IOUG Insight: Leadership and IT—Closing the Gap

In my last column, I discussed shadow IT and suggested that this might be the future of IT rather than an anomaly. Reframing what IT might look like in the future, and acknowledging that it could be radically different than it is today, is a challenging task but not an impossible one. In fact, I would suggest that such reframing is necessary if IT is to remain relevant. 

This month’s topic is about the importance of developing leadership skills as an IT professional. You may be wondering how leadership relates to shadow IT—so allow me to elaborate. When I first began my career as an IT professional, there was limited choice in programming languages, hardware, and software. If an application was required, it was more likely created than purchased. This translated into IT having a considerable amount of power within an organization with respect to setting standards, creating applications, and taking our time to write great code, often from scratch! We spoke to our clients at the beginning of a project to gather requirements, then at the end of the project to present the finished product. While this is a very generalized statement, it is not far from the truth.

Compared to the environment we are in today, back then was a very different time. The balance of power has shifted to our clients or partners who are more than capable of creating their own IT environments simply by utilizing cloud services. Business decisions must be made much faster so business intelligence is becoming more critical. While systems have become more accessible, they have also become more complex. Cybersecurity is a hot topic among IT professionals because we have become one large, interconnected, global world. This brings with it wonderful opportunities to connect with others, but it also introduces risks that must be mitigated.

Leadership is not a title bestowed on someone. As an example, think of a time when you have been in a meeting in which the true leader of the group is not necessarily the formal leader with a title. Leadership is a set of skills that can and should be developed by every IT professional. Leadership is about developing communication skills, being genuinely curious about your organization’s business, and being creative about how you can add value. Leadership is about life-long learning and sharing information with others in your community and user group. Finally, leadership is about mentoring other IT professionals and demonstrating our unique ability to adapt to ever-changing technology and business requirements.

My vision of the ideal IT department of the future is that there will not be one. Instead, IT professionals will be strategically placed throughout an organization, adding value with their leadership and specialized technology skills. IT professionals will come together as a community; they will work together on projects, and they will challenge each other to always strive for excellence in becoming trusted partners who advise clients about how new technology can help resolve business challenges. How do we get there? By reframing our perspective of what IT should look like based on past experience and thinking of ourselves as IT leaders regardless of title.

Develop your leadership skills as an IT professional and help close the gap between where IT is today and where IT could be tomorrow!

Leadership is about developing communication skills, being genuinely curious about your organization’s business, and being creative about how you can add value.