When many of today's CIOs were at university, punch cards were being used to programme machines. They remember green-screens as an exciting new advance and the humble mouse as a game changer. Moore's Law, first described in 1965, may have been understood in theory, but the subsequent pace and variety of technological advancement couldn't have been imagined.
So, what can today's graduates expect by the time they reach the upper echelons of IT? And, how can the graduates of today best prepare themselves for leading tomorrow's technology industry? One answer; embrace change. Continued change is the only thing we can predict with any certainty.
The ability to react rapidly and effectively will continue to be essential. One of the reasons so many commentators and authors go gaga over Google, Apple, Gore and Amazon is that they have repeatedly shown the ability to evolve, rapidly. They've also had the confidence to explore new ideas and hunches, helping them to identifying what works and what doesn't. Doing more of the former and stopping the latter. It's safe to predict that expertise in managing big change programmes effectively will remain a major asset.
Just as important will be the ability to accurately measure and report on the impact of new technology initiatives, for example less management information and more true business intelligence. The volume and variety of data available today is staggering, but it remains poorly understood or utilised by many organisations. The complexity of available data can only continue to grow. Significant competitive advantage will always be available to those best able to explore, analyse and interpret complex data, as long as they are able to apply the results effectively.
Being able to derive clear strategy from meaningful data, allied to the ability to implement change rapidly and cost effectively, are key tools for IT to progress from ‘follower' to ‘leader'. These abilities, both personal and organisational, are unlikely to go out of fashion. They're not founded in, or reliant upon, any specific technology. That's another feature we can expect to see in tomorrow's CIO - they will become less and less technical. The fastest success will come to those who break the current, erroneous, barrier between ‘the business' and ‘IT'. For graduates of today there is no such divide, IT is part and parcel of the fabric of their world. There's a loose analogy with a child growing up in a bilingual household; they don't consciously ‘learn' French, it's simply another way of communicating, ingrained since birth.