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Welcome to the C-Suite: Changing Face of IT Staffing

Remember Jimmy Fallon’s rendition of “Nick Burns: Your Company’s Computer Guy” on Saturday Night Live? If you don’t (or even if you do), you can watch a clip of Nick Burns in action here. The character represents the stereotypical computer guy who has manned the help desk at any given company (likely yours included) for decades. He’s condescending and geeky with poor social and communication skills. Since technology started becoming an integral part of business, IT staffing in the form of the help desk has been a “write in” addition to the typical company roster. The trend was born during the dawn of telecommunications and remains today.

While technical support continues to be an important part of keeping up with day-to-day business demands, a shift is happening when it comes to IT and the C-Suite. As NETAPP’s Anjali Acharya explains, “The role of IT is fundamentally changing. The CIO’s operational ‘keeping the lights on’ role is morphing into a strategic seat at the CEO’s table.”

Acharya points out that, until recently, IT decisions were based on a ridged set of constraints. A business problem was defined, an application was chosen to best solve the problem, new hardware was needed to run the application, and the tech department (enter Nick Burns) was responsible for making sure the investment stayed alive as long as possible. But now technology isn’t such a long-term investment. Solutions like cloud platforms and IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) are allowing even non-tech businesses to harness technology in a way that truly improves business. Now, all of a sudden, IT can help drive business innovation and refine business strategies. But it needs a seat at the CEO’s table to do so.

“More businesses are seeing that they can scale their approach to IT,” says Clint Hawkins, director of operations for The HT Group. “It’s not an ‘all in’ situation like it once was. It’s more holistic, which means it’s becoming a true strategic function.”

He points to banking as an example of a traditional industry that has reinvented itself into one that is very technology-centric.

“Traditional banks have now found a place online,” Hawkins adds. “New, virtual banks have popped up that are providing exceptional service. This requires more than hiring a tech guy or a coder. It requires innovating your business by strategically utilizing technology from the start.”

This holistic nature of technology can be seen when viewing traditional job roles as well. Gartner analysts Laura McLellan and Michael Smith once predicted that by 2017, the chief marketing officer (CMO) will spend more on IT than the chief information officer (CIO).”  Considering how important digital and mobile marketing has become, that prediction isn’t nearly as far-fetched as it once seemed.

According to the recent Gardner report “Flipping to Digital Leadership: The 2015 CIO Agenda,” even companies with a CIO already in place are strengthening IT’s role in the C-Suite by adding a chief operating officer of IT (COO of IT) or a chief technology officer (CTO). The trend in the U.S. is certainly following a global one. Sixty percent of CIOs in Asia have a COO of IT, while only 34 percent of CIOs in North America do (although that number varies widely within industries—nearly 70 percent of communications industry companies have a COO of IT).

So what is it that you may need—a CIO, CTO COO of IT….something else? Only one person may be able to help you answer that question: an executive recruiter. That’s because your company’s needs likely don’t match anyone else’s needs.

“If your business is taking a technology to market, it’s likely that hiring a strategic technology lead like a CIO is your second priority behind the CEO/Founder,” suggests Nad Elias, managing partner at The HT Group. Elias leads The HT Group Search Division, focused on both retained and dedicated executive search services. “If it’s an internal technology role—focused on efficient operations, for example—an executive recruiter can help identify the type of position and job functions that would fit best as well as when that position should be filled.”

Have your IT staffing priorities evolved over the years? Have you started the search for a C-level technology leader in your company? Why did you decide to take the plunge? We’d love to know!


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