Out With the Old, In With the New
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New ideas and tools to make teams productive abound, but leadership skills ultimately play the major role in determining whether IT productivity efforts succeed or fail. An organization's vice presidents, project managers and team leaders are all looking to the CIO for direction. Factors have emerged in the past five years that make the CIO's job more challenging--and require more insight to keep IT workers productive.
One of the most important new factors facing CIOs is the rapid pace of communication. Miami-Dade College's CIO Karl Herleman manages more than 180,000 students and 6,000 employees with only 300 IT workers on staff. The pressures of serving this Ã¼ber-connected communication environment are greater than ever. "Everything has gotten much more rapid with mobile technology, social media and everything in real time," Herleman says. "There used to be more time to react and plan."
P&G CIO Passerini agrees. He says that the speed with which business moves today has made his own leadership style become "much more decisive" over the past five years. "We have less time to debate," he says.
Young generations entering the workforce are challenging CIOs. A recent study from IT staffing firm TEKsystems found that 73 percent of all IT workers are under age 45; 21 percent of these employees were born between 1980 and 2000. While earlier generations learned how to use new technology in the midst of their careers, young workers grew up with computers and gadgetry, and feel right at home in IT. For CIOs, this means changing the way they lead to accommodate the generational shifts occurring in the workforce.
"We have every end of the [age] spectrum," says Miami-Dade College's Herleman. "The employees who have been here a long time are definitely not comfortable with new technologies such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Microsoft SharePoint. But that's how the younger employees communicate. They want to be text-messaged and talked to in their own ways."
Xerox CIO McDermott says that young workers are "all about speed." He believes that capitalizing on that need for speed helps increase productivity. "[Younger generations] have seen that speed is an opportunity in business," he says. "They're impatient, and they want to get things done. As a CIO, you want to harness that."
Unlike some of their seniors, younger workers perceive a "fluid boundary" between business and IT, and this is a positive trend for IT departments, notes McDermott. "They expect their careers to bounce between IT and business roles," he says.
P&G's Passerini agrees, saying that for IT workers to be productive, they need a strong desire to be profitable contributors to the bottom line. "There is a unique opportunity for people with an expertise in technology to employ a leadership role," he says. "We need to ask if what we're doing is relevant for the business. If it isn't, then we become a commodity in the work we do."