New era of IT requires new kind of leader

The idea of IT staff managing and controlling technology domains is pretty much gone, says Charles Araujo

Charles Araujo, founder and CEO of the IT Transformation Institute

Charles Araujo, founder and CEO of the IT Transformation Institute

Managers must become leaders to thrive in a new world of IT service delivery, according to Charles Araujo, founder and CEO of the IT Transformation Institute.

“We are entering a new era that is going to take a new kind of leader to lead us into it,” Araujo told the itSMF LEADit conference today in Canberra.

IT managers should “stop managing” and “start leading,” he said. “We need to start focusing less on the management aspects and start focusing much more on the leadership aspects. We need to see ourselves as leaders of people, leaders of the technology strategy, leaders of organisations and leaders of projects.”

IT leaders should be visionary with a clear picture of the path ahead, humble enough to realise they must be of service to the business, accountable for the services they provide and personal to the other people in their business, he said.

“One of our primary jobs is going to be continuously scanning the horizon and looking for both opportunities and threats,” Araujo said.

In five years, about 80 per cent of all technology consumed by the enterprise will live outside of its walls, he predicted. “The idea of us as IT professionals managing and controlling our technology domains is pretty much gone.”

A second role for the IT leader is negotiator and mediator, managing complex ecosystems, he said.

“We will be working in these very complex, interconnected webs where our suppliers will not only be providing services to use directly, but to our customers directly [and] to other members of this ecosystem back and forth.”

A third role is information weaver, said Araujo. It’s OK to use Salesforce.com for one part of the business, “but that doesn’t mean the information that Salesforce has within it is not valuable to the rest of the organisation,” he said. The IT leader should “harness and capture that information and to weave it into a mosaic that creates value for the broader enterprise.”

A fourth role is to be an innovator of business processes, Araujo said. “We have to accept the fact that technology innovation is not going to happen within the walls of the corporate enterprise … but that doesn’t mean we’re out of the business of innovation.”

“We need to become very good at taking commoditised technologies, combining them with unique business process to create competitive value for our organisations.”

Critical to all of this is an ability to let go of old ways, Araujo said. “If we’re not careful, we will be the Austin Powers of the future, because we will be trapped in a world in which we think the old rules still apply.”

The consumerisation of IT, technology moving from the back office to the front office and greater competition for IT services have significantly changed the role of the IT department, he said. “While we were sleeping, our world changed.”

If we’re not careful, we will be the Austin Powers of the future, because we will be trapped in a world in which we think the old rules still apply.

The last force, driven by the rise of cloud computing and software-as-a-service providers, has been most significant, Araujo said. “There are now a whole bunch of people that are providing technology to our customers that we were the only one who could have provided it a few years ago.”

Consumerisation of IT means that CIOs can no longer dictate what technology can and cannot be used in the business, Araujo said. Three years ago, many CIOs said the Apple iPad would never break into the corporate environment. But then, company executives went out and bought the tablets anyway and demanded they get attached to the corporate network, he said.

“Our customers are in complete control of everything going forward, and we’re just going to have to come to terms with that,” he said. “The minute that technology and limits we start putting on it, we become our own worst enemy and people start looking at how they can start getting around us.”

In addition, as more and more things become connected to the Internet—a concept known as the Internet of things—the IT department will have to focus sharply on the areas that deliver strategic benefits to the business, Araujo said. “Stay out of those businesses that do not provide value.”

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Tags leadershipinnovationecosystemIT managersconsumerisation of ITCIOsinformationbusiness process

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