Saturday, August 23, 2008

Changing The Guard

Changing of the Guard

The first applications of Information Technology involved highly numeric calculations. The original guards of I.T. were scientists. As business accepted the new tools offered by technology, these tools were often applied to accounting related tasks. Today, we still abide by the incorrect notion that I.T. employees should be computer scientists. Take a look at a few job descriptions and you’ll note that many employers think that they want I.T. employees with computer science degrees.

They are dead wrong. While technically minded people are often hired into I.T. positions because of their knowledge, it is an aptitude of another sort that can change from Old Guard Information Technology into Integrated Technology. Technology staff should have excellent communications and business skills. Most technology skills can be acquired, but it seems as though technically gifted staff often lack either the interest or the capacity for communications.

Perhaps because of its mysterious, highly technical beginnings, Information Technology commands tight control over its subjects yet often fails to deliver exactly what its customers need. Internal customers are faced with a conundrum. They are required to use their computers, yet they are often severely disciplined for misusing them. This leads to a communications schism between I.T. and its internal customers. Staff who are afraid of misusing a tool have little chance of mastering it.

When I was in college for my programming degree, a systems analysis text declared that Information Technology should hold a place in the corporation which acts at an executive level. Of course, that text was written by an I.T. professional. In a perfect world, perhaps I.T. would hold such a position. Reality, though, requires something a little different.

Since highly technical staff are usually hired into I.T. departments, their business acumen is typically inversely related to their technical skills. These people are frequently the last people that a company may wish to introduce to a customer. The detrimental effect of this situation is that technology is often explicitly avoided by executives, despite the fact that they stand to benefit from its use. Perhaps the situation is such that using technology is more difficult than not using it. Not because of technical problems, but people problems.

It is time for a new perspective on technical staff. Why should businesses hire technically trained people, if they need business people? They shouldn’t. Perhaps every I.T. department will require some highly technical staff, however those staff who interact with internal customers should be selected specifically because they have more empathy than technical expertise.

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