Today's IT professionals are much more empowered than their predecessors when it comes to shaping how their respective organizations operate. A major reason for this shift is that IT departments are now widely viewed by executive leadership teams as sources of strategic advantage inside of modern companies.
IT as the new engine of organizational success
A 2013 article in the Harvard Business Review outlined this increasingly popular conception of IT as something much more than just a supportive resource (i.e., a well-staffed help desk that simply responds to tickets) for end users and the rest of the firm. The authors noted several quintessential features of the agile, "new and improved" IT teams that now direct a lot of major initiatives at their companies:
- Speed over functionality: Many IT departments now prefer agile development to the older waterfall methodology. Agile emphasizes speed, through a series of timed "sprints" in which developers, testers, and project managers may work concurrently on multiple phases of a project, instead of in a progressive sequence, as they would under Waterfall. This approach has the advantages of always keeping customers in the loop about progress and allowing teams to reduce project scope as well as contain costs.
- Excellent control over project requests: On that note, strategic use of IT often hinges on well-defined priorities, even if the contours of Agile allow for more freedom in how individual teams tackle initiation, design, deployment, and other important steps in a technical project. If only senior members of an organization are allowed to submit project requests, then the organization as a whole can better control how and where IT resources are directed.
- Extensive planning and thorough review: IT departments do not always have abundant manpower or budgets at their disposal. On the contrary, the 2017 State of IT report from Spiceworks found that the average IT budgets was more or less flat between 2016 and 2017, increasing by less than 0.5 percent year-over-year. In this context, it is important for IT decision-makers to not only plan their projects carefully but to review each one for the impact - positive or negative - it had on the organization.
The general, company-wide practices for getting more out of IT are fairly well understood, but what can individuals do on their own in order to contribute to the ongoing digital transformation at many IT departments? There are a few skill sets that stand out in terms of their utility in the creation of new opportunities for both IT personnel and their firms:
1. Microsoft Office 365
Office 365 is among the most popular business tools in the world, with well over 80 million monthly active users near the end of 2016, according to a statement from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to The New York Times. Its component applications, from Teams and Skype for Business to Word and Excel, are the building blocks of collaboration and productivity for organizations across the world.
Expertise in Office 365 helps IT professionals in two ways. First, it keeps them up to speed with the everyday tools that they will need to perform their jobs. Second, it can help them in positions of leadership, by making it easier to oversee branch office expansions, remote work initiatives, and other projects that are dependent upon the rollout of Office 365 instances.
2. Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop
Citrix has long been synonymous with virtualization and remote work, in large part thanks to the reach of is XenApp and XenDesktop solutions. These two platforms put IT in the driver's seat when it comes to managing secure access to applications, ensuring the use of graphically intensive tools such as computer-aided design software and delivering the best possible experience for apps like Skype for Business.
XenApp and XenDesktop also have numerous synergies with Microsoft products and as such are useful areas of study for anyone already familiar with Windows, Office and Azure. The Citrix products can simplify company migration to Windows 10 by supporting virtually any device, plus they help IT admins take advantage of multiple virtual desktop infrastructure deployments for Citrix apps on the Azure cloud.
3. Cybersecurity certifications such as CompTIA
Security is an overarching concern for today's IT departments, especially as they move more quickly on typical projects and become more involved with other sectors of their organizations. The 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report from Verizon illustrated the broad set of threats that now confront IT organizations.
"Malware, hacking, insider data theft and many other risks must be properly accounted for and mitigated."
Malware, hacking, insider data theft and many other risks must be properly accounted for and mitigated. By obtaining certifications such as CompTIA Security+ and CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst/CSA+, current and aspiring IT workers can develop the technical knowledge and hands-on experience that are essential to responding to some of the biggest challenges in the current threat landscape.
Earn these certifications and build your skills at a New Horizons Computer Learning Centers
At New Horizons, you can begin on your new career path in IT. As the industry continues to evolve and take on new expectations and technologies, you can prepare yourself for a wide range of careers. View our course listings for more insight into specific specializations and certifications, and be sure to use our locator to find a site that is close to you.