Executive Summary: New Skills for the New IT

Published: 01 November 2011 ID: G00227677

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With digital technologies, social media, cloud-based IT and operational process automation on the rise, new business-IT roles are emerging. CIOs have an opportunity to re-imagine IT and build the hybrid business and IT skills their new environment demands.


With almost half of CIOs planning to move most applications and infrastructure to the cloud over the next four years, and with the rapid rise of social media and new digital technologies, CIOs have an opportunity to re-imagine IT. As the automation of operational processes and the pervasiveness of information increase, new business-IT roles will emerge and develop. CIOs must reskill their IT workforce to build hybrid business and IT skills.

This report addresses the question, What actions must CIOs take to source and develop the new talent required to increase IT’s contribution to enterprise growth and innovation?

“New Skills for the New IT” was written by members of the CIO & executive leadership research group, led by John Roberts (vice president and Distinguished Analyst), assisted by Lily Mok (vice president).

We would like to thank the many organizations and individuals that generously contributed their insights and experiences to the research, including:

  • The contributors to our interviews and case studies: Medhat Galal and Ben Farrell, Appian (U.S.); Gahm Yong Kim, Dongbu HiTek (South Korea); Hortense Nelson, Idaho National Laboratory (U.S.); James Kang, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore; Srikantan Moorthy, Infosys (India); Kelly Clark, OptumHealth (U.S.); Professor Steven Miller, Singapore Management University; and Alistair Jacques, UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement (U.S.).

  • Other Gartner colleagues: Heminder Alhuwalia, Amos Auringer, Austin Gillis and Yuet-Nan Wong.

  • Other members of the CIO & executive leadership research group: Diane Berry, Heather Colella, Cassio Dreyfus, Richard Hunter, John Kost, John Mahoney, Diane Morello, Tina Nunno and Ansgar Schulte.

Executive Summary

While continuing to deliver reliable IT services, CIOs have an opportunity to use new technologies and practices to redirect or liberate resources that increase innovation and value for the enterprise. The focus of IT skills is changing — from service delivery to designing and implementing technology-enabled, information-rich and transformed business processes.

Because the highly skilled talent required to transform IT is always in scarce supply, IT’s traditional approach to finding new talent, with its heavy reliance on external sourcing, will ultimately impede a CIO in positioning IT to create competitive advantage for the enterprise. Doing nothing is not an option, since this will lead IT to the lesser role of commodity service provider.

CIOs have an opportunity to re-imagine IT by looking at current resources and developing a skills plan that addresses ongoing digitization of the enterprise, the rise of lighter-weight technologies and social computing, and the need for technology-driven innovation. As shown in the figure opposite, the typical IT organization devotes about 70% of its resources to operating IT — managing infrastructure and supporting applications. That leaves 30% of resources for upgrading and expanding infrastructure to meet business requirements and for building new or enhanced applications that further automate business processes and improve information. Innovative solutions that allow IT to create new business services make up only a small part of that 30%.

Over time, the percentage of resources devoted to operating IT will decline significantly because of automation and new cloud-enabled delivery models. For example, based on the Gartner 2011 CIO Agenda Survey, 42% of CIOs expect to deliver more than half of their transactions via the cloud by 2015, a figure that will rise to 73% by 2020. This will substantially reduce the internal skills and resources required to run IT, though IT will need reskilling to support the new service delivery models.

Figure 1. IT roles will evolve to deliver more business value
Research image courtesy of Gartner, Inc.

Source: Gartner.

When it comes to developing new applications and services, CIOs and their IT organizations have two options. They can either grow IT by providing additional business services, or continue with current services. The second option may reduce the scope of the IT organization’s contributions as new initiatives are developed elsewhere. The first option’s increased IT capabilities require new roles and skills in the design and implementation of technology-enabled, information-rich and transformed business processes.

New technologies will reshape business and IT innovation

New and emerging technologies will enable new business models supported by the new IT. CIOs must, therefore, reskill their organizations to deliver greater innovation; if they don’t, IT risks becoming a mere commodity service provider.

The cloud’s new service delivery models, the increase in business process automation, the proliferation of information channels and the expanding universe of digital technologies are all driving business and technology change. A new and lighter IT organization is emerging as IT service delivery becomes increasingly commoditized; yet demand for skills in the design and building of new, innovative and technology-enabled business solutions is rising. The skill profiles for the new IT will, in many cases, be a hybrid of business and IT skills.

New business-IT skills will extend the CIO’s sphere of influence

As IT roles and skills change from service delivery to providing technology-enabled, information-rich and transformed business processes, the CIO will become more influential. The figure below summarizes IT’s broad roles — operate, design and build, and innovate — in relation to the CIO’s sphere of influence.

Figure 2. Increased skills are needed to expand IT services
Research image courtesy of Gartner, Inc.

Source: Gartner.

To drive enterprise effectiveness through technology-enabled innovation, CIOs must grow the innovation and information components of their role. Business designers and technology innovators will work together in the new IT, inventing new ways of doing business.

Designing and implementing increased process automation will demand greater business-IT consultative capabilities as information architects and process designers develop information-rich, collaborative business processes, Sophisticated program, project and change managers will deliver these processes and manage change. Meanwhile, to engage employees in continuous improvement, collaboration leaders will employ social media tools that enhance communications and exploit proliferating digital technologies.

Ongoing IT service delivery cannot be neglected, since users will expect improved delivery of automated IT services. As service delivery models evolve, the need for delivery managers, solution integrators, service brokers and demand managers will increase. In delivering against the demand for IT services, these roles will draw on a diverse group of cloud and non-cloud service vendors.

CIOs must cultivate new IT skills

To ensure that IT increasingly contributes to enterprise growth and innovation, CIOs must incorporate a new talent strategy into their IT strategic plan that blends business and IT skills. They will need a workforce-planning process to identify the range of skills involved in operating IT services, building new services and leading business-IT innovation. CIOs should use the following approaches to cultivate the new IT skills:

  • Buy from the market in the short term.

  • Contribute to the market in the intermediate term by building internal capabilities through continuing education and reskilling.

  • Influence the market in the long term by working with educators/academic communities and suppliers.

CIOs need to bear in mind that they, too, must become innovation leaders to foster business support for technology-enabled business innovation.

© 2011 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction and distribution of this publication in any form without prior written permission is forbidden. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. Although Gartners research may discuss legal issues related to the information technology business, Gartner does not provide legal advice or services and its research should not be construed or used as such. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.

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