How mobile, BYOD and younger workers are reinventing IT

Changes are coming to IT, so you'd better be ready

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CIO/IT management -- Mobile and BYOD trends don't directly alter the duties of technology directors and CIOs. Even cloud solutions won't completely shift what a CIO does. However, those factors, along with a growing technological competence by executives within an organization and the general state of the economy, mean that CIOs and IT departments need to build bridges with management and end users. Ideally, that means IT partners with other divisions to get the most out of technology and enable greater productivity -- a hallmark of the BYOD mentality -- as well as take part in strategic planning.

New IT positions

In addition to the changes in traditional staffing and job roles, the shifts in IT are already giving birth to new sets of responsibilities and job descriptions. Sometimes these are wholly new jobs, but they can also be expanded roles for existing positions. Some of the next-generation IT positions include:

IT generalists and liaisons -- Individuals who have a keen grasp of technology and a solid understanding of their industry will be highly sought after. They can serve as a friendly IT face to users and other departments, and one core duty is ensuring smooth IT experiences. Additionally, they serve to discover untapped potential, unmet needs, and problems (both business and technical) that IT can address. As ambassadors of IT, they can also serve as in-the-field tutors or mentors.

Enterprise/Information architects -- As IT morphs, there will be a greater emphasis on outside providers, a trend most notable when it comes to could and mobility management issues. The result: multiple teams -- internal and external -- that must be managed and coordinated and the need for someone who can meld these disparate solutions into a single vision of technology. Architects who can connect the pieces and projects and deliver services smartly will become a staple of IT teams.

User experience designers -- User experience design is a facet of Web and application development and it will become important to craft a consistent experience for employees as well as customers across a number of areas including the desktop, collaborative efforts, cloud services, mobile apps and Web services. Doing so effectively requires one or more people that are involved in multiple areas and projects. Some additional work may also involve developing training and other direct-to-user resources.

Mobility managers -- The phrase mobile device management is already giving way to the broader "mobility management" as it becomes clear that handling mobile solutions in business means going beyond basic device security and initial setup. Managing mobility involves devising mobile-oriented solutions, educating users, dealing with expense and risk management, providing a collection of approved or recommended apps, ensuring secure device access, developing and implementing appropriate mobile use policies, and cataloging and managing devices. That's a tall order, but it is crucial to a successful mobile and BYOD initiative. Add to that the speed at which the mobile landscape evolves and the need for IT to keep pace with the industry, and one thing is crystal clear: There's a need in any organization for a dedicated mobility manager or mobility team.

Small and agile adapts fastest

Traditionally, the IT departments of large enterprises have been better suited to tackle major shifts in technology because their greater resources allow them to test, purchase and deploy new solutions. In the past, smaller organizations with smaller budgets and fewer staff were slower to implement changes.

The shoe is now on the other foot. Small IT departments have a more cooperative culture and, more importantly, have less distinct separations between staffers -- leading to more shared responsibility and on-the-job cross-training. IT pros of all stripes in smaller organizations also tend to have more direct interactions with employees. That means greater comfort and familiarity on both sides as well as greater understanding of what users need and why.

Clearly, there are challenges ahead for IT departments and professionals. In some ways the most difficult challenge isn't technical at all; it's accepting that the way IT has operated for more than a generation is ending. There are immense opportunities for organizations and individuals that can adapt to this new landscape. There are chances for IT professionals to reinvent themselves as well as the workplace itself.

But there is no time to lose; these changes are barreling down the track whether IT managers and staffers want them to or not.

Ryan Faas is a freelance writer and technology consultant specializing in Mac and multiplatform network issues. He has been a Computerworld columnist since 2003 and is a frequent contributor to Peachpit.com. Faas is also the author of iPhone for Work (Apress, 2009). You can find out more about him at RyanFaas.com and follow him on Twitter (@ryanfaas).

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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