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IT managers in transition from operators to digital ambassadors

With «As-a-Service» approaches gaining traction, the IT management function is undergoing massive change. Priorities are shifting away from technology to business processes; traditional duties are growing obsolete while new ones arise. With IT more important than ever, this presents companies with a personnel challenge.

IT management has a difficult balancing act to accomplish. On the one hand, it must provide solid, secure and cost-effective IT services today. At the same time, it also needs to be a fast and dynamic integrator of tomorrow’s major IT innovations. Many companies have already recognised that technical IT operations are not one of their core competencies and that providing the necessary services is hardly economical to do by themselves. They thus outsource to specialised IT partners where they can procure high-quality platform, software and operating services more cheaply and flexibly at transparently calculable costs, «As a Service».

With «IT commodities» thus offloaded, the IT department no longer has to carry the burden of everyday business operations. This alone brings the logical consequence that IT job profiles are changing or relocating as classic operational duties are dissolving into thin air. In addition, the As-a-Service approach calls for new skills – especially the competence to manage and push the partner concerned and to coordinate the services procured externally with internal business processes and departments. This is a task that cannot be outsourced.

In addition to this new role as a service orchestrator – whatever the sourcing strategy – much more will be asked of IT managers in the future: namely, the wherewithal to understand the organisation as a whole and to integrate IT innovation in the interests of the business. This role as a business enabler is yet more challenging and may indeed be decisive for the competitiveness of the company. IT in particular holds a major key to business process optimisation: hardly any other department that has such a detailed overview of processes along the entire value chain exists within a company. For this reason, one core task of IT management must be to harmonise innovation (automation and standardisation, mobile computing, cognitive intelligence, Big Data, IoT, etc.) with operational activities and thus secure and advance the business.

To conclude: eliminating operational tasks, together with integrating innovations, inevitably leads to reorientation of the IT department. This is a challenge for IT management in particular. The «next-generation IT manager» is a digital ambassador, needs a 360-degree, joined-up understanding of information management, social skills, and a direct line to the top executives at a minimum. If they can let go of established practices, challenging and exciting new tasks await them. But it is questionable whether today’s breed of IT manager has either the prerequisites or the will to grow with these tasks. Given that IT is becoming increasingly business-critical and decisive to future business success or failure, IT personnel development and staffing decisions are developing into an important management issue.