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Culture versus technology: What’s your priority to deliver the future of IT?

Culture versus technology: What’s your priority to deliver the future of IT?

We can no longer rely on the skill sets we've been tapping to get us to this point today, says Julie Canepa

For some time now, our industry has been talking about automation, predictive analytics, and artificial intelligence as the future state of IT. But the truth is that these things are already here. So what are you doing to keep up with these advancements? Are you embracing change or holding back and being reactive?

When we look back at the last 10 years in the IT industry and recognise how fast-paced innovation has snowballed and changed our lives, it’s safe to say that we can expect the next 10 to be even more unpredictable when it comes to realising the extent of digital transformation.

Part of what makes successful technical advancement succeed in the industry is the ability for us, as humans, to adapt and change. With the future of IT here already, and a wild ride ahead of us, we need to be open to change.

We can no longer rely on the skill sets we’ve been tapping to get us to this point today. We will need to continue learning, restructuring, and redefining IT roles to adapt to ever evolving business objectives. We need dynamic and versatile teams.

It is predicted that over 50 billion things will be digitally connected in the next few years. With such scale of devices connected to the network, generating huge amounts of data, we will need to look at the skills and resources we have in-house to manage vast amounts of new data and automation.

The skills of tomorrow won’t be the same as the skills of today. IT won’t have the time, money or resources to manually configure and manage at such scale, so simplification and automation is essential.

We fundamentally need to change the way people in IT work, to build new skill sets and have flexible, agile teams that are data driven and operationally focused.

Think about the skills you are currently investing in and the current roles you have in your team. Do you have the capability to not only scale, but to utilise new data insights to drive change and transform your business? How will your current roles need to change to meet your future objectives? Are your people dynamic, multi-disciplined, and willing to change? 

A recent Cisco study asked 392 tech execs where their biggest skills gap existed with 92 per cent saying they have an IT talent gap. A staggering 84 per cent of those stated that business acumen, problem solving and critical thinking was the biggest gap, while 66 per cent felt they had gaps with technical skills.

Digital principles and transforming IT

At Cisco, when we look at transforming IT, we work to our five digital principles: simplification, automation, security, analytics, and continuous innovation. These digital principles aren’t just related to technology.

We recognise and tell our customers and partners, that digital transformation success requires an equal focus on technology and culture – the people and the projects.

While some organisations are at the very beginning of their journey, our digital transformation at Cisco began several years ago. As early technology adopters, living and breathing the digital economy, we recognised that we had to transform our IT offering to an ‘as a service’ and architecturally led model if we wanted to continue to innovate ahead of our competitors.

We also found that structurally as an IT department inside Cisco, we needed a better way to run IT. We were continuously asking for more budget, yet running out of capacity. Starting with our core operations, we simplified and stripped back to a position from which we could build a new, versatile working culture upon.

This change didn’t happen overnight, but by changing our operating model, we began to gain efficiency using data and delivering analytics in a whole new way, and we find ourselves now reaping the rewards. We work smarter, we have increased our operational excellence, and we are saving money, which we are able to reinvest into new digital technologies - collaboration, security and AI to name a few.

We have found that the more we focus on our own IT structure and culture, concentrating on both our projects and our people, the more we see the benefits. As a result of focusing on our IT culture as well as our technology, we are able to invest in new, interesting and exciting digital projects that are keeping us ahead of the curve and generating new business growth.

Building the future of IT – now

Although many IT leaders are still primarily focused on the technology to drive innovation, we now understand going digital is so much more than just a technology conversation. It’s about changing our mindset.

Being successful with future IT is the ability to work together in fast, agile, dynamic teams, continuously improving processes to deliver value and unprecedented outcomes. As IT leaders, we need to be the bold drivers in our organisations, to stay ahead on our secure digital journey to deliver ‘once-in-a-generation’ change in business delivery systems. The IT role has never been more relevant, which is so exciting.

When building your future IT strategies, think outside of the technology and platforms you want to implement. Make sure you are also thinking about your IT culture, your people and skills. And ask yourself if you are attracting and retaining the right talent and organising your people for the future of IT.

Julie Canepa is chief information officer at Cisco Australia and New Zealand.

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