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Could technology drive IT out of business?

Could technology drive IT out of business?

The IT department is expected to undergo a sea change as it adopts cloud, mobile, social, and big data technologies, says IDC MEA and Turkey’s group VP and regional MD.

The most significant shift ever seen in IT growth and innovation is now well underway. Indeed, the move to what is known as the ‘3rd Platform’ — built on mobile devices, cloud services, social technologies, and big data — is set to take on increasing urgency in 2015 as the market matures past the ‘exploration’ stage and into full-blown competition.

In essence, the 3rd Platform is changing IT’s relationship with business, and is therefore mandating a new focus on productivity. And as businesses across the region increasingly take the leap to embrace these transformative technologies, there are a number of significant implications that IT executives must begin addressing immediately if they are to remain competitive and relevant in this exciting new era.

Chief among these implications is the irreversible transformation that is beginning to take shape in the IT job market. My regular discussions with CIOs throughout the Middle East and Africa reveal a heightened sense of urgency to begin preemptively strategising for their staffing needs of the future. And this is with very good reason.

The IT department is expected to undergo a sea change as it adopts cloud, mobile, social, and big data/analytics technologies. These technologies will transform IT from a department that delivers IT systems to one that delivers IT services, from a department that is focused on IT agility to one that is focused on business agility, and from a department that drives information to one that drives innovation.

The upshot of all of this is that IT staffing needs are set to change forever, with the shift to 3rd Platform modes of delivery impacting where new positions are created and which roles and skills are phased out by market forces. As such, the CIO must now act as a gardener — cultivating, growing, reshaping, and gathering a veritable pool of IT talent.

There is a pressing need to ensure that the IT department remains truly relevant to the new and constantly evolving demands of the business, and I advise CIOs to act on this issue posthaste. They should start by assessing their existing IT job roles and classifying them in terms of whether they’re currently of high or low importance and whether they are expected to grow or decline in importance over time.

Armed with the information, the CIO will have a much clearer picture of his next-generation IT workforce. This will include roles that are currently less important to the enterprise mission but are expected to gain in importance going forward, such as the emerging fields of mobile development, social developers, social community administrators, and business analysis. And as the IT gardener, the CIO’s primary goal is to begin sowing the seeds for these up-and-coming roles before demand for them outstrips supply.

This new generation will also include roles that are currently important to the enterprise and are expected to become even more so over time — security, service management, enterprise architecture, and business intelligence and analytics. These roles typically require both a specific set of technical capabilities and a breadth of experience that are instrumental to the current and future states of the IT department. CIOs must start focusing now on attracting and retaining these highly sought-after positions as they will serve as the lifeblood of the IT garden.

It goes without saying that not all will be rosy in this garden. There will of course be traditionally important roles whose value will diminish in the marketplace as the 3rd Platform becomes more firmly entrenched — data architecture, management, and storage; application development; application operations; IT management; and network operations. In other words, the core IT workforce. As such, I urge CIOs to fully understand how these roles are being impacted by the 3rd Platform and to reshape – or even prune – them to allow for the continued fruitfulness of the overall garden.

Even after all this, there is still one group unaccounted for — the peripheral IT workforce. These roles are currently of low overall importance to the overall corporate mission, and they are expected to remain so, or to decline in significance over time. This includes technical support, help desk, training and documentation, and sourcing, and while attracting employees to this workforce will not be difficult, the IT gardener must determine which crop of employees to gather and potentially cultivate into more valued roles.

This latter point is particularly pertinent as the 3rd Platform is creating a skills gap that is becoming more and more costly to fill. For new technologies such as cloud and analytics, CIOs are increasingly complaining of a near absence of relevant skills in the marketplace. And given this reality, it is crucial that they start identifying high-potential candidates from inside their own organizations. Difficult-to-hire IT roles command a very hefty premium, and while retraining an under-skilled employee who shows potential may cost more upfront, it is a far less expensive strategy in the long run than recruiting a fully skilled and experienced resource.

There is a certain sense of irony that the emergence of new technologies is spelling the end of the IT department as we know it. But by embracing this era of change and intelligently preparing for their future staffing needs now, CIOs can ensure that they and their teams remain as relevant and indispensible to the overall business as ever before.

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