Nemertes has been tracking the emergence of the next evolution of information technology use and organization within the enterprise. Just as MIS evolved into and was superseded by IT, we see Enterprise Technology (ET) emerging to supersede traditional IT. Where MIS focused on the back office and evolved into IT to address the needs of office staff and the knowledge worker, so IT is evolving into ET as it grows to encompass not just back-office, knowledge, and task (front-office) work, but also field and floor work that previously was not technology-supported, and the creation of the intelligent and instrumented environment. ET, naturally, demands some skills that IT already has, and also some that IT tends to undervalue.
One ET skill that is increasingly important is the ability to speak with line-of-business folks in business-focused language, and to interpret their needs and translate them into technology requirements. Sure, IT departments know they need this skill set and many deploy business analysts or business-technology liaisons to be bridges to the rest of the organization. However, the ET organization is going to be tipping ever more heavily towards needing this skill set across most positions. Over time fewer and fewer technologists will be isolated from the rest of the business, especially as broader and more flexible use of hosted, managed, and cloud services makes it possible to get ever more done without the deep technical expertise that has been required in the past. (Of course, it shifts that burden to the service providers!)
Another ET skill is the ability to think in terms of pulling together pieces of a solution from many available sources, in-house or cloud, to put together what the business needs quickly, often with the understanding that the initial solution may not be one you would want to use long term. Think mashup on the way to SOA. Why? Because in the ET world, continuous innovation will be more common, and that requires trying lots of things to see if they are worth doing, and then (if they are) working out how to do them for the longer term. This doesn’t mean throw any old thing out there, of course, and requires understanding from the business users that at some point if they want to continue on with a new service there may need to be a platform migration, but it does mean trying to spend a month getting a prototype up rather than 6 or 12 months. This requires both the skill of spotting where a new thing needs to hook into existing systems, and of knowing how the components of a new solution need to work with each other.
A third ET skill is thinking always in terms of mitigating risks of exposure of confidential information. The more places and ways there are to work with company data, the more people have access to that data, the more important it is that every person with a hand in creating those means of access pays attention to protecting that information. The best architectures will have systems in place to provide mashable access to data with the access controls all built in, but even then, before data make it into that protected core they may live only in the new apps and so need to be considered with care and handled with caution.
There are other ET skills, and the list will continue to evolve as the picture of what ET is continues to get clearer.