With the role of IT constantly evolving, and with new technologies introduced seemingly every day, how can IT professionals develop a plan that sets them up for success not only in 2016, but also over the next five years?
The key is to focus less on identifying and acquiring new skills and technical experience -- though that's extremely important -- and emphasize big-picture thinking, says Cory Chaplin, director of Technology Integration Practice for business and technology consulting firm West Monroe Partners.
"There's no crystal ball that can tell you, me or anyone what specific skills and technologies are going to be hot in six months, in a year, in five years. But there are some things we can predict. We are seeing demands and needs expand, so that clients aren't looking for extremely specialized talent but for IT pros who are experts on whole solutions or entire technology domains rather than just one product, technology or language," Chaplin says.
For example, a mobile developer who can work on multiple platforms, devices, operating systems and deployment types rather than just a single-OS approach; or a front-end developer who can design and build multiple types of Web applications, according to Chaplin.
Collaborate and align
The IT department of the future will also see greater interaction with the people who use the technology they create, both end-users within their organization and external customers, Chaplin says.
"More developers will be required to attend early-stage meetings with customers and end-users and interact with them, to discuss use cases, requirements as well as business and strategy initiatives. Developers will have to be more concerned with business alignment and why they're working on certain projects and initiatives, instead of just accepting a to-do list and working through it," Chaplin says.
Much of this shift toward greater collaboration and business alignment is driven by the millennial generation, which, by the end of 2015 makes up the largest generation currently in the workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Millennials aren't satisfied just to take orders from their superiors and follow them; they demand to know the rationale behind tasks, projects and business initiatives, Chaplin says.
"Historically it has been OK to 'just' stay within the boundaries of IT without understanding how your work impacts the business. But now there's a realization that IT has to get involved in these larger strategy discussions, and to understand the larger mission and purpose. It's become less of an us-versus-them mentality and more of a partnership with business and IT leadership," Chaplin says.
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