Evolving IT job titles
New IT titles downplay technologies, focus more on business attributes
Think you want to be a CIO or CTO? Think again. What you might really want is to be a chief delivery officer or chief process officer.
Are you a software developer eager to advance? Look for a product architect role. Network and security administrators may want to start looking for positions as electronic privacy specialists. If business analytics is your area of expertise, your next promotion might be to the job of information architect.
And one more thing: Don’t expect to be part of an “IT department.” As a 21st century technology professional, your future – and most likely your desk – will be deeply rooted in the business, and your title will likely be scrubbed of any and all hints of computers, databases, software development languages or data networks.
Already, we’re beginning to see changes in IT titles that downplay specific technologies and focus more on business attributes. Wireless technicians, for example, are turning into mobility support staff, and tech support is called high-availability support.
What’s driving this recasting of IT job titles and roles is the commoditization of technology and an ever-growing base of new workers who are technologically savvy and perfectly comfortable having technology play a kind of background role in just about everything they do. These workers and the industries they’re in have less need for computer programmers and help desk analysts because they either know how to program themselves or the help they need is built right into the software they’re using to do their own jobs.
With the exception of deeply technical infrastructure roles – which for the foreseeable future will remain deeply technical – IT as we know it will no longer exist as a subset specialty in the not-too-distant future. Instead, IT will be integrated into whatever work you’re trying to get done. In the healthcare industry, for example, there is a huge drive to fill positions with people who have one foot in the medical world and the other in the technology world.
This is NOT a world in which IT doesn’t matter à la Nicholas Carr. Far from it. Rather, it’s a world in which IT is promoted or elevated from a subset specialty to a full-fledged, fully integrated business partner.
“The IT department is being disintermediated – but in a good way. It is being pushed farther up the food chain,” according to Kamud Kalia, CIO at $8 billion Direct Energy in Toronto. “A lot of stuff that IT staff would have done, they no longer need to do. The problems have been fixed or the technology has been commoditized.
“Ten years ago, for example, you’d put smart guys on the project of joining applications together. Now, middleware has obviated the need for that. You still want to have smart people, but you want them solving business problems, not technical ones.”
Another example: Animas, a Johnson & Johnson company in West Chester, Pennsylvania, is eliminating traditional IT roles and titles. There is no need for systems analysts and administrators as the company outsources data centers or contracts with vendors to provide software as a service.
Outsourcing, globalization and the decreasing costs of WAN technology all work to eliminate the need for systems administrators, help desk staff or developers, says Animas CTO Bogdan Butoi. “We pretty much have kept only business-savvy people who we expect to be partners in each department and to come up with solutions.”
It is IT, for example, that conducts focus groups with physicians, patients and others to develop new products and software for glucose meters, insulin pumps and other diabetes-related products that Animas develops. Another telling indicator of IT’s deeply embedded business role at Animas: IT is measured on how many original products it comes up with without anybody asking for them. In other words, IT is measured on how well it is pushing innovation.
While job titles for these emerging roles have yet to be standardized, the overall career focus seems pretty clear: It’s all about business. The one trend that virtually all of the emerging IT titles and roles seem designed to reflect is technology professionals’ inextricable connection to the products and/or services their company provides and not to specific technologies or gear like Java, WANs or SAS.
You’ll see titles like “solutions architect” and “product architect” that convey involvement in providing the product or service to a purchaser, as opposed to titles like “network engineer.”
This is because the notion of separation between IT and operations has been totally blurred. This helps explain the rise in combination titles on today’s business cards: CIO and EVP of operations. CIO and head of distribution. CIO and chief corporate strategist. These are real titles of real CIOs.
At Direct Energy, job titles – especially titles in the 350-person IT organization – are purposely kept vague. This is so people can apply descriptive labels to what they do. The company’s CTO says he wants IT staffers to think of themselves as people who work for an energy company, not people who work for an energy company’s IT department.
The bottom line here is that shifting away from technology management and toward information and business management does NOT marginalize IT or take it out of the picture. Rather, it changes what IT does – for the better.
* This article is adapted from an article that originally appeared in Computerworld magazine.
More information management trends, from Accenture
This story appears in the Third Quarter 2008 issue of