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What do you want to be when you grow up?

It’s summer time and, like most parents, I have kids around the house a bit more than normal at this time of year. This leads to some interesting question and answer sessions … Where does the water come from that falls as rain and how does it get up in the sky? Why do people like motorcycles that are so loud? How come mosquito bites itch? One of my favorites came up the other day, but in a different way. I was asked by my child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Interestingly, this is a question being asked by many mid-career IT professionals, and I encounter it frequently as I speak with CIO’s about the changing face of their IT organization. We are seeing a fundamental shift in the way IT organizations are structured, and in the responsibilities being placed on people’s shoulders. The traditional realm of the “Network Admin” or “Server Support Specialist” is being changed. Newer IT organizations are dealing with internal and external cloud providers, which means IT professionals are working with Service Level Agreements and performance metrics. Servers are provisioned through self-serve portals instead of being managed by a server administrator. Backups are managed through cloud a storage provider which is changing the role of the backup administrator. In short, IT professionals are changing roles to become managers of Services instead of managers of Infrastructure or Applications.

This change is also driving change in the governance structure of the IT organizations I meet with. CIO’s are looking for IT Service Management experience in their employees and partners. There’s more time spent on the relationship with a supplier instead of just commodity pricing. Governance meetings are driven by metrics and dashboards, not change management. Some organizations are struggling with this change; especially those with older work forces who are used to maintaining responsibility “silos” of operational control. For these organizations they risk IT becoming more of an inhibitor than an enabler to the business. When this happens, IT becomes marginalized and Business Units end up going around the roadblock to get what they need. How many IT organizations have said, “no” to a project, only to find out six months later that a Business Unit is now using a SaaS offering to do the same function without IT involvement? There is no doubt about it. IT organizations are being faced with this question, “What do we want to be when we grow up?” Some will become enablers to the business, while others will become inhibitors, and will eventually be marginalized or outsourced.

Well, needless to say I did not try and explain all this to my child when I was asked the question. Instead, being reminded of the words of my spouse who regularly reminds me I’m the biggest kid in the family, I responded, “Honey, I don’t ever want to grow up!” She laughed and we went outside to play in our backyard.

Steve Harris, Chief Technology Officer – Canada, OnX