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IT skills survival of the fittest: face up to sea change or risk becoming obsolete

IT skills survival of the fittest: face up to sea change or risk becoming obsolete

- IT leaders reveal that competency in traditional technical areas is not enough to compete

The IT profession is facing a skills sea change, according to analysis by Modis International ["Modis"], a global leader in IT recruitment. IT leaders report that the future recruit will need three fundamental business skills over and above traditional technical expertise: greater commercial acumen, strategic thinking and developed communication skills. Recruits must wake up to the growing demand for commercial competencies or risk being pigeon-holed as back office implementers, warns Modis.

Strategic thinkers needed

As a result of the increased integration of IT into overall business objectives, IT professionals need to be able to take on a more strategic role within their organisation. The majority (59%) of IT leaders surveyed by Modis believe that IT has to take responsibility for the challenges faced by the organisation as a whole.

At the moment, however, only 15% of IT departments are regarded as strategic thinkers by their businesses, suggesting that a significant skills gap or a perception challenge will become endemic within IT departments if not addressed in the near future.

Commenting on this trend, Adam Thilthorpe, Director for Professionalism in IT at the BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, said: "It wasn't long ago that arguments centred on whether an organisation even needed a CIO but reliance on technology is putting the CIO role strategically at the heart of the business."

Commercially minded

Commercial acumen represents another key feature of the future IT professional. With IT underpinning business growth on an increasing scale, understanding what customers want will be of paramount importance, according to 6 in 10 of those surveyed. Again, this awareness represents a fundamental shift away from a more traditional, inward-looking IT role.

Paul Coby, Chair of SITA and of the CIO Board at e-skillsUK, agrees that commercial awareness is paramount in IT: "Everything we do must connect back to our customers. Each aspect of business needs to be optimised, improved and simplified through good IT for the company's product or service to be delivered to - and to delight - customers."

Indeed, a third of IT leaders say their employers want IT professionals to take this commercial ability a step further and to be able to pre-empt market trends to help shape business strategy.

Great communicators

For the required commercial shift to materialise, IT leaders will be required to integrate with other disciplines in their organisations and as a result communication skills are essential.

David Wilde, CIO, Westminster City Council, says he is seeing more evidence of IT people who are great communicators: "There are many brilliant IT leaders emerging - these are business people who are brilliant with technology and brilliant with people."

Commenting on the research, Jim Albert, Managing Director, Modis International, said: "The days have gone when an IT professional could excel in their role by solely being a master of the technical side of their job.

"The future for the IT professional is survival of the fittest: those who embrace broader business skills have access to greater and more exciting opportunities to lead organisational change than ever before, while those that don't risk being pigeon-holed as back office implementers.

"The message coming out of our conversations with employers is loud and clear: they want much more than technical and project management expertise. In short, the future IT professional needs to be a master of many disciplines - truly a business all rounder."

The findings are from the State of the IT Market Report 2011, a survey of 110 senior IT decision makers (predominantly Directors and Heads of IT) from UK businesses of varying sizes and from a range of sectors. Respondents were asked a series of questions to gauge their view of the changing role of IT within organisations.


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