• United States



by Jan Duffy

The IT/Business-Savvy Professional: The New Imperative

May 03, 20046 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

Technology has become increasingly integrated with business success. Indeed, technology is often at the heart of an organization’s business model supporting and enabling those elements that are strategic and providing competitive differentiation through products and services. Attracting, developing, and retaining staff who can combine their knowledge of business needs, priorities, and competitive differentiation with sound understanding of IT will bring significant advantages to an organization. We refer to these individuals as IT/business-savvy professionals.

To help any organization master IT, these professionals require skills and knowledge in the following areas: business, communications, finance, technology, and project management. Additionally, they must be innovative, entrepreneurial, strategic, collaborative, and essentially customer-centric. With much at stake, it is imperative that an organization determine (and then apply) effective human resource strategies to develop appropriately skilled individuals who possess the talents to leverage all aspects of technology at all levels within the organization. It is believed that these strategies should include the following components:

  • Clear articulation of how technology provides competitive advantage and rationale for the IT/business-savvy professional
  • Revised career path and performance management systems
  • Training programs to develop IT/business-savvy professionals
  • New staffing approaches
  • Changes to IT management and accountability that will reinforce this direction

Generally speaking, most C-level executives feel that they have not realized sufficient business value from their significant investments in IT. It is noticeably prevalent that a “great divide” exists between the business community in most organizations and the IT community IDC believes that the IT/business-savvy professional is a critical component to bridging this divide and mastering IT. In this way, many of these professionals will be able to more successfully leverage their investment in technology and use technology to create real competitive advantage.

The Business Imperative

IDC research reveals that IT spending on average represents almost 4% of revenue and accounts for over 50% of the capital budget for most organizations. As technology continues to evolve rapidly, the management of technology is also evolving. Organizations now have many opportunities for differentiation, particularly in the way that IT is deployed and leveraged within the organization.

Many companies now devote considerable time and attention towards designing and implementing strategies to attract, develop, and retain IT/business- savvy professionals, improving customer relationship management, establishing effective alliances and collaborative relationships among organizations, dealing with economic stagnation, and improving corporate governance. IT in itself today is no longer central, rather it is finding unique ways to innovate using IT that provides value to businesses and consumers!

In view of the above, IDC believes that these IT/business-savvy professionals of the future will be successful if they can combine business and technology skills to master the use of and

investment in information technology in addition to their highly specialized technical skills. In any IT organization today, individuals must continue to thrive on the challenge of using technology to solve complex problems, and those who constantly look for innovative ways to deploy the latest, leading-edge IT hardware, software, and tools.

IDC concludes the following about the evolution of IT professionals:

  • Technical skills are increasingly specialized, often into very narrow segments.
  • Managers in non-IT functions have increased knowledge of and responsibility for IT.
  • New IT management roles are emerging.
  • Staff in non-IT functions are increasingly technically skilled.
  • The CIO role points the way for the IT/business-savvy professional.

As Organizations and industries are at different stages in their use of IT, they will differ in the pace of change and the extent to which the IT/business-savvy professional role unfolds across their functional landscape. There are two aspects of the IT/business-savvy professional: business people need IT skills and IT people need business skills.

Future Outlook

Organizations should clearly articulate the role of technology, outlining how it will drive growth and prosperity for the organization and how and where technology will be fundamental to success and differentiable competitive advantage. Companies need to show how technology supports the three major capabilities of any organization: customer relationship management, infrastructure management and product innovation, and commercialization. Finally, Organizations should clearly illustrate how the IT/business-savvy professional will contribute to its success. The factors outlined above will help to set the stage for all other efforts in support of building the IT/business-savvy professionals and will galvanize people to take the necessary steps in building their skills for the future.

After having articulated the role of technology, IDC has also identified three fundamental HR processes that are important to building the right environment and identifying the changes required to attract, develop, and retain IT/business-savvy professionals – staffing, learning and development, and performance and career development.

An integrated approach to IT/Business-Savvy Professionals Produces Results


Changes to IT management and accountability should also be implemented to reinforce the role and emphasis on IT/business-savvy professionals. In the realm of IT management, organizations should build and communicate a decision-making framework for IT investments that aligns with key business priorities and should ensure that business executives take accountability for the success of IT initiatives. For accountability, organizations have to change their accountability mechanisms so that business managers are accountable for getting results from IT. Companies should also put the right measures in place to complement these accountabilities, particularly those that tie in with the success of the overall business.

Eight Essential Practices

IDC has complemented the above recommendations with eight essential practices in support of attracting, developing, and retaining the IT/business-savvy professional. See Figure 3 below.

Figure 3: Developing and Retaining
Eight principles to follow:
1.Clearly lay out and reinforce te premise that combining IT and business skills is fundamental to growth ad strategic success of the organization.
2.Articulate the vision for IT/Business savvy professionals in the organization, changing HR processes.
3.Link rewards and recognition to demonstrable success in developing relevant IT/Business skills.
4.Create and communicate the formula that shows how IT/Business savvy professionals are expected to drive success for the organization.
5.Build and nurture the human resource infrastructure to sustain and reinforce the focus on IT/Business savvy professionals.
6.Hire for long-term skills and aptitude, not short-term technical capabilities.
7.Practice what you preach. Senior managers must also become IT/Business savvy.
8.Measure and monitor results.

IT/Business Savvy Professionals


Today’s business environment demands excellence of operations and speed of adaptation. The high-performance organization emphasizes the development of employees who have strengths in critical areas, in particular in the application of technology to business. The business and technology drivers of changes are numerous. People with the right skills and attributes are critical to leveraging the forces of change and implementing change successfully.

With the above ingredients in place, organizations will have the right infrastructure to develop and leverage IT/business-savvy professionals.