Malcolm Dobson: "Today’s IT leaders need to be business savvy to thrive in tech"

As I approach retirement this year, it has prompted me to reflect on my time in the technology industry and the key changes I’ve experienced over the years.

I became a software developer in 1990 and the technology landscape is a far cry from what it used to be this time 30 years ago. IT in the early days was a promising and exciting prospect for a business, but I doubt many IT leaders could really envision how the changes in tech would truly affect their business in the years to follow.

The industry has been, and still is, changing at a rapid pace, with technology and connectivity becoming more powerful and more cost effective for businesses. More specifically, cloud computing is driving transformational change in organisations, with the potential to enhance business performance and increase the accessibility of technology on an unprecedented scale.

Public cloud players are making it easier for businesses of all sizes to experience cloud solutions without the large upfront investment, allowing smaller start-ups to access good technology without outlaying a large amount of capital. This broader access to technology allows for the purchase of software, platform and infrastructure at the click of a button.

Because of these rapid changes and new technologies, the skills and knowledge requirements of IT leaders are evolving. These roles have changed from IT positions to a business advisory position in a matter of years, with CTOs now needing to understand both the software and services sides of cloud solutions. Nowadays, IT leaders must be able to think and act at a strategic level and have the agility to keep up with the pace of the industry, with much less time to plan. We are no longer focussed on innovation for innovation’s sake, as we are required to take a strategic outlook and implement technology to enable positive change in business.

Malcolm Dobson

Today, business leaders are tired of complex software, lengthy implementations, and maintenance jobs that add no value to the organisation’s bottom line. Cloud computing can lessen these headaches and improve agility in business. IT leaders now have the freedom to meet the pace of innovation for their organisation, without compromising on business requirements like privacy, security and performance.

In the last five to six years, security has become much more at the forefront of peoples’ minds due to challenges such as GDPR, data breaches or malware threats. While concerns such as these have traditionally been a barrier to cloud adoption, they are now at the core of decision-making, showing a maturity in thinking about the cloud by CTOs.

Being able to operate at a strategic and a tactical level on a daily basis is what will help push senior IT leaders into the C-suite. They must have good communication skills, translating tech speak into business speak, and vice versa, creating a strong link between the IT department and the leaders of the business, to help drive transformational change.

Having a 360-degree view of technology, from software development through to end-user services, is crucial for any modern IT leader. Recognising this is only the beginning, with a need to re-educate and re-skill potential C-level candidates to fit these requirements. Many companies are now developing their own training programmes in cloud to help fill the skills gaps and develop their own future IT leaders.

It is a very different world from when I started back in the nineties during the traditional software development era. However, with the right IT leadership in place, technology can be used to solve business issues and enable positive change for the future.

Malcolm Dobson was chief technology officer at Brightsolid until June 2018