A New Kind of IT Hero
For a New Kind of World
If you aren’t
the new type
of IT leader, all
you will lead is
the herd that’s
WE STAND TODAY on the brink of momentous years, a decade or so that will change how we work, learn, play, pay, heal and relate. All of this interests me, but nothing more so than what it will mean for the provisioning of information technology.
Thornton A. May
is author of The New
Powered by Analytics
and executive director
of the IT Leadership
Academy at Florida State
College in Jacksonville.
You can contact him at
What will change is the very definition of IT
leadership success. In the years ahead, achieving
success will require a new kind of IT hero.
What top management expects from IT has
already changed, and the old kind of IT hero is
out of favor. IT success no longer means delivering
high-cost, high-complexity and high-maintenance
bloatware on time, on budget and at specification.
There are many differences between the old
and new kind of IT hero. Multiple generations of
IT leaders have been adept at answering questions, fulfilling goals and getting things done.
Modern success in IT requires asking questions,
setting goals and evaluating whether things are
worth doing in the first place. If you want to be an
IT leader in the years ahead, you need to be this
new type of IT leader. Otherwise, all you will lead
is the herd that’s heading toward the cliff.
The new species of IT hero that the business
world is looking for understands that what really
matters in IT value creation is not which technol-
ogy you buy or how efficiently you deploy what
you bought; rather, what matters is the purpose
to which you put the cornucopia of technology
possibilities available to you. The new I T leaders
also know that the only effective way to determine
which problems IT needs to solve is to engage inti-
mately and intensely with those using the technol-
ogy. They must take a page from the commanders
of modern American fighting forces, who embed
credentialed anthropologists with the front-line
troops in “human terrain teams” that engage in
“rapid ethnographic assessment” — conducting
interviews, administering surveys, learning about
land disputes and social networks, and generally
understanding how people think. To go deeper
into military history, the new kind of IT hero
must be less like Achilles (using brute force on
problems) and more like Ulysses (figuring things
out and coming up with innovative approaches
that no one else ever thought of).