The past two decades have drastically changed the popular perception of what it means to be an IT professional. Once seen as the defining example of predictability and control, the digital world now appears to many as a chaotic mix of opportunities and threats.
No longer just the invisible stokers of the back-office engines of the enterprise, todays IT architects and managers are on the front lines of strategic initiatives and corporate governance improvements. Theyre also facing the increasingly demanding job of defending enterprise information assets against sophisticated and fast-moving attacks.
Surprisingly, however, the seasoned IT leaders of eWEEKs Corporate Partner Advisory Board see the changes in their duties as more evolution than revolution.
The jobs of evaluating outsourcing as an alternative and/or complementary technology support system, assuring compliance with applicable regulations, and maintaining integrity of operations are not new—although the Corporate Partners said they do find that they must address management expectations that IT departments will do more with less.
On the plus side, Corporate Partners find that todays IT users have a head start on basic skills and a personal sense—as home PC users—of what it takes to keep things up and running.
The role of IT professional is constantly in flux. We wanted to sit down with you to discuss some of your new—or, should we say, newer—responsibilities and the impact they are having on your jobs and companies.
Have any of you felt any direct impact on your resources as a result of having to meet reporting requirements or auditability requirements, such as for the Sarbanes-Oxley Act or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act?
Calabrese: Because of all these new concerns and the new security focus, where "security" is every third word we see, Im shedding the commodity stuff because I just dont have the bandwidth to do a lot of the stuff that I used to.
So the elevated concern for some really complex site-specific and strategic questions like security and data confidentiality and so on are making it necessary for you to offload functions?
Calabrese: Yes. I think its an evolution. There was a time when day-to-day acquisition of hardware and management of licensing and what have you was the new cutting-edge place where we could add value.
So you feel that the level of standards and the level of product performance have reached the point where theres kind of a maturation of what you can do as a technologist? So your opportunity in the organization is more as a CIO type rather than an MIS type?
Calabrese: Well, I think its just a matter of looking at a fundamentally new set of technologies.
Skaff: IT continues to evolve. Its no longer purely a back-office science. A broader skill set is required—still very technical but with business acumen and negotiation and vendor management skills.
Technology has gone mainstream, but IT still finds itself in the role of bridging the knowledge gap and articulating to the rest of the business how technology may best be applied to reap the maximum advantage.
An even balance is developing between technical and business skills. In-depth technical knowledge is still required, but it must now be rounded out with the "softer" business skills. As technology evolves into a more strategic role in a market of diminishing margins, delivering a decisive competitive edge requires not just the knowledge of how to use a tool but when and where to use it.