by Jeff Fields, Chief Information Officer, SERVPRO
Like technology itself, the culture of IT should continuously evolve. If a company’s IT team stagnates, then it risks becoming irrelevant. Still, over time, many IT departments fall into a comfortable and familiar routine instead of looking for new opportunities to advance. But while this might even be the case on your own IT team, modern technology does make it possible to refresh those obsolete routines with new, exciting innovations. To that end, below are three outdated IT culture trends—and how I have seen modern technology breathe life into them once again.
Trend 1: Tech Skills Over People Skills
Due to the framework of this industry, IT departments tend to prioritize technical skills and overlook the need for “soft” interpersonal skills too. In fact, a joint survey from LinkedIn and Capgemini found that almost 60 percent of organizations across the world lack IT teams with demonstrable soft skills.
Someone can be brilliant in computer software, artificial intelligence, data analytics, cloud security management and other digital functions, but they also must be an agile team-player in order to turn conceptual tech knowledge into real-world strategies. Technical expertise is sought-after, of course, but working effectively with others is just as crucial. Here is a list of the main interpersonal skills and areas of emotional intelligence that CIO.com recommends all IT professionals learn to develop:
- Verbal and written communication
- Adaptability and comfort with uncertainty
- Collaborative and empathetic mindset
- Salesmanship and customer service
- Ability to translate and contextualize tech jargon
- Problem-solving and asking necessary questions
While the current mostly remote environment may make things feel a little different, I continue to encourage my own staff members to focus on strengthening various soft skills in order to make themselves more rounded employees, team members and leaders.
Trend 2: Speed to Market Issues
IT can no longer operate as a siloed department—it is a core, intrinsic part of a business ecosystem that other branches of the organization depend on to quickly and efficiently implement new programs. In terms of access to data and technology, both consumers and enterprises demand instant gratification, so an IT team must deliver accelerated systems and processes without compromising on quality, creativity or ingenuity.
The average speed-to-market time for most companies’ IT projects is around 24 months, notes Jim Van Dyke, founder and CEO of Futurion Digital. But while this might be the standard, if your focus is just to maintain the status quo, you are falling behind competitors who innovate ahead of that curve. For example, consider the mobile payment network Zelle. This platform’s IT team uses a “three-six-nine formula” on its new projects—three days to select the designers, six weeks to establish a prototype, and nine months to actualize the end result. That acceleration has reduced Zelle’s speed-to-market time by as much as 25–33 percent, Van Dyke continues.
I feel this has been an area of strength for our team throughout the past few years, which I know I am grateful for, as are our franchise owners and customers. Maintaining our focus on various initiatives designed to make utilizing our services easier for customers has allowed us to implement programs more efficiently, quickly and creatively.
Trend 3: Limited Roles for Everyone
One of the most archaic trends in the tech industry is the lack of diverse hiring and promoting to leadership roles. Modern IT teams should not be dominated by white male “computer nerd” types. In order to establish a true culture of ideation and innovation from all angles, IT professionals from various backgrounds must be heard, seen and represented at the decision-making tables. Important strides have been made in this area, but more continuous forward momentum is still necessary.
For instance, as one of the major tech conglomerates in the world, Google has proactively increased its efforts to hire people of different genders, races and ethnicities. While this is just one example within the broader tech space, Google is an indication that IT roles need to expand for all demographics across-the-board. “The real question is: Are we interested in diversity or are we interested in integration? The integration of women, people of color and other underrepresented voices would mean the behavior of the entire industry would change as a result of their presence in that community. Diversity is just membership. Integration is influence, power and partnership,” adds Charles Isbell, executive director of the Constellations Center at Georgia Tech.
Let New Technology Renew these Outdated IT Trends
With the advent of digital transformation, modern technology accelerates at a rapid-fire pace and continues to be integrated in every aspect of business. For this reason, your team cannot afford to lean on outdated IT culture trends. Advance with the times so the company as a whole is positioned for relevance and success long-term.
About Jeff Fields
Jeff Fields has served as the Chief Information Officer for SERVPRO since 2012. In 2019, he was appointed Vice President. In his role as CIO for Servpro Industries, LLC, Jeff manages and mentors the technology team, leads SERVPRO’s technology development projects, and provides technical oversight of the company’s products and services.
Jeff’s information technology career includes executive leadership in technology, strategy and business results with a unique combination of both corporate and technical acumen. His prior CIO assignments were at National Council Compensation Insurance, SafeAuto Insurance Company and Magazines.com.
Jeff Fields earned his Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He also completed Executive education at Stanford University, with a focus on e-commerce.