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Next Generation IT

IT has spent the last 40 or some odd years automating business processes. Now it is being called upon to step forward and be a leader in business process innovation. As studies show, the demand for IT people who are innovative will only keep increasing. This requires specialists who have both the technical skill and the creative vision to create new products and capabilities. In conjunction with this trend, companies are also looking for IT workers who possess relationship management and project management skills. When researchers at the Society of Information Management (SIM), asked IT leaders in a 2005 survey which skills they felt might disappear from their departments by 2008, the top ranked responses were: programming (with the exception of Java, .Net and Linux), operations, and desktop help. Reasons for the decline in demand of these skills is that they are likely to become either obsolete, automated or outsourced. Application engineers, systems engineers and network analysts, on the other hand, are the areas where employment in IT has made the biggest gains since 2000. The same survey also revealed that the top skills IT leaders believe to be the most important to keep “in-house” are those related to project management and business processes. The top skills in demand include: business process reengineering, user relations management, negotiation, change management, communication and managing expectations. Only two technical skills (systems analysis and systems design) made the top 15 skills list. .Tacit Knowledge The above skills are defined by economists as being tacit work, meaning that they require the ability to “analyze information, grapple with ambiguity and solve problems, often based on experience,” writes Christopher Koch in a recent article for CIO Magazine. According to consulting agency McKinsey, tacit jobs have been growing three times faster than employment in the entire national US economy. Tacit knowledge can be defined simply as “personal knowledge,” as it is what is intuitively learned through the experience of doing a task over a long period of time. The technician who can tell the health of a machine from the hum it generates is an example of tacit knowledge at work. Hard to extrapolate, tacit knowledge cannot be easily reduced to simple rules or codes. Because it resides in people’s minds, it is lost when employees leave an organization. The shift to tacit work means that automation could disappear, with more pressure being placed on inventors to now make technology think, rather than automate. People working in IT have the advantage on this as they can envision what business people often can’t. Through the combination of their skills and understanding of technological processes (i.e. Broadband connectivity, the Internet, software and gadgets like cell phones and PDA’s), IT workers are the most likely candidates to design our new processes and capabilities. But to effectively do this, IT departments must now adapt to understanding how the business side of things work. “The discussion that business wants to have today is: How are you going to partner with me to win in the marketplace?” says Shaygan Kheradpir, CIO of telecommunications company, Verizon. “They see that the world is full of IT innovations that the customer never asked for. When did a customer ever ask for the iPod or Google? Yet once they get them, they can’t live without them.” (Source: CIO Magazine) A few schools in the US are responding to the demands set by these new trends by offering programs that combine both IT and business curricula. Certainly, being a programmer, systems engineer, innovator and project manager is not a career path that comes naturally for many people. What is likely to occur more frequently is that a few key, in-house employees will be assigned to a particular project from beginning to end, with other personnel being employed as they are needed based upon their competencies. Even still, IT Departments will be looking for people that they may have trouble trying to find. “I think the universities and colleges will not produce enough people to keep up with the demand, and the same goes for Europe,” says Andy Maier, CIO of Zurich in North America. Maier’s point echoes the concerns of many CIO's as they begin the search for their next generation IT.