CA via Ars Technica: The evolution of IT professionals

ATN-300InsightaaS: With acknowledgement of and apologies to Canadian media philosopher Marshall McLuhan, today's ATN feature is about both the medium and the message. Let's start with the context: we have recently featured a couple of posts about the growing trend towards corporations, rather than independent media companies, setting editorial agendas and acting as primary content sources. This is very much a living issue, both with InsightaaS's clients (who, to be fair, sometimes engage us as part of this process) and in the community at large: witness this ATN item highlighting an HBR post that identifies content creation as a key CMO objective, and this post (issued in response to the first) from Nicholas Carr, objecting to the practice.

Today, we highlight an example of corporate journalism in action, with a CA-funded piece that we found via the renowned Ars Technica website. Is it as credible as 'real' media content? We'll leave the determination to you, but we wouldn't have featured it if we didn't believe it had merit. The piece tells a coherent story, with commentary from many different sources - the CIO of ADP, an IT professional in Australia, digital guru Ray Wang (who we consider 'must read', and feature periodically on ATN), the president of industry association CompTIA, an author/strategist, and staffing professionals in Maryland and California. The message may not be entirely unique (essentially, it highlights the need for better interpersonal skills within the IT department, and the end of '"geeks vs. suits" conflict in the workplace), but it is well structured (key insights, text, guidance), provides an informed perspective on an important topic, and closes with relevant action items for readers.

This is the kind of work that media firms are supposed to do, but frequently lack the resources to execute. If this is indeed where IT media coverage is headed, the destination is not as dire as Carr believes: higher-value content with a transparent commercial interest is , we believe, more valuable to the ongoing development of the industry than thin rewrites of press releases performed by an increasingly shallow trade press.

Key Insights

1. The CIO role has changed into a technology jack-of-all-trades.

2.IT leaders are beginning to hire and train talent in ways that were unheard of just five years ago.

3. IT bosses today increasingly hire for "soft" skills – such as emotional intelligence and communication skills.

4. Hiring managers worry about training a new employee later in the technical skills required for the job.

During the five-plus years that Tammy Butow worked in the technology department at National Australia Bank Ltd. in Melbourne, she designed websites, built mobile applications, fixed databases, ran analytics, battled cybercrime and spent days holed up with business leaders as they brainstormed ideas for new products and services. Along the way, Butow – now a customer support manager for a cloud hosting service – learned a lot about the personalities that make the modern IT organization click.

The types of folks who drive success, Butow says, are a highly collaborative group of "hackers, hipsters and hustlers" – not exactly a textbook profile for IT management. But Butow and a growing number of talent management experts believe this is the new model for IT groups to thrive in the so-called app economy.

A world once ruled by Mountain Dew-swilling, "Battlestar Galatica"-bingeing guys in hoodies who toiled in a windowless office, making sure the servers worked, the network hummed and passwords were reset every 90 days, is gradually being replaced by a new breed of IT wonk – one who combines a little bit of geek, a keen sense of what’s new and cool in technology and the ability to pitch business leaders on a vision of where they need to go. Where "CIO" once meant "career is over," today the job combines multiple hats: chief improvement officer, chief intelligence officer and, yes, even chief innovation officer...

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