November 2011 Archives

Peter Swingewood on City's information leadership course

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City University London

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City University London's IBM Enterprise Computing scholarship for a place on its Masters of Information Leadership course is now open for entries.


Peter Swingewood, winner of last year's Computer Weekly Step-Up Scholarship for City University London's information leadership course, shares his experience of the Masters of Information Leadership (MIL).

"I started the MIL in April and have already learnt a lot and benefited significantly. The academic side of the course is very stimulating and exposes you to ideas and viewpoints that you may have not come across before. The course forces you to step back from day-to-day operational concerns and really think about your work."

"The interactive way the teaching is delivered, with student group work during the weekends, means you really get to understand the concepts quickly as well as critically questioning them with fellow students, who also bring their backgrounds and experience to the weekend."

"The course brings in experts from relevant areas who are willing to share their experience candidly, which is a huge benefit and opportuntiy to learn from them. Our most recent module has been on the "Information Leader in Society" and we've studied and discussed the work of theorists such as Castells and Hayek and debated issues such as the "digitial divide" and learnt about how IT pollicy is formed and shaped in government."

"Finally the course also focuses on skills and self-development. We had an excellent weekend over the summer on negotiation where we were taught the ideas of Karrass and able to develop our skills through role play. I found this really useful and was able to use what I learnt immediatley - when I got back to the office I was able to negogiate a significant reduction from one of my suppliers!"
"I would thoroughly recommend this course to fellow IT professionals as you will learn a great deal of applicable knowledege and skills which you can start using immediately as well as gain a much bigger and broader prespective on key issues and the challenges facing IT."

"Plus, it is fun!"

Candidates can apply online for the 2012 scholarship by completing an application and submitting an essay, titled "What are the challenges IT leaders face in the sector you work in, and how would you address those challenges?". 

The deadline for applications is 12pm 16th January 2012.

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Moving to the board - a CIO pathway by the Open University

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The Open University's Kevin Streater looks at the IT sector's struggle to turn today's talented IT staff into tomorrow's boardroom decision makers. As IT becomes intrinsic to broader business strategy and CIOs increasingly sit directly under the Chief Executive in many companies, how can IT ensure more of its own are taking their seat at the top table?

Businesses are struggling to turn entry-level staff into senior management. At present around half of those brought into CIO positions come from outside the IT profession. This is worrying for two reasons. Firstly, it means a large proportion of those who make decisions on future IT strategy will have had no experience of delivering these strategies on the ground. Secondly, the lack of a clear path to senior positions will affect staff satisfaction and risks strengthening the tide of people leaving the sector.

The lack of IT workers moving up to the board should not be attributed to any lack of aspiration or ability within the UK's IT workforce. It's more an indication that up until now there has not been the tools to guide their development around the additional responsibilities they will face upon taking this step.

Whilst progression into entry and mid-level jobs requires an initial focus on reactive technical skills in order to understand the technology you are working with, as IT workers move further up in their organisation to senior management, greater demands are placed on their ability to collaborate and understand the results of the updates or innovations they deliver. These are the skills which enable good project work that produces clear business benefits.

At the final stages of development, learning should focus around the skills which identify CIOs as leaders. From an internal point of view this means understanding people, how they function within your organisation and how you develop them as professionals. But it's also about external, outward-looking leadership, understanding the changes in the market and the modern commercial realties of the IT industry and how these impact on your organisation.

Today's learning and development programmes must reflect these changes to give future CIOs the skills to thrive. 

The Open University has taken a large step towards addressing this issue by licensing the CIO Executive Council Pathways competency framework, which allows future CIOs to follow a clearly devised learning plan to board level.  The framework has been mapped to The Open University's extensive online curriculum, including courses from the University's top rated, triple accredited business school, to provide future CIOs with the essential skills required to reach board-level status.

The pathways framework aims to help companies improve their success in turning entry-level staff into the company's senior management and attract the best new entrants into the sector with the promise of a clear career path. It is the first ver learning tool specifically aimed at grooming future CIOs with the skills the industry needs and has been developed in collaboration with senior IT professionals who best understand the sector.

Following the pathway enables Open University students to have the right training at the right stage in their career. In the section below we look at the core skills required to make that step up to the board and how these additional skills-sets are applied in a real working environment.

Market Knowledge - understanding the market in which a business operates. This business context can include the competition, the suppliers, the customer base and the regulatory environment. Initially it comes down to knowing the basics of the market and how your business fits in to this context, but with further learning you will develop the skills and expertise to spot trends and anticipate, capitalize or even drives changes in the market.

Change Leadership - transforming and aligning an organisation through its people to drive for improvement in new and challenging directions. It is energising a whole organisation to want to change in the same direction. It's not just about accepting and adapting to change within your organisation but also proactively changing existing process and mobilising others to change as well.

