The skills set and profile of IT staff is changing dramatically. Simon Kent of Sollertis cites research which says a new breed of business-orientated IT professional is not only on the rise but is actually the future of the industry.
According to Gartner, within the next five years, 40% of IT staff will be ‘versatilists’ who spend the majority of their time dealing with business rather than technical challenges. This means that the number of people employed purely for their IT technical expertise – estimated at 42% of the IT workforce – will continue to fall.
These figures are eye-opening – but not surprising for those paying attention to the trends within business technology. IT will always rely on people with great technical prowess. However, the scale and importance of IT mean that this alone is not enough to ensure the technology delivers what the business needs.
The signs are all around us that the scope of IT is increasing. Whereas conversations about IT and service management were (not so long ago) largely about processes such as ITIL, we now talk intently about far more diverse topics: customer experience, the role that IT plays in marketing, employee engagement and job satisfaction and leadership styles to cite just a few examples. Even capabilities and cultures such as Business Relationship Management (BRM) and DevOps are far more orientated towards people and the role they play in delivering successful IT.
We’ve seen much greater emphasis in recent years on the ‘end result’ of IT, rather than management of technology itself. This is all part of IT’s ‘bigger picture’. Rather than IT being a subservient department, it must work as part of the business-wide team pursuing strategic goals.
The ‘versalistists’ are on the rise because to achieve this harmonious working, the business needs IT to be a working partner, not a department. But I will go a step further and state that in the near future EVERYONE working in an IT capacity will have this business-orientated slant built into their psyche. IT is so important to the competitive success of organisations that ‘carrying’ people who fail to see the context of their work will not be sustainable.
The ideas within the aforementioned DevOps and BRM are designed to improve universal understanding of how IT connects to business processes and performance. They encourage discussion, continuous feedback and collaborative working. The end goal? Ensure that IT is co-creating and fulfilling corporate objectives. And while this approach may be relatively new and unusual to IT professionals, it will become second nature – there’s no going back.
It’s an exciting time to be working in IT. Those focused solely on the technology will be challenged to learn how IT impacts business units, individuals and overall performance, and adjust accordingly. But there’s also a massive opportunity for the less-technically minded to offer real value to the business. The ideal IT professional will have IT knowledge, but will also possess great communication skills and understand the business-world – particularly the challenges that IT is best placed to address. These people, the true versatilists, will be at the fulcrum of business technology. They will smash the silos between IT and business, drive innovation, and act as a pivot to ensure that IT is positioned to deliver exactly what their business needs to succeed.
Your choice as an IT professional is to decide where you fit into this picture. I urge you to learn about approaches and capabilities such as DevOps and Business Relationship Management and introduce them to your business. But crucially, begin to change your mindset. Think about your actions in a business context. Don’t wait for a report or a feedback form. Speak to people within your business. Pay attention to the challenges and be mindful of how technology can help. If you do this, you will solidify your own value and take a lead in the future of IT.
I’ve co-written two guides that will help you become a versatilist:
Feel free to connect with me on Twitter to continue the conversation @kent2112