There are few job descriptions as varied and diverse as those of IT directors. Indeed, it is very much a role that people can make up as they go along.
Those who follow the traditional route will focus on the technology first. Their business peers will see these managers as providing a service to the ongoing business activities of the organisation. These people and their departments will be measured by service level agreements, benchmarking and best practice.
On the other hand, there will be those who focus on the business and its future. These leaders will earn the respect of their business peers for driving their organisation forward and shaping its destiny. These people and their departments will be measured by the new business they bring in, by their innovation, and by the brands they are creating in the virtual world.
Departments led by the first type of IT director will die within the next two years. Their organisations may be taken over, their departments may be outsourced, or they will be simply ignored.
In the new millennium, the opportunities for IT leaders are limitless, but so are the pitfalls. If you thought you had seen the peak of new competitors, think again.
Those IT directors who are prepared to embrace the right skills, attitudes and behaviours will thrive this year. They will be in short supply, so can command higher rewards. They will be visionary, visible leaders, so will earn the loyalty and respect of their people, and above all they will be board-level players, so they will be able to influence and impact their organisation at a deep, business level.
There are three key skills needed. First, the ability to inspire. This will be achieved through high visibility, living by a set of clear values and ensuring that people in the front line are key decision makers. Beyond delegation and empowerment, people in these departments will work as if they were working for themselves, in their own companies.
Second, is fast, flexible focus. Every moment of every day new demands are made of us all and a key skill for IT leaders this year and beyond is to pay absolute and total attention to the task at hand, and to be able to move the same level of attention onto the next task, often in the very next moment.
Third, is belief, and personal drive. Being prepared to take risks - confident in the rewards they will bring, even if the first few go wrong. When something goes wrong, IT leaders will have to take the blame themselves and, when it goes right, to ensure maximum credit for others.
The term IT director will start to die off this year, to be replaced by the CIO. Managers of processes will become leaders of people. To those that are ready for it, welcome to the age of true leadership, boardroom business, and personal fulfilment.