while keeping its costs down. GE, on the other hand, has hired more than 600 tech pros in its Silicon Valley office, in order not only to tap certain tech skills, but also to learn the tactics and mindset of fast-paced software development and innovation. "It was as much to change the culture of GE as it was to get the talent," says Jim Fowler, CIO of GE Power & Water.
Skill-Building: Cutting-Edge Tech, Training Neglected
IT pros must keep their skills up to date, right? If doing so means working on cutting-edge tech projects or taking training, too many IT pros don't consider keeping up to date to be a high priority.
Just one in five IT pros considers "ability to work with leading-edge technology" among the top factors that matter at work. Just 23% of staffers and a mere 15% of managers put skill development/education/training on that priority list. (In another question, about half of both staffers and managers acknowledge that "experimenting with cutting-edge technology" is critical to doing their jobs, however.)
Companies do put people through a lot of training. Around half of all IT pros in our survey say they attended company-paid training in the past year, and 17% of staffers and 18% of managers attended company-paid certification. Twenty percent of all IT pros paid for training or certification out of their pockets last year, shelling out a median $1,000. Just 33% of staffers and 30% of managers received no additional training or certification.
Which kind of training is most valued? We asked people to pick two types among a list of nine. For staffers, it's overwhelmingly technology-specific training (73%), followed by certification (45%) and project management (16%). For managers, it's also tech training (54%) and certification (29%), but other areas -- business skills, people management, project management -- were each cited by about one-fifth of manager survey respondents.
Role Of IT
There's a notion that business units are controlling more IT spending than they used to, and we're seeing some evidence of that trend in our survey -- who pays IT pros, where they sit, and especially where they spend their time.
Asked if their salary is allocated to a business unit, 72% of IT staffers in our survey say no. But 21% say half or more of their salary is allocated to a business unit, while 7% say less than half is. The breakdown is nearly identical when we asked IT staffers whether they're physically located in a business unit outside of the IT organization and whether they report to a manager outside of IT. The conclusion: A sizable minority of IT pros have formally budgeted, embedded roles inside business units.
The survey data also shows IT staffers spending a lot of time with business unit peers: 30% say they spend at least half their time with business unit peers, 27% say less than half their time, while 43% say other business units don't apply to their jobs. That might be the most surprising of the stats, actually -- two out of every five IT staffers say they have jobs that don't involve business unit interaction?
The IT managers in our survey spend much more time with business units. Forty percent say they spend at least half their time with business unit peers versus about one-fourth saying such work doesn't apply to their jobs.
The critical business and technical skills IT pros think they need haven't changed in years. For managers, most often cited is aligning business and technology goals (84%), followed by collaborating with colleagues, building vendor relationships, managing vendors, and analyzing data. Lower on their list, cited by 55% of managers, is interacting with customers. Fowler, the GE Power & Water CIO, sees this role of customer-facing IT growing, as IT leaders get called in to help sell company products. In GE's case, the product can be highly technical equipment ranging from power turbines to MRI scanners to jet engines, all of which include data-sharing capabilities along with the operational engineering. As more information technology gets embedded into products, customers are asking hard questions about data security, integration, and analysis -- questions that take an IT pro to answer. Says Fowler: "We're finding that the CIO of our customer is showing up in these meetings."
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