When building a career, forward thinking can be a serious advantage. It doesn't matter if you're just getting into the business: The tech industry advances and changes so quickly, considering up-front how best to achieve a C-level position makes sense.
For instance, the CIO used to be the top or near the top of the ladder as far as tech positions went. Now, those seeking to attain that C-level job also might consider chief process officer, also known as chief delivery officer.
The CIO isn't being replaced by these job titles, but upwardly mobile IT pros may want to consider how to construct their career paths to lead to one of the newer, perhaps more relevant high-level roles in the tech market. Business acumen is almost certain to be a necessary skill.
"We have a chief process improvement officer who sits on the CEO's team," said Rodney Masney, global director of IT infrastructure services at O-I, one of the largest manufacturer of glass containers in the world, and former chairperson of the Americas' SAP User Group (ASUG). "The chief process improvement officer looks at business processes and how they apply to anything we do. It's not just about how processes affect business technology systems; it's also how the processes work in a manufacturing facility or in a business function, within logistics or the like. The focus is really around overall business process and how they make the company go."
A person in this new role takes business processes and applies information technology to them. CIOs hold a similar role, but unlike the business-centric chief process improvement officers, CIOs are more concerned with the delivery of technology against business processes, Masney said.
"Today, the kids coming out of universities aren't focused on, ‘How many lines of Java code can I cut?'" he said. "They're becoming project managers, business systems analysts, which is focused on business processes and the application of technology to those business processes. As information technology platforms mature, it's not about cutting code. It becomes more about configuring the system or using visual tools.
"SAP, for instance, is starting to develop tools that help companies compose a business process that underneath it all is enabled with technology," he said. "That's different than configuring or writing code. Chief process improvement officers use tools like Lean or Six Sigma to manifest how you document the as-is business process or the to-be business process."
To step into the chief process or chief delivery officer role, Masney said IT pros need business acumen because they must understand business roles, how they impact work and the technology that can facilitate or hinder that work. They also will need a solid financial understanding and a logistics or manufacturing background – and an emphasis on Lean Six Sigma wouldn't hurt.
The chief process officer in particular might start as a business systems analyst or business analyst, or even an industrial engineer, a role Masney said typically is focused on process, as well as timing and metrics.
He said chief delivery officers likely will grow up through the IT ranks and have technical understanding coupled with business acumen so they can realize via information technology what the process improvement group puts on paper.
"The emergence of technology is driving more and more change in the skill profile of people," he said. "We're coming to a different life cycle with information technology. There will still be people who write code, but you can't apply technology and then try to figure out what your business process is. You'll fail.
There will still be infrastructure people that support servers and that sort of stuff, but the importance of business process inside the four walls of the company, as well as expanding beyond the four walls to customers and vendors, that's everything. Without the process, it's really hard to enable technology."
- Kellye Whitney, firstname.lastname@example.org