The IT Education Conundrum
For a profession that talks a lot about "best practices," IT lacks a critical one: what's the most successful way to educate future CIOs?
Before searching for solutions, it's crucial to look at two major impediments. First, the role of the CIO is changing. Evolving may be a better word--either way, the transformation is happening more rapidly and extensively than anyone could foresee. That evolution makes it harder to formalize an educational or on-the-job training platform for future IT leaders.
That brings us to the second hurdle: regardless of the evolving job description, there isn't a clear "curriculum" for the wannabe CIO. Business schools tend to focus on more general-management tracks, and master's degree programs emphasize lower-level technical skills. Blending the two requires a lot of creativity--and lots of time at the registrar.
Tack on that there's really no such thing anymore as a defined career path for the aspiring CIO, and you have yourself a big problem.
Is there any wonder there's a shortage of qualified IT pros?
A few months ago, in an interview with CIO Insight, author and consultant Patrick Gray said, "If you took 100 Harvard and Wharton MBAs and asked them what they aspire to, I'd be shocked if you got more than two that said CIO. That's a reflection that IT has a black eye."
Sure, Harvard and Wharton students may have their eyes on bigger prizes than the CIO's perch, but the point remains.
Still, the problem rarely seems to creep into the larger discussion about IT leadership. In a recent survey of 1,400 CIOs, Robert Half Technology found that developing career tracks for IT workers was the fifth highest challenge cited. Not surprisingly, that fell behind the perennial challenges of finding, training and retaining talented workers. But surprisingly enough--given all the current problems with harvesting talent--only 10 percent of the CIOs interviewed cited forming career tracks as a top challenge.
So what's an aspiring CIO to do? And what can current CIOs to do nurture the next generation?
These articles and presentations are a good start:
We'll be looking into this issue thoroughly through the year. In the meantime, help us out: what's the best way to groom the next generation? What are the biggest obstacles, and how can they be overcome?