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The CIO job of tomorrow, and who you need to think about hiring now

Tech-savvy employees. The need for speed. Self-service technology. The next time you’re inclined to examine where your CIO job is headed, or who you need to hire, Forrester Research is suggesting you keep these three trends in mind.

The rise of all three means that the CIO job of tomorrow — as in, pretty much today — is more about consulting than doing. That goes for your IT staff, also. “It’s a very broad definition of consulting. It’s providing direction, it’s providing oversight, it’s providing value,” said Marc Cecere, a principal analyst at Forrester and keynote speaker at Forrester’s IT Forum in Las Vegas this week.

Cecere said that in a business environment dominated by tech-savvy business people, self-service technology and speed [think cloud computing and mobile devices], much of the building, procuring and maintaining of systems will not be done by internal IT organizations. Instead, CIOs will need people who can identify and assemble all the pieces of these systems — solutions architects, data integration architects and vendor and sourcing managers.

For many of the IT roles today, including the CIO job, businesses will be looking for the equivalent of a Russell Brice, a New Zealand mountaineer who has helped 300 people climb to the top of Mount Everest. At some point he quit climbing and provided oversight, using his computer, mobile phone, walkie-talkie, telescope and so on to guide the climbers on the mountain. Just as application developers will be guiding those tech-savvy employees to make sure the technology they are building is secure and scalable, Cecere said. Project managers will not be running one project at a time but overseeing numerous projects simultaneously. When people get off track — when there is an emergency — that is when those IT job roles will revert to hands-on.

To excel at your CIO job, you will not only need guides, but also innovators and specialists. Cecere would like to see senior IT people freed up for innovation. “We’ll see if that happens.” At a minimum, CIOs will need people who can identify where innovation is needed and where it will come from. Some roles will need to be more specialized than they have in the past — in security, in managing data, in process design, for example, given anytime/anywhere computing. CIOs will need people who can figure out how to scale, secure and add functionality to the mobile applications business people are building for themselves, he said.

“That’s an awful lot of change that you folks in particular will be going through, as we move to more empowered BT [business technology] organizations,” Cecere said, using Forrester’s latest coinage for companies where business people are more tech savvy, and IT will play a more strategic and consultative role in the provisioning of technology.

Of the three broad components of today’s IT department — app dev and delivery, infrastructure and operations and a project management office — Cecere believes the app dev and delivery functions will shrink the most, as this is the technology area business people are most interested in. They haven’t shown much interest in running or planning IT.

CIOs should not think about this transition as a transformation project. The business and IT are not going to drop what they’re doing and plot out a course. And it won’t come about in a big bang — the vendors, business and IT aren’t ready for that. Cecere’s metaphor of choice?

“You ever see 5-year-old kids playing soccer?” he asked. “Somehow, the ball gets from one end of the field to the other and once in a while in the goal, but everything in between seems like random motion. I think it’s going to be this zigzag function.”

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