The pace of change in IT has always been brisk, but technology advances such as virtualisation, the cloud, service management and a focus on information management and collaboration have forced businesses into a dead sprint to keep up. And as technology changes, so do the skills, knowledge and job roles needed to design, build, implement and manage these cutting-edge technologies. The majority of IT organisations aren't prepared for the battle, even as the war for talent rages on.
A continuing talent crisis
According to a report by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), a member-based advisory and consulting company, almost 80% of IT organisations don't provide training, coaching or education for skills they expect will increase in importance, and 61% don't have skills forecasts for IT as a whole. Organisations without a clear plan to address these needs risk getting left behind, says Andrew Horne, managing director of CEB.
"The IT talent crisis isn't new, but there's a considerable shift happening in the skills that are in demand. We've identified six major roles we see as being the 'future of corporate IT' that we think most, if not all, innovative companies will need going forward," Horne says.
The six critical roles businesses need in 2015 and beyond
CEB says CIOs will need to fill these six critical IT roles to remain competitive in 2015 and beyond:
The ubiquitous nature of affordable, easy-to-use cloud-based apps has led to an influx of these applications into the enterprise, says Horne. "In the past, IT was in charge of all technology purchase decisions and developed specific vendor negotiation and purchasing skills," Horne says. "Now, almost every department from marketing to finance has the ability to buy apps they feel will benefit their group, but in some cases these folks are more willing than able."
A technology broker provides buying advice and negotiating support to divisions across a company to make sure purchasing decisions are sound and that technology's compatible with existing systems, Horne says. Some brokers will have a sales or business development background, others will come from procurement or have experience managing IT providers, but all will need to help others within the company make informed decisions based on their previous experience, says Horne.
Information insight enabler
Most organisations have an abundance of information, reports and statistics, but aren't using that effectively to drive business and strategic decisions, says Horne. "And information insight enabler is something of a Big Data role; they act as coaches, not just technologists, to help business leaders and front-line employees to derive greater insight from management reports," he says "These folks understand the data and know best how to put it to business use," he says.
Candidates will have experience in market research or financial research, or in analytics and statistics.
User experience guru
One of the major obstacles to adoption for traditional enterprise software is poor user experience - take ERP solutions, for example. "A lot of legacy enterprise tech just isn't user-friendly, and people won't use something that's poorly designed or complex, and that impacts productivity in a negative way," Horne says.
"When it comes to productivity tools for collaboration, analytics and mobile, employees will find a more usable alternative, even if it's not 'approved' or provided by IT, so a user experience guru is necessary to understand and improve the user experience and improve collaboration and productivity," says Horne.
Cloud integration specialist
As cloud usage increases, so does the number of business leaders purchasing their own applications and software packages (see technology broker). Unfortunately, Horne says, these individual buyers often don't consider integration and compatibility issues with existing enterprise systems, and that can mean major business headaches.
"A cloud integration specialist is dedicated to navigating these coordination and integration issues as well as managing and educating purchasers and users on compatibility and on working with vendors to ask the right questions," Horne says. Because of their need to understand both back-end systems and new, cloud-based technologies, candidates for this role will have the most traditional IT background of these six roles.
End-to-end IT service manager
The concept of IT-as-a-service requires a role that integrates business, information and technology to create end-to-end IT services that increase flexibility while maintaining efficiency, says Horne.
"This end-to-end services model takes everything IT does and stitches it all together - all the technology, data, support, applications, strategy - to create flexibility, responsiveness and efficiencies," Horne says. These candidates will fill more senior roles with experience in areas such as service delivery, business engagement, and technology sales and marketing.
"IT-as-a-service creates an environment where IT adapts to support current practices, current business needs, incorporates new and different technologies and makes it all work seamlessly," Horne says.
Collaboration and social media evangelist
There are plenty of opportunities for collaboration, both internally and with customers and partners, Horne says, but most organisations just aren't good at it. With the growing digitisation of business, this role will be responsible for understanding how and why employees collaborate and developing a collaboration and social media strategy, he says.
"They'll need to know what tools for collaboration and social engagement are available and which will work best within their organisation," Horne says. "There will also be a need for the talent in this role to understand how best to foster communication and collaboration among teams."
Candidates for the role will have backgrounds not typical in IT today, such as marketing, communications and even behavioral sciences like anthropology or organisational psychology, according to CEB.
Filling in the blanks
But identifying these roles isn't the same as having a plan in place to develop and hire the talent to fill them, says Horne. Even the most innovative organisations will need a plan to develop talent from within and then to hire for what they can't grow themselves.
"Smart companies will plan to develop talent for these roles from within their existing teams, and once they've identified the right skill sets and where they are lacking, they'll hire for what they don't have," Horme says. In the past, companies would identify a needed skill, go look for a candidate, and hire them as-needed. That worked for awhile, says Horne, until the rate of change in IT just became much too fast for hiring to keep up. Today's lightning-fast IT environment demands a new way of looking at attracting and hiring talent, he says.
Creating a workforce plan
"Now, you need a workforce plan - a forward-looking plan that takes into account the future roles, skills, competencies you need. You'll also have to be more selective when you're hiring; you might have to change your value proposition, increase your compensation rates, or your benefits and perks. You also have to spot these skills you're looking for within your own organisation and be able to develop them," Horne says.
It's a matter of changing your mindset to keep up with the rate of change in the industry, Horne says. One important factor is including your IT teams and leaders in the search, vetting and hiring process to make sure IT and business needs are being met.
"Don't try and make these hiring decisions in a vacuum or make them exclusive to executives. Don't hide these roles from your IT team. Engage them in figuring out what holes need to be filled, what positions they need, and also who they have currently whose skills could have additional value," Horne says. "If you already employ people with cross-functional experience, you can build on existing skills and teach or train the others. You've already gotten ahead of the curve," he says.