Trading in your golf shirt for a suit

I recently had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion featuring four Canadian CIOs, with topics covering everything from security to open source to the evolution of the IT department and its place in their overall corporate pictures.

The most insightful discussion, however, centred around their observations about their staffs and what was happening in their worlds.

Most notably, the general consensus among the panelists working in large enterprises was that the actual nuts-and-bolts management of their information systems was becoming less and less of a concern — primarily because most of it was being outsourced to service providers.

Certainly, the trend among corporations to farm out IT responsibilities to third-party entities is hardly a novelty. Within the last decade or so, as the work world has become increasingly digitized, the amount of IT that has been outsourced has grown steadily each year.

However, when the topic used to come up at these types of panel discussions, speakers usually talked of either taking baby steps down the outsourcing path or analyzing the impact it would have on their outfits and their bottom lines.

These days, as this discussion revealed, for many enterprises, the outsourcing reality is simply the way business is conducted. There doesn’t seem to be much debate anymore about whether outsourcing is the proper path to follow; the worries previously associated with handing off precious IT responsibilities and insider knowledge to a third party have all but evaporated. Today, it just makes too much business sense to hand the keys to the IS car to someone else and let them steer it over the black ice.

Where, then, does that leave the IS professional previously charged with looking after their company’s IT assets?

According to this group of CIOs, it essentially leaves them doffing their golf shirts and faded jeans and scurrying to their nearest tailor in search of a suit. What CIOs are now looking for from their staffs, it seemed clear, are skills that are less technical in nature. For instance, according to one panelist, those who formerly programmed software in his organization are increasingly being called upon to analyze the results spewed out by that software. Another participant mentioned that she has hired a human resources person to assist in this type of transformation.

For IS pros, the message coming out of the discussion was clear: Sharpen your people and communication skills if you want to stay put and not start looking for work with a service provider.

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