It's evident that IT is shifting away from product- and technology-based solutions and toward business-focused solutions. What's your role in all of this?

Business Pain

It's evident that IT is shifting away from product- and technology-based solutions and toward business-focused solutions. What's your role in all of this?

Everywhere I look lately, I see evidence of a slow shift in thinking taking place in the IT industry. I predict it will affect technology professionals from CIOs on down. As an MCP, are you aware of it?

The gradual move I see is away from product- or technology-focused solutions and toward business-focused solutions. And the IT professionals implementing them will have to understand not just the latest in software and hardware, but how a business works from the inside out.

A recent email from one of our contributing editors highlighted the change I’m talking about. Erin Dunigan, an MCSE and MCT who serves as Products and Technical Service Line Manager for QuickStart Technologies (publisher of this magazine), made an interesting point in discussing what defines a good trainer. Her words also apply to consultants—in fact, to anyone who wields technical products and expertise for a living. “It’s no longer ‘good enough’ to be someone who can present technical information from a book or slides,” Erin noted. “If we’re effective communicators, we need to search out the student or client’s business pain and focus our solution on that. The person who can simply answer any technical question is out of style.”

She’s making a good point. And that sort of change in thinking obviously affects you. I see a gradual evolution in your role as technical expert to include an increased focus on business skills. It’s something Harry Brelsford discussed last month in his "Professionally Speaking" column. “Debating between an MCSE or an MBA?” Harry asked. “Why not both?”

Harry made the same point Erin is making, albeit from another angle. Being a skilled technologist is good, but it’s only part of the equation. Business skills will become more and more important. Unfair as it might seem—is there another industry that changes as rapidly as ours, and that requires as much time to just “stay current”?—that’s the coming reality for top IT professionals.

We’ve even seen this shift from Microsoft, the most rabid competitor of all. For example, I recently saw a Microsoft ad for MCSDs in a computer trade weekly. “MCSDs [don’t] go into every job assuming that it will end with a Microsoft solution,” the ad read in part. “Instead, they go in assuming only that their client has a problem that needs solving.”

Clever ad copy? Maybe. But also just one more sign of a growing acknowledgement that your real job is to understand business problems and produce satisfied clients, whether they’re internal or external. If that comes from Windows NT and BackOffice, great. If it comes from Exchange, fine, but it might also incorporate Lotus Notes. Or Novell. Or Linux. Your focus, as Erin said, is the customer’s pain, meaning finding the best business solution.

Even Microsoft’s exams are moving toward a more solution-oriented focus, although we don’t expect tests on non-Microsoft products any time soon. If you’ve taken the new MCSD core requirement beta exam (reviewed by T.K. Herman in the April issue), you know that the exam is a strong test of how a candidate will perform on-site, interviewing an actual client with a specific and complex business problem.

How well do you understand how your company or client does business? And what are you doing to get and keep the business expertise you need to survive?

About the Author

Linda Briggs is the founding editor of MCP Magazine and the former senior editorial director of 101communications. In between world travels, she's a freelance technology writer based in San Diego, Calif.

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