Critical Skills for the Coming Technology Transformation

A generational transformation of the work environment is underway that fundamentally alters how work is done. The rapid evolution of technology is changing how we work, which in turns forces more changes to the technologies. Tablet computing can dramatically increase the productivity of a growing mobile workforce;  however, tablets can also potentially hinder productivity as much as improve it. For example, there are compatibility inconsistencies among tablets that limit its integration into enterprises.

For optimal efficiency gains, the technology must be tailored for the task.  The ergonomics of the hardware, as well as the fit of the software functionality are essential.  The fit analysis process requires skills that are very different from those traditional IT organizations perform.  The existing skills required for the typical functions of managing server and desktop “plumbing” are focused on infrastructure. In many IT organizations moving to Cloud-based computing, the value of IT lies in its knowledge of the user needs and software, not hardware. This new environment requires IT staff to perform the analytical tasks associated with fitting the new technology.

The transformation of the IT organization demands a new breed of IT staff with skills that include business analysis, project management, and cultural affinity for the end-users. Unfortunately, these distinctive skills are in short supply.

In an age where the management and integration of information technology is fundamental to the future of the world economy, new graduates may find themselves unprepared for the technological rigors required in their profession of choice.  There just aren’t enough graduates to keep up with the growth of the IT sector. Although there will be an estimated 150,000 new IT-related jobs available every year until 2020, less than 40,000 students graduate from a U.S. universities with a computer science degree each year.

The problem is multifaceted.  Many times, I find that students are not prepared for the rigorous educational requirements of technical college degrees because they did not receive sufficient instruction in high school.  Students tend to view technology as a utility, instead of the inquisitiveness of a tinkerer  (i.e., they prefer to be entertained by the Xbox, rather than understand how the system works).  The industry overall does not provide a clear upward career path in IT, since most of the paths to monetary success are through Finance.  The combination of these factors (and others) leads to a limited pool of inquisitive, and technically capable, people to take over from this retiring generation.

The future is bright and opportunities abound for dramatic improvements in productivity in both the private and public sectors. The transformation of the world economy is upon us.  With shifting professional priorities, young people need to understand that a career in IT brings better job security, stability, and higher salaries after graduation. We must motivate the educational system to prepare students through classes in business workflow analysis, business writing, ROI analysis on various technologies, and case studies on the type of technology that fits the task (i.e., when to use VDI versus desktops, when to use cloud computing).  These skills are beyond mere technical plumbing but rather a comprehensive and balanced approach at analytical business thinking that incorporates the integration of technology and its uses.

Ernest Pages
Partner, Sciens Consulting

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