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Acquire new skills for technology management
The age of the customer requires organisations to focus on both the business technology and IT agendas
Historically, IT management has used requirements from marketing, operations and other business areas to build relatively siloed systems. The systems were often highly complex, but tech management understood how to get them done.
The age of the customer changes this by requiring organisations to focus on both the business technology and IT agendas. This drives tech management's need for stronger political, consulting and cross-organisational skills as it takes on a more assertive stance with technology and taps the explosion of customer data for its own use.
People in tech management should use their knowledge of technologies and methodologies to suggest to business partners what can and cannot be done.
This is critical when shadow IT is rampant or when tech management takes on the job of driving change that has a direct impact on customers. At a minimum, tech management needs to ensure that business people are making informed technology decisions.
Data experts within the tech management organisation must consult with business users in what they can and cannot do with data. In other cases, tech management will be leading the business but needs to ensure colleagues are on board. However, consulting fundamentally is not task-based; it’s outcome-based.
While tech management certainly will need to acquire new skills to perform new tasks, the more important focus will be skills that can help the business define, pursue and achieve technology-rich business outcomes.
For instance, according to a senior manager of business systems at an American healthcare products company, IT wants to become the consultant to the business. "We need to provide the big picture and identify the tough spots," they say.
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Project and change management
Today, most business transformation projects increase global consistency of processes, systems and groups.
On their company’s transformation, a senior global strategy and architecture leader at a multimultnational pharmaceutical says: “The intention was to break down the silos of the enterprise and have fewer compromises due to regional differences.”
The technology management team has great influence here by enabling nearly every business process. However, they need to scale their skills to the entire organisation.
Projects in the age of the customer tend to be cross-organisational and include external applications. The methods and skills in managing these types of projects borrow more from contracting than command and control – more politics, more selective application of methodologies, more oversight for those who are managing projects.
Specifically, project managers will need to consult with business employees and service providers on how they manage projects. Doing so, they’ll need to be sensitive to methodological structures, ensuring that methodology drives non-tech and external groups to desired outcomes. There is a right amount of methodology – not too much, not too little.
Tech management people need to know the mechanics of user experience design, enterprise project management, culture change, and possibly even business transformation.
Ideally, many of these areas should not be tech management’s responsibility. However, often no one else will pick them up – which normally means they don’t get done – and that can have enormous brand and business consequences. And, as previously stated, tech management supports every part of the organisation.
A senior manager of business systems says managing change is a skills gap. "IT goes through change first. Business feels it after IT."
Tech management decisions will increasingly affect customers and senior executives who have the political power to fight back.
A sports equipment retailer’s online subsidiary urgently needed a new order processing system for peak loads – it chose a cloud system. However, implementing the approach required changes to traditional business processes. The CIO and his team needed strong political skills to get beyond what business leaders wanted, to what the company needed.
These "soft" skills are often missing from tech management. According to a senior manager of business systems, "Processes need to change, but political skills in the IT organisation are not at the right level."
Architects provide standards, direction and oversight for areas including data, applications and mobile devices. To date, they have been largely internally focused.
In the age of the customer, they'll need to facilitate innovation by identifying the sources and possible consumers of customer innovation. They should track how competitors use technology and consult with internal clients on the possibilities and limitations of technology. They are instrumental in exploiting and mitigating the damage from shadow IT by consulting with the perpetrators in how technology should be used.
Business architects, in particular, must upgrade their political skills as they suggest to business leaders how their processes must change.
In the age of the customer, supplier managers need to advise those who buy cloud and other services. Business people tend to focus on functionality, not security, maintainability or the ability to implement. Supplier managers will need to anticipate functional needs and suggest the appropriate source. They need to educate non-technical people in the criteria for selecting partners.
Given that tech management will handle many of these systems, supplier managers need the skill to manage multiple software‑as‑a‑service suppliers or provide the guidance to others who will do so.
"Due to the growing ecosystem of cloud and other external service providers, the new emerging skills include how to manage operational performance of the partners and align IT service management processes," says Tony Iorio, who works in IT operations and support services at Capital Group.
Tech management staff need to know the customer experience through customer metrics, direct involvement, or other means.
For example, US retailer Home Depot reviews customer satisfaction scores weekly and acts on the results.
In the age of the customer, designers will need to partner with business people while working directly with customers to build and conveniently deploy functionality on multiple devices.
They will need the methodological skills to work with external customers, the technical skills to support different platforms, and the competitive skills to minimise the deleterious effects of inconveniencing customers.
This is an extract from the Forrester report, Acquire new skills for technology management by vice-president and principal analyst Marc Cecere.