IT sweet spots for 2010

What do Wayne Gretzky, Prussian Gen. Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher and Texas tycoon Ross Perot have to do with an examination of where the points of greatest success and impact — the sweet spots — of the IT profession will be in 2010? Very simply, these bigger-than-life historical figures tell us where and where not to look for answers.

Gretzky has been lionized by strategic consultants for his widely reported and oft-repeated comment, “I don’t skate to where the puck is. I skate to where the puck is going to be.” As we tease out sweet spots, we need to look forward, not backward, and not at the present.

Blucher, when queried about his providential and very timely arrival on the field of battle at Waterloo, is thought to have commented, “We march toward the sounds of the drums.” You want success? You’re going to have to be where the action is.

Billionaire and two-time presidential candidate Perot dramatized how emotion, euphonious phrasing (remember that “giant sucking sound”?) and a lack of facts can distort our understanding of the future job situation.

Researchers at the IT Leadership Academy embraced the outlooks above and undertook a unique examination of what will be really important for jobs and careers in 2010. We didn’t use the traditional research firm method of extrapolating where technology is going and then bolting on a few afterthoughts about what kind of technologists will be required to support this environment.

This machine-centric mode of forecasting the future produces benefits — great charts, the occasional can’t-get-out-of-your-mind sound bites and factoids, and lots of headlines — but not much in the way of things mere mortals can really use. Instead, we used a work-centric planning method. We looked at how the world of work will evolve. We identified three competencies guaranteed to be important in 2010.

Leadership: The No-Brainer Future Success Assessment Tool indicated that the “giant sucking sound” in IT is coming from what many forecast as a soon-to-be-devastating crisis in IT leadership. The No.1 issue on the minds of great CIOs is leadership. The IT shops that Computerworld will be writing about and celebrating in 2010 are those that have transformed themselves into human capital development factories.

Just as GE is able to create great business leaders, great IT organizations will generate great IT leaders. Top of the pile today would be Tom Shelman at Northrop Grumman, Barbara Cooper at Toyota and Rebecca Blalock at Southern Co.

Information management: The “sounds of the drums” point to information management as the next source of competitive advantage, value creation and public relations disasters.

Within the information management bucket, we include records management and retention, compliance, privacy, business intelligence and business analytics. Each of these previously isolated, unloved, unintegrated and under-engaged specialties is going to be big.

In 2010, there will be a whole lot more information floating around. Customers and regulators will expect IT to know what is known, protect what is private and generate bordering-on-clairvoyant levels of service.

Change management: High-end observers of executive behaviour John Gardner and Warren Bennis agree that they chronically underestimate the capacity of large-scale systems such as Congress, General Motors and the Catholic Church to resist change.

If you want to build an evergreen career, I suggest you develop deep skills in leadership, change management and information management.

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–May is a long-time industry observer. Contact him at

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