Commercial Orientation - identifying and moving towards business opportunities. It is about having the understanding of how money is made in order to identify, prioritise and seize opportunities to increase profit and revenue. At the highest level it also includes inventing whole new ways to increase commerce.

Customer Focus - improving service to clients by better understanding their needs, and then using this information to anticipate future changes in their needs. After building up these value-added relationships with customers or clients, be they internal or external, CIOs should look to proactively shape the customer value proposition well beyond the transactional relationship.

Strategic Orientation -understanding the objectives within your own area of work and then looking beyond those to a broader business awareness and critical analysis of information. At the highest level it involves generating a strategic plan that integrates numerous business issues, functions and resources for effective action.

A full list of skills, how these have been mapped to the CIO pathways, and how they can be developed through relevant Open University courses, can be found here.

Also read:

Making your way in IT: Advice in entry-level IT professionals

IT sector must speak in skills to bridge gaps in capability and boost IT workforce

First steps towards a career in IT by the Open University

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How do we train for the future? Part 1

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Information Technology

Image by DBreg2007 via Flickr

Matthew Poyiadgi, European VP, CompTIA discuss how we train the next generation of IT professionals, both for the specific challenges we face and to make the most of technologies we haven't even dreamed of yet.

"We should not get carried away. We need to continue teaching skills that businesses say they need today. Computers still need building, securing and connecting. Tablets, smartphones, and the plethora of bespoke technology used by different sectors, all still need integrating into existing systems.

That said, whilst dramatic change isn't instant, it may be pretty quick, and we need to make sure we are ready. We need two approaches to training; a short term one which trains in current and emerging skills and a longer term one which equips IT professionals with the skills they will need for life.

The short term approach means working closely with industry to identify what technologies they are using and what they plan to use, and develop training based on these. Right now this is probably cloud and tablets; in five years it could be completely different. Once these new technologies reach the tipping point whereby they can deliver serious business impact for a reasonable cost, then we need to work with the experts in these areas to develop the necessary training and certification.

Industry training can only really teach the technologies of the moment, and whilst these will provide an underpinning for some time, staying up to date means lifelong learning. However, this doesn't mean training can't equip people with broader skills that will always be needed. I will discuss this in my next blog.

The CompTIA EMEA Member Conference will include a session on how we train and motivate the next generation of IT professionals

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Making your way in IT: Advice for entry-level IT professionals

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The Open University's Kevin Streater looks at pathways open for those in entry level IT positions. What are the options for career progression and how can educators and industry work together to develop routes that increase IT's attractiveness as a career option?

Much of the focus on the skills crisis in IT has concentrated on getting people into the sector. It is sometimes easy to forget that the first step on the ladder should be the first of many, and developing our entry level IT professionals to become senior decision makers and leaders within their departments or organisations is vital to retaining talented people in our sector.

This commitment requires employees, employers and educators to forget about an off-the-shelf approach to staff training, which on its own is often too theory based with little relevance to direct business benefits, and instead look at staff development as a longer term, strategic process.

The Open University is spearheading a change in approach by driving better collaboration between industry, government and education to address this issue. The University was quick to recognise the importance of the work conducted by SFIA (the Skills Framework for the Information Age), which harnessed business expertise to develop a set of accurate IT job profiles. These detail the skills required for positions right up to board level from the point of view of those in charge of filling them. 

Below is a summary of the mid-level roles identified by SFIA that entry level IT workers can work towards.

Business Analyst
Accountable for identifying business needs, capturing requirements and determining solutions to business problems.

Development Manager
Responsible for ensuring that systems development (programming, coding, systems integrations etc) taking place in, or on behalf of, an organisation is aligned to the strategic goals of the organisation.

Enterprise Architect
Works with stakeholders, both leadership and subject matter experts, to build a holistic view of the organisation's strategy, processes, information and information technology assets. They then use this knowledge to ensure that the business and IT are in alignment.

Programme/Senior Project Manager
Oversees and controls delivery of several related projects. At the senior level this could involve managing a portfolio or projects or programmes.

Service Level Manager
A service level manager is responsible for the monitoring, reporting and ongoing improvement of a set of services and the associated service level agreements

IT Procurement Specialist
Responsible for the acquisition of goods and/or services at the best possible cost, in the right quality and quantity, at the right time, in the right place and from the right source.

By mapping our courses to this framework, Open University students currently at more junior levels within an organisation, can work with their employers and the University to tailor their learning to any of these roles, helping them make the right choice for the next rung on the ladder.

Click here for further details on the key skills those looking to move into these roles must acquire in order to succeed, and how these can be developed through specific Open University courses.

This new approach will not only improve the system that turns talented entry level IT workers into tomorrow's senior managers but also change perceptions of IT as a career choice for those outside the industry.

