Salesforce VP: how social enterprise is transforming business
IT departments need to accept that social networking is not just recreational, says Peter Coffee
New skill sets
Coffee said that the the opportunity to deliver social enterprise engagement is currently limited by organisations' ability to staff those projects. This is because the skills needed in today's IT industry are very different from those that were needed ten years ago.
As the industry increasingly moves towards cloud computing models, and much of the complexity that IT departments had to deal with in the past is removed, people who are prepared to understand both the purpose of the business and the relevance of basic aspects of technology are going to be highly valued.
“Your ability to add value in your organisation over the next 10 years or 20 years, or for that matter the rest of your career, is primarily going to be derived from your ability to understand human goals, motivations and desires and build systems that fulfil them,” said Coffee.
While people used to build electrical equipment with soldering iron and pliers, now most equipment is constructed from chips, which integrate an enormous number of devices into one module. The same thing is happening in the software industry, whereby complex, esoteric skills are being transformed into abstracted services.
This doesn't mean that cloud computing is necessarily a threat to high tech employment. Coffee said that by adding value and shrinking cost, demand will grow to an extent that swamps the effects of the cost reduction. Furthermore, there will still be demand for IT professionals who know a loose connector when you see one.
“The abstraction of the cloud enormously increases productivity, but it doesn't eliminate the need for an IT professional still to have in the back of the mind the understanding of what's happening under the hood, so that when something is not working correctly the remediation strategy is immediately apparent,” said Coffee.
“That's why being an IT professional is not going to become a less demanding profession. And the number of IT professionals is going to grow and their sophistication is going to have to increase.”
While in the past, IT pros have been confined to the basement, due to the non-value-adding complexity of the technology specialism required, now they are being integrated into business units and and being rewarded based on the performance of the business function, rather than the activities they perform.
“The things that used to make an IT career difficult to enter and frustrating to sustain are being dramatically reduced, and people with energy and ingenuity can now use it and be rewarded for success instead of being punished for failure,” said Coffee.