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From Programming to Business Strategy – the IT Employee of the Future will be a Versatilist

This is a unique way to start a blog. Normally I do an introduction about some comments related to the story I want to share. Well, I want to start this blog post with the following prediction (maybe I can get more attention from those writing code): By 2021, 40% of IT staff will be versatilists holding multiple roles, most of which will be business-related rather than technology-related.

A versatilist is someone who can be a specialist for a particular discipline, while at the same time be able to change to another role with the same ease.

Now imagine if an employee – a JAVA developer whose job description is developing apps in JAVA – is suddenly tasked with thinking about business, not coding? Will they be able to easily transition from coding to business strategy?

This is going to happen sooner than we imagine, and those who, nowadays, are betting on coding to continue advancing theirs career will be in a bad position with the risk of losing their job and their relevancy in the job market.

Why this is important? Well look at these facts…

  • Organizations scaling bimodal for digital business define versatilists’ profiles as critical to success, with the largest increase of versatilists expected to be in IT leadership and management ranks. Programmers are not versatilists (JAVA developers, for instance).
  • The rise in need for IT versatilists will mirror bimodal/digital business adoption phases. As more organizations enter scale and synthesize phases, the need for versatilists will peak.
  • Two-thirds of organizations are not addressing the widening IT skill gaps in a manner that will mature their digital business initiatives. Just adding new programmers won’t fix the gap issue. They need new and more efficient tools.
  • People-centric roles and experiences are a critical difference that will aid digital business transformation initiatives.
  • Many CIOs think digital is all about innovative technologies, whereas in truth, new digital technologies will aid people, making our work and personal lives easier, more convenient and more efficient.

Market Implications:

Specialists such as JAVA developers are the most represented IT professional profile in today’s IT organization, representing about 42% of the entire IT workforce in 2017. However, bimodal and digital business initiatives depend on wholesale skill transformation, as profound a change as moving from mainframe to distributed computing was.

This shift will originate first in infrastructure and operations (I&O). With the need for I&O platforms (hyperconverged and software-defined infrastructure, storage and networking) that can support on-demand (cloud scale) infrastructure, I&O versatilists aligned to business groups will surface. After that, marketing-oriented digital business efforts such as business intelligence (BI) will be next, followed by versatilists in software development. Here it is where most of the companies will need to add AI/ML tools to offer flexible and agile development cycles.

In a digital world, the creation phase must be tied to the business requirements, providing faster answers when implementing software solutions. Companies that are still searching for programmers using traditional tools are losing competitiveness, missing opportunities due to lack of velocity and agility.

By the way, there is a significant difference between velocity and agility. Velocity is how fast you can go from point A to point B and agility is how fast you can make changes without compromising schedules. Companies need to invest in tools that offers velocity with agility – there is no other way these organizations can keep the development pace with the business requirements using JAVA developers (they are expensive and inefficient at matching business requirement in a digital world).

Can you see the difference between FAST and Agile?

What companies are looking for in a Digital World is this combination of agility and velocity to deliver customers answers. Nowadays, customers can access information anywhere, anytime with any devices. Solutions from business to address these customers requirements must come from techniques that will offer the agility to modify on the go requirements and velocity for its implementation. Keep in mind that, up until now, I haven’t touched costs (once when I mentioned that JAVA developers are expensive). But this is another key for businesses surviving and thriving in the Digital World – you must be competitive on getting faster to customers as well as with offering them competitive prices. If your cost to bring something to the market is too high, you will not have the right price to compete – in other words – you will sacrifice margins, reducing your profitability and ability to make sales.

So how you can address this issue – developing solutions faster and with competitive prices?

As I mentioned before, through the utilization of tools that can automate processes, that makes it easy to for employees to make changes and to adapt “on the go,” maintaining these apps with minimum efforts, and being future-proof by protecting the business knowledge of the organization.  GeneXus has been this main tool in the market for over 30 years.

The current generation of GeneXus automated software development, enabling people (whether experienced or inexperienced in coding) to create applications quickly (with a combination of speed and agility). With GeneXus there is no need to learn exotic programming languages, as the system is intuitive and commands for creation are done in natural language. It is the ideal solution for businesses wishing to foster a culture of citizen developers (remember the word versatilist), who create applications for both internal operations and product support. So, product managers, engineers and administrative assistants can all quickly develop and deploy programs they need to make their daily routine more efficient or their company’s product more viable (again the word versatilist is applicable here, don’t you think?).

The claim of a beginner being able to generate an application for any of the common platforms, in any of the prevailing languages, capable of connecting to most any type of database, may strike many as peculiar and inconceivable, but it’s true!

Our community, of over 9,000 customers and over 130,000 developers, are a testament to this. Also, when one considers that not long ago, the average Joe – who now sports a smartphone and tablet, and can navigate the web, Photoshop, and craft a document in a word processing app — at one time could not even turn on a PC, it seems only logical that the next step is for these same folks to develop applications, with the same confidence and flexibility with which they employ other once seemingly unimaginable technologies on a daily basis.

So, as a reminder of the scale-out of digital business, keep in mind the following crucial information and steps:

  • Success of bimodal and digital business initiatives depend on wholesale skill transformation, something most CIOs are not considering. However, if these CIOs don’t take action soon, they are putting their business in risk.
  • Colleges, universities and technical schools will need to radically change IT specializations to become versatilists. The traditional computer science curriculum is from last century. In the 21st century, we need to think like digital versatilists.
  • There is a hiring war for JAVA developers and that is increasing the human capital management (HCM) costs. And this is a major mistake several CIOs are making – they should be thinking about new tools based on AI and not adding more cost to an operation that is broken.
  • Turnover of existing IT staff will increase as IT leaders bring in versatilists to scale — taking career opportunities away from those IT workers who have not been given sufficient career guidance. So, act now, adjust to the new challenges of the Digital World, and really embrace the 21st century IT organization.


So, for companies that want to thrive in the digital world, I would suggest aligning the IT organization with the bimodal scaling strategy, with development of versatilist profiles, by understanding the company’s growth ambition and digital business posture. Plus, you organizations should build versatilist capabilities across and between modes by creating and implementing a plan for fundamental talent profile transformation. And, of course, make investments in tools that align with this strategy, such as Genexus, to gain versatility, flexibility, cost efficiency through agility.

Finally, a quick fact that shows that digital transformation is here – by 2019 over half of IT job searches will be for IT versatilists who can work with future-proof technologies, and who have business objectives as main goals (instead of coding). So, be ready, the time to develop an IT structure organized by business needs is now!

For more information on GeneXus and its army of supporters or to request a demo, or if I can be of help in answering questions on how to implement software automation solutions to give your organization the competitive edge it needs to succeed in the future, contact me anytime (ajulio[at]genexus.com). And when you’re ready to take a test drive, sign up for our 30-day free trial here.

Antonio Julio
Head of Business Dev.
North America, GeneXus


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