DIY

A new kind of job for the tech professional

I learned about a new type of job today that I really want to do if only I can get somebody to pay me to do it. It's called a Business Technology Professional. Wait. It may not be what you are thinking. Read the essay where I dig into it a little and think that I have it figured out. The job is more of a technology evangelist. See if you agree.

In a recent post, Toni Bowers (Head Blogs Editor, Tech Republic, Career Management) shared a list of The 10 Hottest IT jobs. Number six on the list was a new one to me and caused me to think. It was one of those "aha" moments where I realized that I have had a paradigm shift (a favorite jargon phrase) about what I would like to do for a living. The source of the original material is Baseline magazine. Here is number six:

Business Technology Professionals

“The difference between business technology and information technology roles is that IT delivers a particular service-whether it’s a shared service or an application or whatever, while business technology workers accomplish the hybrid goals that live between the business and IT. These are strategic roles that are all about aligning the business needs with IT.” At first I thought this was describing an IT Manager or CIO. Read on.

Part of the quote from the original article is very telling: "The fact that there even are designated 'business technology' roles should scare IT professionals because...they exist only because IT isn’t doing what is expected of it." In other words, we computer types are not doing well at integrating into the businesses we serve. We are so focused on doing technical tasks that we can miss how our work helps the business grow.

Skills that transition easily

In one way, that's a good thing. We who specialize in IT roles can quickly move from one company to another and immediately be successful because the work we do is so similar. An IT Manager supervises a staff of tech support people. A network administrator makes sure the LAN is functioning and the remote locations are communicating properly. A help desk specialist ensure that employees are productive on the computers.

Because there is so much involved to make the technology work smoothly, it is easy to focus solely on that. I can easily forget that today I work for a jet management company because the problems I work on are the same ones I had when I worked in a manufacturing company or in a publishing company or in a distribution company. I live in a world of technology - computers, networks, software, hardware, e-mail and PDAs.

Helping the business use the tools of IT

Today I had a call from a vice president who presented a business goal - to share sales opportunities with other members of the sales team. We sell large jets. A member of the sales team spends a large part of each day researching the status of jets that may be coming onto the market. This information is compiled and shared via a daily email that sometimes gets overlooked. He wants a better way to communicate.

Thinking with my IT cap on I suggested a spreadsheet or a database or a web page or Goldmine or Act or... "Wait a minute," the V.P. said, "I don't care what tool we use. It just has to be easy to use, easy to update, sharable by employees from multiple locations and highly visible like this weather widget on my desktop. The data is always there but it is constantly changing." Blink. "I'll have to get back to you on that one," I said.

Finding and deploying new tools

I am so focused on keeping the electrons flowing and preventing disruptions to that flow, that I hardly ever think about the business and how new technology tools could help it. The goal of the Vice President of Sales is to sell large jets. My goal as the IT Manager is to maintain the network and to keep my co-workers happy with their computers. I can't think of the last time I researched how to implement a cool new widget.

So yes, I can see that there is a need for a Business Technology Specialist, or a technology evangelist. What a cool job that would be. Imagine, spending all day finding the latest gadgets and figuring out how they could help the business. Would somebody actually be willing to pay me to do that? Is that a job you can find listed on Dice, or Monster.com? I don't think so. Somebody tell me I'm wrong. Educate me. Where is that job?

17 comments
rdaniel.msn
rdaniel.msn

Well, that kind of job is called Business Intelligence , and it's mainly carried out by Informatics Engineers, or even people coming from business studies.. that seems to be a growing field of expertise and it's nothing new... the main goal is, as you said, to gather the most information, and more importantly to make sense and extract the important parts from all the clutter of useless information that exists nowadays. As others have said, it's nothing new and will be more and more important as the Information generation continues to grow. We produce an enormous amount of info that needs to be treated.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

When times get tough this kind of position is the first to go!

