The Changing Role of IT Professionals

Information Technology is a great field. With technology advancing at the speed of sound, there is never a period when IT becomes boring, or hits an intellectual wall. New devices, new software, more network bandwidth, and new opportunities to make all this technology do great things for our professional and private lives.

image  Or, it becomes a frightening professional and intellectual cyclone which threatens to make our jobs obsolete, or diluted due to business units accessing IT resources via a web page and credit card, bypassing the IT department entirely.

One of the biggest challenges IT managers have traditionally encountered is the need for providing both process, as well as utility to end users and supported departments or divisions within the organization. It is easy to get tied down in a virtual mountain of spreadsheets, trouble tickets, and unhappy users while innovation races past.

The Role of IT in Future Organizations

In reality, the technology component of IT is the easy part. If, for example, I decide that it is cost-effective to transition the entire organization to a Software as a Service (SaaS) application such as MS 365, it is a pretty easy business case to bring to management.

But more questions arise, such as does MS 365 give business users within the organization sufficient utility, and creative tools, to help solve business challenges and opportunities, or is it simply a new and cool application (in the opinion of the IT guys…) that IT guys find interesting?

Bridging the gap between old IT and the new world does not have to be too daunting. The first step is simply understanding and accepting the fact internal data center are going away in favor of virtualized cloud-enabled infrastructure. In the long term Software as a Service and Platform as a Service-enabled information, communication, and service utilities will begin to eliminate even the most compelling justifications for physical or virtual servers.

End user devices become mobile, with the only real requirement being a high definition display, input device, and high speed network connection (not this does not rely on “Internet” connections). Applications and other information and decision support resources are accessed someplace in the “cloud,” relieving the user from the burden of device applications and storage.

The IT department is no longer responsible for physical infrastructure

If we consider disciplines such as TOGAF (The open Group Architecture Framework), ITIL (Service Delivery and Management Framework), or COBIT (Governance and Holistic Organizational Enablement), a common theme emerges for IT groups.

IT organizations must become full members of an organization’s business team

If we consider the potential of systems integration, interoperability, and exploitation of large data (or “big data”) within organization’s, and externally among trading partners, governments, and others, the need for IT managers and professionals to graduate from the device world to the true information management world becomes a great career and future opportunity.

But this requires IT professionals to reconsider those skills and training needed to fully become a business team member and contributor to an organization’s strategic vision for the future.  Those skills include enterprise architecture, governance modeling, data analytics, and a view of standards and interoperability of data.  The value of a network routing certification, data center facility manager, or software installer will edge towards near zero within a few short years.

Harsh, but true.  Think of the engineers who specialized in digital telephone switches in the 1990s and early 2000s.  They are all gone.  Either retrained, repurposed, or unemployed.  The same future is hovering on the IT manager’s horizon.

So the call to action is simple.  If you are a mid-career IT professional, or new IT professional just entering the job market,  prepare yourself for a new age of IT.  Try to distance yourself from being stuck in a device-driven career path, and look at engaging and preparing yourself for contributing to the organization’s ability to fully exploit information from a business perspective, an architectural perspective, and fully indulge in a rapidly evolving and changing information services world.

ICT Training and Requirements Survey

Pacific-Tier Communications LLC is preparing our ICT courseware development plan for 2015.  We would be very grateful if you took a minute and filled out the following linked survey.

We are not collecting any personal or location information – just interested in what your organization would find useful for professional ICT training and courseware.

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Formalizing Citizen Journalism

Citizen Journalists come in two major categories.  The first is an accidental journalist, or a person who just happens to be at the scene of an event.  This person will record the event, or portions of the event, for later analysis by potentially a global audience.  The second are those who intentionally seek out events, and provide their own analysis (along with raw source materials) of events.  This person will often act as a “non-credentialed” alternative to “professional” journalists.  Let’s call them “Enthusiast Citizen Journalists.”

Accidental Citizen JournalistsThrough the magic of an Internet-connected world, now even citizen journalists have resources available online to bring more training to supplant their efforts, bringing much more credibility to the blogging and user-provided news content community.

In the era of print journalism, much of the content form was driven by available space, as well as being influenced by advertising.  Newspapers and news magazines had strict rules on fact checking, form, style, and story structure.  Blogging and Internet news sources, given the nature of computer screens, real-time updates, and global access forced change in how media is gathered, managed, and presented.

