Digitization is changing every aspect of a big company, from the way it uses technology to create its products, to the way it markets and sells them to customers, to the way it runs its operations to make all of that happen.
Technology is the central theme in all of this, which means that all kinds of employees – not just those in IT – must now have an in-depth knowledge of technology relevant to their role (often more than those in IT that would have once been advising them) and are more than comfortable buying it and using it themselves. And this also means that the roles in IT need to change too, as the function struggles to become a lot more agile.
IT teams need to support line managers in finding and making use of the right tech, making sure it will work with the rest of the company’s portfolio, that certain protocols are adhered to (especially regarding information security) and, most importantly, that they’re all using the tech with an explicit understanding of how it contributes to corporate goals, not just because it’s new, shiny, and exciting (see chart 1).
Chart 1: Types of things IT staff will be doing in 2020 Source: CEB analysis
How to Prepare IT Employees for 2020
IT team should take three steps to prepare their teams for the next few years of digitization.
Develop technology versatility: Many IT managers are creating new IT roles to respond to digitization. One reason for this is that today many IT roles focus on one area within one IT domain such as an “identity and access management” role in the information risk team. Specialized roles like these will be unable to keep pace with rapidly changing digital opportunities, or the increased diversity of people that someone in the role will need to interact with.
IT functions need to grow their stock of versatile players, not add new digital specialists to their functions. Versatile employees are able to work broadly within a business and technical domain. For example, they might play a number of different roles in launching a new internal application (e.g., development, testing, requirements gathering, and analysis of how it’s performing).
Help employees improve competencies central to business engagement: IT groups have traditionally focused on cultivating process-oriented competencies, such as the ability to follow directions or use resources efficiently. But as business leaders’ technology spending from their own budget is now as much as 47 cents for every dollar in the official IT budget, IT employees must be able to engage business partners in new ways.
The most common collaboration and engagement activities IT staff now need to perform include evangelizing, consulting, brokering, coaching, and delivering new technologies. While proficiency across a wide range of competencies will still be important, IT employee development should focus on competencies that relate specifically to collaboration and engagement, such as influencing or the ability to assert ideas and persuade others.
Develop an open mindset: After years of centralization and standardization, 94% of IT employees exhibit a mindset that is process-centric, risk averse, and/or sees IT as a discrete set of teams who are better off each working on their own specialism. Digitization inevitably involves a lot of change, experimentation (including failure), and new ways of collaboration.
All IT employees should be open to new ways of working and engaging with colleagues and vendors, and working with risk and uncertainty, so they are prepared to help their company exploit new digital opportunities. IT functions with a strong climate of openness have found that they are over three times more likely to contribute to corporate strategic goals than those whose climate of openness is average, according to CEB data.