JosB
JosB

I changed my job more then 7 years ago because I wanted to be more involved in the business process. The career path at the company I worked for was heading for even less involvement, either network or server specialist. Things I would have been good at but I felt I would lose sight on the reason I work in IT, to enable business to work and improve. IT is a tool, not a goal. While I don't keep up with every technical improvement anymore I do understand what people in the business need and what tools could help them doing their work better. Business does usually not care about the latest technology, they want things that get the job done. Not sure what the English job description is, I usually use 'Systems Administrator Investment Management' so people know I'm specialized in that field of work.

too_old
too_old

I have spent the last 27 years doing this though my titles were 'techie' I suppose. The truth to me was I had to know the business side enough so I could satisfy my assignments. Many a time I have made arrangements to go to the business subject expert to primarily observe their work and listen to why they need to change, etc. I really enjoyed doing this and though it was mainstream to specialize, I just could not do it. I did not want to lose contact with the business people. I wanted to have experience in several areas of IT as well as an informed knowledge of the different aspects and goals of the business. In the last 15 years, I have seen the circle being traversed once again where now in my opinion these skills are desperately needed for some kind of title.I was fired from my last job as Senior Systems Analyst in 02/2007. (Not suppose to say that, huh? ) The only thing I did not even think of was I am considered to be very old now (yep, a prospective manager actually said something like this to me). I had a brainstorm do get the PMI certification for PMP which I now have to help pursue a personal goal to minimize the friction between IT and business while optimizing BI thereby increasing profits for the business. I am not familiar with the training in the '70s and '80s but for the foreseeable future I would add that this role would also have to have a high level understanding of behavioral tendencies with the competence to keep everyone basically working toward a common goal good for everybody involved. My two cents.

shermp
shermp

This role has been around in IT for a long time. I know this for a fact - it's been my career path. At various times I've been titled business analyst, liaison, internal business consultant, business technology specialist - the list goes on. At it's heart, this role requires that you really understand and appreciate the business side - and they work to find the appropriate technology and use of that technology. It's for people who aren't quite as hard-core techy but also aren't end-users. It takes a high tolerance for "fuzzy" and a real interest in learning the business side. Personally, I love it.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

Consider it a marriage between a System Analyst and a Business System Analyst.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

It's a very rare one though. If you weren't allowed to use a computer something or other to solve the problem, how would you approach it? So I want an at a glance way of knowing who is in the office for the week. How about a blackboard and some chalk?

nwoodson
nwoodson

I don't know about anybody else, but the one thing that I tend to notice is that some (non-tech oriented) organizations tend to put the tech folks in a closet and leave them until they're needed....and that's only to whine at them in a state of panic. My take on that is that the non-technical managers, who tend to be the decision makers, are smarter and more capable of making sound business decisions. *sarcasm* Until tech support/information management functions (other than DBAs) are fully integrated into businesses that irrational dichotomy is going to exist. Let's face it, how many of us have been told to do 'X' after a bunch of "managers" decided it was the thing to do? Then after you show them why either a) more planning/lead time is required or b) it's simply not a good process/function to execute you're told, "That's what we want, now go do it". Hence, my point. The tech guys need to go out into the fresh air and sunshine (read: acquire soft skills) and the non-technical managers need to defer to those with the correct skills. Until this MBA power trip corrects itself, IT is going to be an also-ran like training and physical plant.

karen
karen

I think a lot of this problem stems from the fact that IT is often isolated from the rest of the company, either by choice or by design. When I think of the company holiday parties that my husband (who is also in IT) or I have attended, it is really interesting how few people either of us knew at the party...and this is the company one of us was working for! As IT professionals, we need to see it as part of our responsibility to get to know the company we work for. What do they make/do? What is most important to them? Do our priorities align with theirs? A lot of time the answer to that question is no, not at all. We may think that a certain service or application that we provide is absolutely essential while another is a low priority when the complete opposite is true. If this is the case, how can we have our eyes out for ways to improve the services they value most or add new ones that they might not even know we could help with? We need to break out of our geeky comfort zones and build relationships with users across the organization so that we can be open to that kind of feedback. It would also help if we danced at the company party...yeah, I know the Macarana is embarassing, but you never know how the electric slide might help you build bridges. ;)

tmalonemcse
tmalonemcse

I guess I have been thinking inside the box for too long. I look at IT roles in a classical way: programmer or developer, network engineer, server administrator, help desk support and others. Today, I learned about a new kind of IT job: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/techofalltrades/?p=147 Is this a real job? Or is it more of a function that should be filled by an IT Manager or CIO?

too_old
too_old

the person who is doing the job, what their skill set is, and the company's decision makers on staffing. Besides the first to go can be any IT/IS member...one just never knows.

