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The wave of the 4th Industrial Revolution is breaking onto the shores of every facet of our lives. As we enter this new era, the IT function within organizations is set to shift and evolve at a rapid rate. While embracing these shifts, leaders should keep a steady pace but not ‘byte’ off more than they can chew.

The 2018 Future of Jobs Report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) highlights specific technological advances as drivers of change that are set to dramatically transform the world of work in the next few years to come. This, by extension, will put the IT function in the spotlight. Such technologies involve:

  • The unbridled adoption of big data analytics
  • Universal high-speed mobile Internet
  • The Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Cloud technology
  • Artificial intelligence (AI)

More than just bits and bytes

Most nontechnical individuals think of IT as primarily consisting of technical support. That is, in the event of software or hardware failure, they just need to call the resident Mr. Fix-it from the IT department. This may have been the case 20 years ago, but today, it encompasses a lot more than just bits and bytes.

This invariably puts more pressure to continuously monitor and implement new developments. These are not always easy to embrace or integrate since there are now far reaching implications involving complicated systems, including the new dimension of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

What it means to be a good IT leader

This transformation means that good leadership is critical. This is especially the case where it concerns:

  • The rate of change
  • Resistance to change in doing away with outdated legacy systems
  • Lack of control due to outsourcing and cloud services
  • Instability and outages due to the complexity and large-scale integration of systems, applications, and processes.
  • The need to innovate versus high costs

The workforce of the future is set to include bots and artificial intelligence. Yet, human leadership skills are critical to the success of businesses operating in a world powered by interconnected technologies. The critical success factor is therefore about learning how to adapt as we move through change. 

To be effective, leaders will need to welcome in every element of change with open arms. Instead of shying away from the unfamiliar, see change as an opportunity for innovation and growth.

Objectives will in-turn be geared towards honing team skills in driving business goals. Without being hands-on in the process, leaders will need to focus more on others, such as boosting team morale and bringing out the best in people.

In the overarching reality of the IT world, every industry is swept up in the same wave of change. As the bar is raised, IT leaders will need to raise their game to even higher stakes to remain at the forefront of developing technologies and what these new tools and platforms will do for the organization.

Courage in the face of the unknown

As we enter this new era, the rate and scope of change means that the road ahead will not always be clear.  IT leaders will need courage in the face of unknown possibilities.  As the business landscape evolves, new conditions will not be easy to navigate and one must be alert to the need to develop new strategies and correct the course where necessary.

As technologies, tools, and the workplace itself all shift, IT leaders will need to become more flexible to meet the shifting demands of workers. The formulas for success that worked in the previous era may not necessarily apply in the new reality of the 4th industrial Revolution. Since the new reality is likely to continue to shift and evolve at regular intervals, there is no room for complacency.

Intuitive leadership at the helm

With the arrival of machines into the workplace, leaders will need to focus on the human aspect of the business. The ability to interpret what is not being said or felt, is currently a skill that cannot be replicated by artificial intelligence. Leaders who are intuitive and prepared to engage their staff will incite better team cooperation going forward.

IT leaders of the future will find themselves working alongside their staff in a spirit of collaboration. This enables them to know their staff’s strengths and weaknesses. In turn, this drives continuous professional development and up-skilling to meet the demands of the new era.

Photo: turgaygundogdu / Shutterstock

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Helen Fenton

Posted by Helen Fenton

Helen is a Senior Analyst at Business Optimization Training Institute (BOTI). BOTI is a Johannesburg based, Level 1 BBBEE business. As a Services and MICT SETA accredited company, they have trained thousands of individuals from over 650 companies. Their extensive course offering consists of Short Courses, Soft Skills Training, and Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Learnership Programs. In addition, BOTI offers bespoke training programs designed to cater to specific business needs. Their training courses are focused on knowledge and skills transfer and BOTI prides themselves in being able to provide training anytime, anywhere across South Africa.

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