map The changing role of the IT leader

Today’s IT leader plays a much different role than the IT leader of several years ago.

There used to be a time when all Information Technology was centralized in an organization. Mainframes, time-share systems, and supercomputers were all managed through a central IT department. If you needed technology to get the job done, you went through the IT leader.

In the 2000s, the IT leader’s job changed. Technology became a commodity, ubiquitous. As a result, IT no longer can survive as an “ivory tower” that provides all IT services from a central office.

The changing landscape

Consider how the IT landscape has changed. The concept of central IT no longer exists in the same way. Take this example: A member of the Sales team accesses their work on an organizational Cloud app on a personal laptop via a web browser, using a USB attached cellular network device. In what part of that configuration would an IT leader be successful at inserting themselves and turning the user’s attention back to a centrally-delivered IT service? And should the IT leader even attempt to reign back this user?

In many organizations, one-third to one-half of the devices used to do work might be owned by the employees using them; the era of “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) is already here. Most of the computing devices are in the hands of the users. This trend is only going to grow as organizations shift workloads to Cloud-based services delivered over the web. The device and operating system become less important.

The modern role of local IT leaders has shifted from implementing locally-delivered technology to negotiating and brokering vendor-delivered services.

A new role

In this new mode, IT leaders evaluate if centrally-hosted services should become a shrinking portion of those they select to deploy and manage. Consider any new service for your organization, such as process management. Would you go with a centrally-managed application or load up an open source application on a hosted virtual machine? Or would you share an application with another division, or use one of the many cloud-based process management solutions available today? Which IT solution is the most cost effective?

We’ve known for a while that the Cloud offers an economy of scale that significantly reduces the operational expenses of providing a service. Similarly, it’s become clear that IT shops can provide the most benefit to their users by assisting with the top-ten emerging technologies.

New options are appearing constantly and we need to not only assist our users in selecting these solutions but also communicate among the user base about what new IT solutions are emerging and how these solutions might benefit the organization as a whole.

IT organizations must adapt

Technology is always changing, always evolving. IT organizations must adapt to constant change or they will die. For IT organizations to be adaptive and responsive, successful IT leaders need to respond to three major trends shaping the workforce:

1. Business partnership is critical

Supporting the organization in the new landscape requires building and maintaining relationships. Relationships with the rest of the organization must be intentional and structural. IT leaders who maintain strong relationships will be able to connect business needs to technology.

2. Workforce skills must evolve

As technology changes, we need to continually invest in our staff. Shifting from internally-developed and locally-managed applications to Cloud systems requires IT to shift its focus from development to integration. Vendor management must be intentional.

3. IT must be a leader

The business relies on the CIO to set a direction for technology. IT is uniquely positioned to see across departments and technologies, and can be proactive in recommending solutions and strategies. Provide a road map, keep it updated, and tie it to business objectives.