CG IT
CG IT

sounds like a position for prolific screwups that for whatever reason the company just won't fire them.

swheeler
swheeler

I have a well-kept secret. I am not a hard core techie. I'm working on my MBA in IT Management because I do not want to program or be support for most of my life. I'm idea and plan-centric. I can implement, but prefer to architect. In fact, I feel I'm quite mediocre among my peers because I don't live and breathe technology. I'd rather read the UML Handbook than brush up on programming skills. It's uncanny how well I understand accounting, marketing, and customer service considering I shunned the idea of working in the business world when first entering college. Now I see more barriers to working outside of business than ever before. My prime goal, and talent, is to help people use technology to better their business and make their jobs easier. For now, I plug away at a keyboard programming for a local manufacturer. I still have yet to break the $25K a year earnings ceiling, but I contribute that more to the local culture. Oh, and I am a female as far as physiology is concerned.

burntfinger1
burntfinger1

I am a consultant to small, mostly financially troubled businesses. A large portion of my time is spent learning about the client's business, assesing their existing technology and only then making recommendations. Many times I can save a client money by showing him how to use his present tech assets more efficiently, but only if I've taken the time to learn his business instead of pushing the latest, greatest whatever. So I guess the answer to your question is yes, this is a real job. And it's half the fun of being a consultant.

maurimev
maurimev

Find new technology or updates to existing ones that help our business to save or optimize resources is part of my job description. I've always wondered about this question: what is the best approach: teach business to IT people or teach IT to business people? who perform better with the new skills?

Prefbid II
Prefbid II

Actually I've been doing this kind of work for going on 12 years now so I'm not sure how much of it is "new" -- maybe just the recognition. Here is the crux of the problem -- in order to make effective technology decisions that actually impact the business, you need to have someone who understands the details of both worlds. Some companies look for business people who have a knack for technology and some look for technology people who have a knack for business. Few actually look for someone who specialize in "bridging the gap". However, the actual skills are taught in "Operations Research" (OR or ORSA) and the discipline has been around for about 70 years. An OR Analyst knows enough about statistics, finances, budgeting, modeling, and process flow control to be able to bridge the gap between IT and the business. With a little IT experience (programming or the like), the ORSA can quickly delve into the most complex of issues. By looking at the world as a series of interacting processes, we are able to pick up the nuances of where a new technology is called for or just a small change in the business flow. IT people tend to err of the side of "all new problems require new technology." Business people tend to err on the side of "tweaking" their business process by changing current steps instead of ever looking for a technology solution. I hear it all the time. Business wants to describe what they need in vague terms with the added caveat of "I'll know it when I see it." This drives IT people crazy. I love it when they say that because that means I get to be creative.

tuomo
tuomo

Operations Research was hot in 70's and early 80' - forgotten. But is was the time when there weren't so many levels of management - it started 80's and, of course, everyone was supposed to specialize. IT doesn't have to understand business and vice versa. Huge increase of personnel and big caps created in corporate communication! When I started you had to take company business training, two months for me. And usually some every year. The requests came down just as Tim told. We need a solution and you better NOT start talking technology at that moment. A simple and fast answer, I will look the problem and can we talk this later this week or next week? I will have a couple of recommendations ready. This did work same when consulting later on, here is there problem, tell me how to solve it. It was great, of course the solution included IT (IM,IMS) and usually a lot of technology up to recommending new mainframes, but it never started that way. Or sometimes just a simple thing as give the operations manager own PC or how to organize operations for 24x7. Most interesting was security, yes, there was security and very tight - insurance business where everyone tried to make money, customers and own personnel (worse!) Nobody ever asked how you do it, question was always can you do it? Secure IT, secure premises, monitor system usage, have secure backup/recovery, find a way to print to a certain printer in some foreign country, and so on. Not even once any technical, it was up to you to get results! I'm all for the "new" kind of job - it did work well and has been missing a long time in many environments I see today.

Editor's Picks