The pace of business is moving faster than we’ve ever seen. If you’re like most IT organizations, you’re under constant pressure to do more with less and move faster, or risk being beat out by the competition. This changing environment has a huge impact on all functions within a company, but perhaps most of all on IT. The bottom line is, IT is successful when the business is successful. To help the business be successful, here are five surprisingly useful skills that IT professionals can apply in 2015:
Prior to 2008, you would NEVER have heard this said to the IT department. After all, IT was all about keeping core systems and processes SAFE. And with headlines broadcasting new breaches and hacks every day, this might seem like a surprising skill for IT professionals to learn. But with business moving at the speed of light, we’re in an era that encourages innovative ideas and agile development methodologies, and for companies looking to get ahead of the competition, IT is the perfect place to start. The caveat is: risks need to be well-defined, bounded, and tolerated by the rest of the business.
You can drive at high-speeds, yet still drive safely. It involves keeping both hands on the steering wheel and both eyes open. It means dropping distractions (like checking what your sister-in-law had for breakfast on Facebook and texting), and staying focused on the road. The analogy can easily be extended to IT — staying constantly focused on new opportunities to better deploy your resources, while keeping vigilant about issues like security and compliance.
It’s not okay anymore for IT to take months to plan and implement business users’ requests. Processes that lead to revenue (like new customer onboarding) need to happen smoothly and quickly, and yet securely — a perfect example of something IT can and should help figure out.
In the past, IT had the luxury of being more silo’ed. There are decades-old jokes about IT people not “fitting in” with businesspeople, not speaking the same language, not dressing the same, and not keeping the same schedules. As a support function, it was okay for IT to remain on the sidelines, getting involved only when servers went down or applications needed patching.
Today, that is no longer acceptable. IT needs to be on the field catching passes along with players from the line of business. IT needs to understand the full value chain in how its company’s products and services are delivered and every point at which the customer experience may be affected. That means getting in cahoots with Marketing people, with Delivery teams, with Customer Service teams, with Accounting teams, and more. Then, and only then, can IT build empathy for their business user, and in turn, create solutions to empower their business users to move the business faster.
As an IT professional, you may never have seen yourself as creative. Perhaps you chose IT because you were more of a left-brained, analytical individual who liked to apply logic to solving problems. But there is actually an incredible opportunity to be creative within IT, especially given the rise of cloud-based solutions targeted at increasing IT productivity.
With this in mind, IT professionals should be forward-thinking and embrace innovative, creative ideas to stay ahead of change and competition. Creativity can come in many forms, like identifying new applications that could be built to drive new revenue streams, or finding ways to use technology to deliver your company’s services in new ways. Thinking like this will boost the company’s bottom line, and make you shine.
It’s clear that all of us have jobs in information security now, and anyone who thinks differently in this breach-a-day environment has got a rude awakening coming. Just because you’re moving fast doesn’t mean it’s okay to fall behind on security measures. Security is a factor that shouldn’t be overlooked, regardless of how quickly business is moving.
There are a slew of options available to increase your security chops. A common — but effective — approach many IT professionals take is obtaining a vendor-neutral security credential. Tom’s IT Pro released a list of the top five security certifications for 2015 — check it out. Some things you can do today to beef up your company’s information security is to proactively employ simple in-house methods, like ensuring user passwords are frequently (and smartly) changed, keeping applications updated, and regularly backing up systems.
If you’re an aspiring CIO, these five skills are simply a place to start. To make it to the IT C-Suite, you’ve got to remember to keep your company’s business model and strategy in mind whenever making any decisions within IT. This mindset will strengthen your presence in the company and keep you climbing up the IT corporate ladder.