The New IT – Generalist vs. Specialist

The New IT – Generalist vs. Specialist

The Advent of the New IT

The ‘New IT’…

You’ve heard that it’s coming for years…

Well, I hate to break it to y’all, but it’s already here.

In my previous life, I lived and breathed the ‘New IT’.  I saw roles change, resistance to that change, and even outright fear.  Many of the best people I worked with were fearful of losing their jobs. In my prior organization, there were only 85 individuals in IT, and we ran a $5 Billion business. We never missed a single date, even on a new billing system implementation! Asking for more headcount to get something done was never an option. We were successful time and time again.

How did we manage to be successful, always on time, and have happy end-users?

IT Generalist vs IT Specialist

IT has historically been constrained for resources, not only by internal mandates of no additional headcount, but also finding the talent needed. It makes no sense to dedicate an entire headcount to specialize on one technology, when you could leverage that same resource across several platforms, and utilize a partner expert to deliver a high quality product.

Embrace the role of IT Generalist over IT Specialist. Small companies survive by leveraging experts, using their resources for more than what their job description says, so why can’t that work in other organization too? The ‘New IT’ requires individuals to know a lot about everything, but not to the extent that we are used to.

As we embrace more cloud platforms, the value of being a specialist starts to diminish.  There is no need to change disks, reboot servers, or do backups.  Now, it’s all about calling your cloud vendor, yelling at them to get your stuff back online, asking them to provide you with evidence of meeting SLAs, and managing them to get your project done. Even more important, it’s now freeing up your highly skilled IT resources to partner with the business, identify new solutions, and actually manage workload.

The IT Generalist is a Valuable Team Player.

To actively stay ahead of this ‘New IT’ tsunami, embrace change. Be an advocate for change! Instead of waiting for the business to come begging for a new enhancement or solution, knock on their door. How do they know that the newly purchased Service Now solution has the ability to do HR Case Management or Facilities Management? They won’t, unless you tell them. Ask them about their biggest technology pain points. Talk to them about their struggles trying to run their business process, and then come back with a solution.

In addition to approaching the business with new ideas, start selecting the best of the best venders. Identify a selection criterion that will weed out vendors that won’t or can’t scale with your business. Get rid of vendors that have a mediocre service past.

Ask yourself – “Have I ever received a call from the business thanking me for having email available that day?”  The business expects services to be online, managed, there when they need them, and they BETTER be working.

The business won’t appreciate IT or even notice IT, if all they ever do is ‘keep the lights on’. Dream big IT people!

Focusing on keeping the lights on prevents IT from providing value to the business.  It takes our seat at that all important boardroom table.  Instead of delivering solutions that will drive the business forward, we are spending time upgrading servers, managing errors the database is throwing off, or rebooting the mail server.

Become the IT Generalist. Become the Maestro.

Enter the world of the IT generalist, or as I like to refer to this role – ‘The Maestro of the orchestra.’  The Maestro is responsible for getting that orchestra all in sync and playing beautiful music.  Are people really taking note of that single violinist, or that cello player?  Probably not. Most likely their eyes are on the Maestro delivering a wonderful program.

In the end, people care about the delivery of an amazing program or solution, not the nuts and bolts. These individual roles are important, but are best delivered by experts. It is much better to have knowledge about those specific nuts and bolts, and how they would allow your organization to gain a competitive advantage. Lean on the experts to deliver the actual solution, and allow yourself to focus on looking for new nuts and bolts, which will get you to the next place in the road map.

An IT generalist doesn’t necessarily need to do the coding and scripting of the product itself. Identify solutions, sell them to your business units, and understand their business process better than they do. Add value by making recommendations to improve their business process, not just technology solutions. By knowing these business units and how they function, you have the ability to spot overlap and identify inefficiencies. You also gain the advantage of being able to guide and manage your IT vendors, without having to constantly engage the business to answer clarifying questions. You will immediately be able to spot if a solution will work, or cite several examples for why it won’t meet their requirement.

That’s your new role.  Stay ahead of the ‘New IT’ by becoming an IT Generalist, and your job will be so much more rewarding, fun, and meaningful. Deliver that new program, hear what your audience wants, and make it happen.  Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Would love to hear about your experience in the New IT world, how your roles have changed, and your wonderful thoughts.

About the author

“Life is too short to not say Cheers!” - nicole tate

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Nicole Tate

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