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Monday, June 4, 2012

What Do IT People Do?

Confusing IT Job Advertising
When you cast your eyes over the IT job advertisements on-line, or in your local newspaper, you cannot help but be amazed. There appears to be no standard description or definition of what IT people do. The same names and terms are used over and over, but it is clear that it means different things to different organizations. 
Organizations tend to confuse IT Positions with IT Roles. One company call the position a Business Analyst, but require him to do something completely different from the next company also looking for a Business Analyst. For example: Company A. may require a business process analyst that can do Requirements Management through Use Cases and UML. Company B. may require someone to do business process re-engineering, data analysis, process modeling and project management, and Company C. may actually expect the business analyst to have hands-on programming experience in Java, Oracle or Visual Basic. Still, they call the person/job/role a "Business Analyst". 
It is clear when you read the job advertisements, that there reigns huge confusion in the industry. Some examples include: “Require Senior Architect with extensive project management experience”; “Project Manager with a good working knowledge of Java.”;“Analyst with Visual Basic implementation experience.” or “SAP Programmers wanted urgently!”
Are they looking for super humans? Is your career completely on the wrong track? Or maybe, employers and recruiters just don't really know what they want?
Needed: Standard IT Role Definitions
In my time in IT I have seen multiple  IT departments restructure to clear up role ambiguity, only to find that they have the same problem resurfacing thereafter. Getting the Human Resource Department involved doesn't help much either. They usually have less of a clue than IT People to what an IT Professional is supposed to be doing in the IT Business. I have worked with some of the largest IT companies in the world, and even they are ambiguous and over complicating when it comes to IT Role definitions. 
We desperately need clear industry accepted, exclusive, IT Role definitions aligned with common operating frameworks like ITIL, USDP, RUP, MOF and others. 
If there were standard industry role definitions, it will be easy to know who does what in the IT Department. You will know where the gaps are, and will be able to recruit or procure accordingly. IT Professionals will know what is expected from them. They can prepare their learning and align their career accordingly. The industry can also use standard measurements to determine the level of competence or proficiency of a professional relative to their IT Role. Given that IT Is primarily a people business (see my previous Blog entries), it is about time that we get this important aspect covered.
Profile-IT Role Definitions
We had a go at this task with success. We distilled a set of IT roles from the above methodologies. These roles doesn't overlap. So far it appears that this is a complete set structured around four key Role Groups.
The I.T. Role Groups include:
- Analysts: The Analyst role group includes roles involved in requirements elicitation. These may include business process requirements, technical requirements and test requirements.
- Designer Implementers: This group includes all the roles responsible for designing and implementing I.T. Solutions. Database Design, User Interface Design, Technical Design, Test Design, Business Process Design and others.
- Operations and Support: This group includes the roles involved in maintaining, administrating and supporting the solution in its production state.
- Management: This is the role group that oversees the processes in IT. It includes project management, change management, release management, IT management and other roles.
This is a definitive list of IT Roles – for now. We have gone one step further: We also defined a base competency set for each IT role. This sets the scene for evaluating the proficiency of a professional in a role, which they also do through a set of role assessment tools to be used by the individual and company. If all the scores of these assessments are aggregated, an IT Departments Role Proficiency index can be determined relative to the current market score.
There you have it. Clearly defined, industry standard IT Professional role descriptions that is exclusive, definitive, simple, aligned with common operating frameworks, and freely available on the Internet to be used by individuals and companies. You can see them here: Profiled IT People Roles.
New IT Graduates
I was asked a short while ago to man a graduate recruitment fair. We had over 200 newly qualified Computer and Information Science graduates looking for a start in IT. They had almost no clue about the roles available in the industry. I am not sure what they lean at University lately, but they appear ill prepared for the job at hand. 
If you ask them what it is they want to do, their first reply is: Development. If you ask them what else they are considering, you get a blank stare. They usually don't know what else is available.  The other approach they take is to tell you that they know Java, C# or HTML. You then proceed to ask them what they intend to do with this knowledge in their job, and you get the same blank stare. It is only once they are in their first role in the IT Organization that these individuals realize what it is they are supposed to, or really want to do. And, it is very hard to find that first job as a graduate for this very reason. 
Employers prefer experienced IT Professionals who know their role, is experienced in the role, and can easily integrate into a team of other IT Professionals.
I strongly recommend you think about the job you want to do in IT. It is fundamentally important because it is a slow process to become IT Role proficient. It is something you only learn on the job, with a mentor, and it takes a lot of time. The sooner you know what you want to do in this industry, the more you will enjoy your job, and the more valuable your time and experience investment will be for your career.
Help is Available
If you need help or advice on this matter, feel free to give me call for more details, or to contact us at Profiled IT People. We have helped many professionals make their IT Career choices with success, and can do the same for you.
Hendrik van Wyk.

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