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Information technology has changed a lot in recent decades. In fact, employers and employees agree that we’re entering a post-IT world where specialisation becomes the name of the game. Here’s what you need to know.
“IT is becoming a term that is increasingly rejected by technology professionals,” says Hung Lee, co-founder of recruitment site Workshape.io, an innovative job-matching platform used by the likes of M&S, Uber and Moonpig.
It’s a controversial statement, but one he is happy to substantiate.
“We have seen a number of developments over the past decade that have transformed the way companies work.” Lee outlines a present where digital spaces bear no relation to the IT departments of even a decade ago.
The central point of Lee’s argument (and a whole host of industry commentators and experts) is that as the technology industry changes and grows, it’s natural that there will be specialisation. In part this is because of the huge variety of new challenges that didn’t exist even a decade ago. Social media, wearable devices, mobile apps and the transformative nature of the cloud are all new areas for the tech professional to transfer their skills.
It’s also that the sector has grown. “The new specialists are in addition to, rather than in replacement of, existing skills,” says Glyn Shier, senior consultant at London-based Norton Leigh.
For those in the sector, specialisation could be the key to better jobs and higher wages. It’s unsurprising that CIOs command the most money, but in a recent report by US recruitment firm Robert Half, it is interesting to see the diversity of skills, and the wages they command. The post-IT world isn’t one that’s short of opportunities.
“Technology professionals are speaking in terms of software development and infrastructure administration as different types of work to the traditional jobs that existed in IT departments 15 years ago,” Lee says.
So what does this mean? Lee is happy to offer his view. “IT professionals have a choice: to move into programming and work for a software company, or focus on the servers, networks and databases and work for one of the outsourcers.”
Lee highlights an industry-wide transformation from the traditional team roles of a decade ago to a greater demand for specialisation. This specialisation is driven by the market, with the traditional skills of the all-rounder less in demand than those of the expert.
This is increasingly true as organisations outsource to specialists, according to Shier. “Companies that outsource IT/digital services naturally want to do so to a specialist in that discipline rather than someone with broad skills.”
What’s in a name?
The increasing specialisation is leading to the development of a growing number of job titles that could baffle the outsider. Technologists and futurists are helping organisations plan their route through the confusing digital minefield and are strongly involved in strategic planning and identifying and applying technologies in order to achieve long-term goals.
IT architects and IT liaison officers bridge the gap between the business and the specialists, creating a shared language and improving communications, and are roles that have developed in response to increasingly complex IT environments and systems.
It’s not just a strong set of technical skills. Across the sector there is an increasing demand not only for those with solid fundamentals, but also the managerial skills to lead transformational change.
The specialist CIO is now a fixture in the boardroom, and in the connected world they occupy arguably the most important role in the business. Interestingly, leadership responsibility and business impact are two of the most satisfying aspects of the CIO role, according to a recent Gartner report.
Described as a ‘fad’ by Digiday, the role of ‘creative technologists’ is just one of the new digital specialisms breaking down the barriers between tech and marketing. Sitting within the marketing team, the creative technologist is a digital expert who helps traditional marketers achieve results, develop apps and succeed in the online world.
In fact, the modern marketing department is increasingly staffed by those who could be considered IT professionals.
Every time Google changes its algorithm, industry experts may claim that SEO is dead, but the digital advertising sector is one that shows no signs of slowing down. PPC and ‘paid social’ (advertising through Facebook, Twitter and other social networks) are both increasingly important to the success of businesses of all sizes and demand a knowledge that most general marketers may not have.
The IT function is not only growing in size, but importance too. As a result of specialisation, the CIO may find themselves responsible not only for the technology budget, but the marketing budget too.
The new normal
“Knowledge itself has fallen out of demand,” Lee says, perhaps controversially. “The ‘new normal’ means working in a state of incomplete knowledge and dealing with challenges that may be completely new.”
In such a changeable environment, to be successful in IT it’s all about being flexible, open and ready to learn. The positive thing is that from the CIO down, those successful in IT share the same traits.
In this sense, at least, the post-IT world may not be too different from the current one.