The trend toward the alignment of business and technology is a recurrent theme in the articles and blog posts on Dice. Job seekers are encouraged to describe their impact on the bottom line, acquire blended skills and prepare for a career in a business unit as commerce and technology become integrated entities.
If you want to see where IT is headed, look no further than Julia King’s article in ComputerWorld. She describes several companies that have moved beyond alignment; in fact she refers to them as companies "where business and IT are virtually indistinguishable."
In some cases, companies have advanced the process by cross-training executives, so the CIO may head up the marketing department for a stretch, while another business leader assumes responsibility for IT. These paragraphs summarize the crux of King’s message.
What all of these companies have in common is that IT doesn’t just support the business; it enables and continually transforms the business, often creating new revenue and profit streams.
Moreover, CIOs and everyone else in IT at these companies know precisely how their businesses make money and lose money. In fact, it’s not at all unusual for employees to rotate through several jobs, moving in and out of IT and business roles.
She highlights the integration of business and technology at Southwest Airlines with this description of its hiring process and priorities:
To do this well requires team players, which is why Southwest hires IT professionals based on attitude first and then on technical and business skills. What constitutes the right attitude, Marshall says, is a passion for customer service and open communication. These are absolutely critical in the airline’s 850-person IT group ‘because it is technology that is our product.’
And further illustrates her point with this quote from Ray Voelker, CIO at Progressive Insurance.
Just having technical knowledge doesn’t really help. We really stress that we want people to be conversant in technology but also understand the insurance business. Once you understand the insurance business, you know how important the cost structure is to the business. I never forget I’m in the insurance business. Technology is just part of the rhythm.
So there you have it, a total transformation of IT. On the one hand, a job that blends technology skills with business knowledge will not be conducive to outsourcing and could be more interesting or challenging. On the other, pure technicians need to prepare for increasingly diverse roles and all IT professionals need to understand business fundamentals in order to succeed in the future.
– Leslie Stevens-Huffman