When everybody is a CIO

It's always been tough for IT organizations to find the right people with the right skills at the right time.  One minute, you need a crew that knows Flash and JavaScript.  The next, you need experts in JBoss and Hadoop.

Unfortunately, things are about to get a lot worse.

It's not just that the relentless pace of innovation is forcing IT to successfully find, recruit and engage professionals with solid skills in a whole new range of technologies.  That would be hard enough.

The new hiring challenge is finding people who have both strong technical skills and CIO-like aptitudes for negotiation, relationship management and comparison of value.

This transformation in the skills and aptitudes IT requires is coming about because IT is increasingly brokering technical capabilities and services, rather than building and running everything itself.  To be effective in its new brokerage role, IT has to negotiate and manage relationships with a growing range of SaaS, PaaS and IaaS partners, as well as sundry MSPs, contractors and conventional vendor partners.

IT organizations also have to start being smarter about when to drop one brokered service in favor of another, since it is in large part by dynamically optimizing this brokered resourcing that IT can continuously increase the value it returns to the business.

Historically, this kind of relationship management was the purview of a relatively limited number of IT managers.  And IT typically received a reasonable amount of assistance in its vendor relationship management from the folks in purchasing and procurement.

But, as both the number and the intensity of IT's vendor relationships keep growing, the responsibility for making those relationships work will have to be spread around.    After all, it's one thing to renegotiate licensing deals with your database or CRM software vendors once a year.  It's another thing to make sure your PaaS vendor is meeting 25 different service level parameters for the dozen or so different applications you have running at its facility day in and day out.

I am not even sure exactly where we're going to find these mini-CIOs.  It has been hard enough to find and retain technically skilled employees.  It's not easy to find people with the business smarts and emotional intelligence to know how to get the most out of a vendor while still maintaining an amicable working relationship.  Now we're going to need people who can do both.

This should give the entire industry pause.  It should also motivate us to re-think the way we train IT professionals-both while they're in school and once they are in our employ.  There's no way around it.  IT professionals are going to need a set of business skills that they never really needed before.  And we're going to have to help them acquire and develop those skills.  Otherwise, our companies will never be able to fully realize the tremendous potential benefits of the brokered, virtualized IT service delivery model -- making us more than likely lose out to competitors who do. 

Is your company doing anything to help develop your IT staff's vendor management skills?  Are you encountering any vendor relationship management issue as you engage with a growing number of XaaS partners and MSPs?  Feel free to share your experiences and insights below.

Chris O'Malley is CEO of Nimsoft.  He has devoted 25 years to innovation in the IT industry -- most recently growing businesses in cloud and IT Management as a Service solutions. Contact Chris via the comments below or via Twitter at @chris_t_omalley.

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