However the publisher’s intent remains the same – present the news in a format that will grab a reader’s attention, keep them reading, and sell advertising.  Oh, and keep the reader coming back for more…

The Citizen Journalist and Online Media

Citizen Journalism changes the rules.  Now, anybody who can figure out the basics of WordPress or Blogger is a publisher.  With several million people already blogging in some form, that is a lot of “stuff” for the Internet-enabled community to slog through in an attempt to discover useful information.  it is increasingly difficult to discriminate between fact, opinion, propaganda, or simply the bizarre ramblings of a chemically-enhanced former actor’s mind.

There is good news.  The “old” publishing industries and broadcast media have started embracing the idea that both accidental journalists and enthusiast journalists have not only a role to play, but are now being accepted as  offering valuable contributions to the news industry.  This is very apparent when you watch broadcast news, look at online news sources, or even print media.  Nearly every news organization actively solicits input from citizens, whether on-the-scene reports via Skype, or simply uploading pictures and videos to a web site.

However until this point the “old” media has used citizen input as a raw news source, normally providing analysis and commentary on the citizen-provided materials with “professional” journalists.

Training the Citizen Journalist, and Gaining Credibility at the Source

Nearly every university has at least one course introducing concepts of journalism.  However in the old days (pre ~2010) there was little incentive or justification for taking much more than an introductory course in journalism – unless of course you were planning a career in the journalism industry.  Now, in a world of social media, online everything, blogging, and complex corporate websites, nearly everybody who works is starting to see the need to understand how to think and write at a level which can be understood by a global-connected audience.

Management sections at bookstores (those few remaining) have a large shelf dedicated to the theory of selling yourself, your company, and your future through the Internet.  There is a strong message to professionals that emphasizes the need to “publish” expertise through blogs and online media.

Then we have the enthusiast citizen journalist (ECJ).  Armed with a digital camera, digital voice recorder, laptop computer, and desire to seek out events (and record them…), the ECJ wants to fill in the gaps left when traditional news media edits or determines what the reader/viewer community needs to know.  However, the bad part is few ECJs actually have enough training to present their stories in a way average readers or viewers can accept or absorb.

To help meet this need, the educational community, and news media community have started providing good quality training online to ECJs that will help bring a much higher levels of quality and form to blogs and ECJ-provided content.

Much of the online training is very citizen journalist aware, much of it is trying to push a “round citizen journalist peg” into a “square traditional journalism hole.”  In either case the training gives each potential ECJ, or even professional striking out into the blogging world a refresher course in writing for an audience.  All network-enabled writers need reminders and practical exercises on how to gather, present, and explain events.  All ECJs and bloggers need to know how to create a feature or story allowing not only presentation of an idea, but also to allow for opinion and editorial – without generating low-value noise.

If you are an aspiring ECJ, professional who needs to provide a blogging presence, or simply want to explore the technique and craft of new media journalism, take a look at some of the following training resources.  Some are free, some are not.

  • Knight Citizen News NetworkThe Knight Citizen News Network is a self-help portal that guides both ordinary citizens and traditional journalists in launching and responsibly operating community news and information sites.
  • Poynter News UniversityPoynter is a school that exists to ensure that Americans have access to excellent journalism—the kind of journalism that enables us to participate fully and effectively in our democracy.
  • Journalism Training Org.  A directory of local training venues.
  • National Association of Citizen JournalistsNACJ membership and training empowers citizen journalists for the exciting task of discovering, writing and reporting news with a level of professionalism that was once the standard in major media outlets.

Lots more available via a Google search…

And, of course we’d expect the academic community to embrace the potential given to us through Internet-enabled technologies, and further diffuse online journalism training into the educational curriculum for students, better preparing the next generations to fully exploit the power of images, videos, and words.

With all types of citizen journalism, the global community will have much greater access to unfiltered events either as they happen, or shortly afterward.  Nearly every person on the planet has the ability to be an accidental citizen journalist, and most of us the ability to become an ECJ.  In the past our quality of reporting has often been marginal, but in the future we will evolve, through training, to better meet the challenges and opportunities offered by a global audience.

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