IT executives like to use big words and big ideas when describing their projects. But at some point those big ideas must translate into actual work.
One way you can get ahead of the curve and the competition is to anticipate the brass-tacks technologies and tactics required by those big ideas. Whether you’re a project manager tasked with implementing “the vision” or an independent service provider looking to dive into your next project,translating the big ideas into action will put you ahead.
We’ve compiled a list of the top big ideas from executives for 2014 and the actual IT systems required to bring them to life.
- Collaboration – content sharing, mobile apps and access, security, real time communications along with robust, high availability networks are critical. But CIOs are also pointing out that it’s not just more technology that is needed, but rather analysis and training. Helping users both identify their actual needs and then understand how to use features and functions is vital. Result: communication, patience and great customer engagement skills combined with an IT expert’s savvy is a killer combination.
- Legacy Systems Upgrade – databases, network routing, SAN/NAS updates, Cloud storage, ERP upgrades and systems integration (SOA, BPEL, Shared Services, Platform-as-a-Service) are the practice areas here. It comes down to networking, security and integration. Your ability to understand how systems interact securely is the most important skill. System specific knowledge is your foundation.
- Nimble Response – agile projects, real time communications, cross functional collaboration is usually what they mean. One way this manifests is with “shadow IT partnering”. Shadow IT is the term for all the servers and applications running under people’s desks and in remote branch offices that are off the “official IT radar”. CIOs recognize that these are valuable ares for innovation, experimentation and meeting actual needs. Integrating those systems (when appropriate) and helping to keep them running is increasingly seen as a business benefit. Result: line of business managers have IT’s blessing to contract to keep those systems up and running and keep the innovation flowing.
- Modernizing Broadband – WIFI and SMS access, Mesh networks. Local governments are focused on this right now. From their emergency response systems to corporate WANs and even satellite entertainment systems, broadband is how the information gets from here to there. Network techs can look to promote their skills in these areas.
- Constituent Engagement – It’s fancy talk for having a good looking and easy to use website, mobile app and customer service system. It’s all about user experience. So whether you’re a graphic designer or VOIP tech that can manage call-trees and smart routing, the focus is on delivering a convenient and enjoyable experience for the customer. Learn to translate your technical skill into the end-user result it delivers.
- Data Center Upgrade and Flexible Infrastructure – big storage, big networking, big compute upgrades to more nimble systems that allow pay-as-you-go and on-demand scaling are trending now (as they have been for a while). The difference is that now many CIOs are budgeting for the work to be done. That work entails everything from pulling cable to racking hardware to integrating remote data sites and cloud service providers with the internal, behind-the-firewall systems. Don’t forget security certificates, HTTPS and SSL skills are high-demand. Your expertise in those areas will help CIOs achieve their upgrade and flexibility goals.
- Security Initiatives – LDAP/AD and IDM (identity management) and a ton of integration are involved. Security is front and center in the mind of the public right now. That means expertise is in high demand. Parlay your identity management, HCM systems expertise, LDAP and oAuth integration experience into a profile that will get you noticed by those looking for security help.
- Mobility – from mobile device management and BYOD and security to app development to secure networking for mobile devices including laptops, tablets and phones, the goal is information that can be accessed anywhere. When you see “mobility initiative” think security, VOIP, SIP, unified communications and email integration (MS Exchange, Notes and GMail most often).
- The Internet of (Every)Thing – connecting smart devices to master control consoles and dashboards. This includes everything from Home Automation systems to smart buildings to infrastructure projects like smart roads that communicate with cars. RFID, Bluetooth, WIFI and networking are critical for establishing communications while database construction and maintenance, visualization and rules-building are vital for keeping these systems “smart”.
- Hybrid clouds – some data off site, some data local, all securely networked and available on demand. Data norming, schema development, database and content storage security is important as are big enough pipes through which all that data must flow back and forth. With video content becoming increasingly popular, CDNs, storage, smart caching, routing and switching become key skills as well.
- Software Defined Anything – the goal is to build elasticity into IT infrastructure for nimble access to resources in a Just-In-Time mode. To make this happen all systems must be integrated and communicating flawlessly. Rules and trigger points must be defined and maintained in order for the provisioning software to be able to make the correct decisions at the right times. That means integration and interoperability across the network.
- Smart Machines – from self-driving cars to drones to intelligent manufacturing systems, the way these systems stay smart is a key combination of hardware maintenance, software maintenance and ubiquitous connection to the network.
- 3D Printing – Gartner predicts 75% growth this year. This ushers in a fundamentally new era of production that relies on a combination of hardware maintenance (printer repair anyone?), plastics expertise and CAD design expertise. Understanding how to keep the printers operational and within ideal tolerances is vital for this burgeoning industry. Understanding how to leverage their unique capabilities at scale will usher in a new era of production, parts and consumer manufacture.
- On Demand IT – ZD Net calls it ‘Lights-Out IT’ writing, “…it’s now possible for a fully functional corporate IT department to have a handful of staff and no real infrastructure beyond networks and end user devices.” Think about that statement, desktop, laptop, routers, switches and hubs remain in house and critical for continued operation. Meanwhile big storage is moving off site into co-located data centers and regional data vaults where contracted, expert-only access keeps the systems running.
- End-To-End IT Services – Businesses and CIOs are looking more and more for end-to-end services. For the independent IT contractor that means they’re looking to you to not simply repair a broken item but come prepared with a response and maintenance plan. If you can help architect the business and escalation process, chances are good that you’ll get an increased share of the business. Result: be proactive rather than reactive.
There are more great lists around (like this one from State CIOs). But we want to hear from you. What tactical skills do you find regularly associated with the sometimes overly-flowery language of IT Executives?
- 2013 Year In Review for Government CIOs: http://www.govtech.com/management/2013-Year-in-Review-CIOs-Views.html
- Gartner: Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2014: http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterhigh/2013/10/14/gartner-top-10-strategic-technology-trends-for-2014/
- Challenges Facing the CIO in 2014: http://www.zdnet.com/challenges-facing-the-cio-in-2014-7000022666/
- What CIOs are Planning for 2014: http://www.executiveboard.com/blogs/what-cios-are-planning-for-2014/
- Security is Top Concern for State CIOs in 2014: http://www.fiercecio.com/story/security-top-concern-2014-state-cios/2013-11-12