person who has been in any industry other than IT can attest to the changes in technology as well. From the Atari to the PS2, from the monochrome WANG station to the iPAD, from the mainframe to the server to the cloud. We see these things change but one thing we don’t notice is the change that has to take place in the people that make all of this stuff run for us, the IT guy/gal.
Your IT person used to be reactive, than they focused on maintaining protocols, then they even got proactive, but they didn’t concentrate on processes and how to map everything to your strategic plan. Nobody asked them to do so and they were too busy putting out fires and becoming experts on E-mail, Database, Portals, Quickbooks and all other programs users demanded. This gave them no time to sit back and align IT with business strategy. Now comes this cloud everybody talks about but nobody knows what it means. This cloud movement is a magic blackbox to some but to others it is just SAAS rebranded. Either way you look at it, the cloud will change the way the IT department is viewed and used and therefore the IT person will have to shift their efforts into understanding business processes better. Let me explain.
There will be no more Exchange experts because you can outsource such a function to the company that makes Exchange (which by the way also gives you SharePoint, Instant Messaging and Live Meeting). There will be no more experts in fixing workstations because there will be programs like Citrix and VMWare that will enable people to use any device they want to get the same “desktop” from work or at their in-laws house. If the IT person wants to exist at all in 5 to 10 years they will have to evolve to a role of facilitator of technology. To evolve into that role they will still have to be more technical than most in the company, while at the same time know more about the aggregate processes of the organization than anybody else.
Management will also have to look at their IT department in a different way. Involving them in strategic planning and providing them with requirements rather than specific applications they want them to install. Bigger companies have less of a problem when it comes to ITs involvement in strategic planning because they have the CIO and the IT Director (a real one, not one that also answers service desk calls). Smaller organization have more of a problem when involving IT in their strategic planning. IT is a tool to enable business to be more efficient so the IT person just like C-level folks need to internalize this concept. So every time the IT person changes configuration or introduces a new piece of software into the system they need to think about how it maps to the bottom line.
So, IT person, throw your pocket protector away and put your tie on or your hard hat if you are in construction. You need to become a subject matter expert not in software but in the processes of your organization to be seen as valuable. The meteorite is coming and the suit will be your bunker. Good luck evolving and don’t say I didn’t warn you.