Whilst graduates in the early noughties saw IT as an exciting, energetic industry with real prospects for career progression and routes to well-paid senior roles, the view today is very different.

Low-level IT workers are underpaid compared to their colleagues in the city or law and unhappy with the opportunities to move up. A UNITE survey of UK IT employees at the start of the year found 62% felt they lacked the necessary training to keep their skills up-to-date.

As the industry loses unhappy but talented workers its reputation as a potential career choice for the next generation suffers. If companies want to attract and retain the best talent coming out of university and maximise the potential of the talent already at its disposal, they need to demonstrate clearer career ladders supported by intuitive and strategic staff learning.

Also read:

IT sector must speak in skills to bridge gaps in capability and boost IT workforce

First steps towards a career in IT by the Open University

The Foundation of Success

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Jenny Taylor, IBM UK Graduate, apprenticeship and student manager, gives some insight into the qualities she looks for in new graduates.

Adaptability - you need to be flexible when things change. Think about how do you cope with changing demands, uncertainty and stress? Can you demonstrate that you have successfully completed several projects or assignments with competing deadlines? 

Teamwork & Collaboration - How do you work with others to achieve shared goals? Do you respect and value others' differences? Do you easily build and maintain relationships with others? Do you offer support and help others and share your expertise with them to enhance the effectiveness of the team? 

Communication - Think about how you communicate with others. Do you present oral and written information clearly, precisely and succinctly? Do you match the way you communicate with the requirements of the situation and your audience? Do you listen carefully to others, asking questions when necessary to ensure understanding? 

Drive to achieve - You need to be committed to success and accomplishing challenging goals. Do you take the initiative to learn new skills that will be useful for your future career? Do you learn about things beyond the scope of your current job or assignment? Are you prepared to put in as much additional time or effort as is necessary to ensure high quality results? 

Creative problem solving - This is all about using ingenuity, supported by logical methods and appropriate analysis, to propose solutions to problems. Do you conduct thorough fact-finding and analysis, anticipating any potential problems and then plan accordingly? Do you put forward new ideas for activities at university or work and offer innovative ideas to overcome challenges? 

Client focus - As a client focused organisation we look for people who share this focus and can anticipate their needs and respond appropriately. Don't think about 'clients' just in the sense of 'customers' - clients' can also be colleagues, study groups, maybe even lecturers. Do you build rapport quickly and easily and think about a situation from their point of view? Do you recommend solutions that meet their needs? Do you act with their satisfaction as top priority? 

Passion for the business - This is all about being able to demonstrate a passion for the company and the industry in which we operate. Learn about what IBM does, and the recent achievements we have had. Can you demonstrate knowledge of recent trends within the IT & Consulting industry? 

Taking ownership - This is all about identifying and taking responsibility proactively for tasks and decisions in a timely manner. Can you demonstrate when you've accepted responsibility for mistakes and worked to correct them? Do you focus on resolving difficult situations rather than finding someone to blame? Do you anticipate potential problems with a project and then plan accordingly, implementing decisions with speed and urgency? 

We see these competencies as complementing our values and identifying the skills people need to succeed. The best place to start is by identifying how you've already used these skills. What have you done that shows you have demonstrated these competencies in your university life, your work experience, or your personal interests? That's what will make an employer think "we must find out more about this person!" 

The trends that are shaping the industry

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In this guest blog pos  Matthew Poyiadgi, European VP, CompTIA, looks at the need for IT professionals to keep ahead of the curve by learning new skills.

One of the problems of training is keeping courses relevant in such a rapidly changing industry. I'll come on to training for the future in the next blog. First, let's look at some of the issues IT professionals will soon face, and which will be made all the more challenging without proper training.

It's been said before, but cloud and tablets will change the way we work over the next few years. The success of tablets could spell also the end of flash; cloud could remove the need for an OS, and HTML5 could replace everything so we just stay connected to the Cloud using a browser device. Servers won't disappear overnight so we will still need networking and computer skills, but they will no longer be a de facto part of IT. 

As people access company data from various locations and devices, security issues will change completely. Tablets can get infections from home networks, which can spread to the corporate network. Support for tablets' closed hardware system is very different to PCs.

Increased connectivity raises an even more worrying question. If we carry on as we are, how long before our internet IT infrastructure crumbles under the weight of all our data? As more people move to the cloud we need to change our technology to cope with this increase, or failing that, change the way we use IT. 

These are just a few of the challenges for IT professionals of the near future, and should be high on the agenda for anyone making big purchasing decisions in coming years. We need to train for technology used now, but we also need to start training people who are ready for these problems.

The CompTIA EMEA Member Conference will include a session on technology trends that are shaping the IT industry.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from November 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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January 2012 is the next archive.

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