I found another article containing unrealistic expectations for IT staff. It's in the 1 May 2006 issue of CIO Magazine, titled The Postmodern Manifesto. It begins this way:
The service-fulfillment model for IT is dying. A new philosophy of innovation and productivity is being born. Here’s what CIOs need to do to usher in a new age of IT.
Excuse me? IT as a service is already dying? I know plenty of shops who are only now jumping on the service bandwagon. I guess magazines like CIO have an incentive to write about whatever they consider to be "new," since people want to stay "on the edge." Let's see what advice this article provides.
The Postmodern IT Department will be smaller, more distributed and dependent on a tightly integrated supply chain of vendors. It will be in desperate need of multitalented specialists who have in-depth technology knowledge but who can also create new products and capabilities that businesspeople might never have envisioned.
Yuck. "Postmodern" is a horrible name. What comes next -- PostPostmodern? Here's another buzzword -- "multitalented specialists". Let's hear more about this in the sidebar, The Unexpected Rise of the Multi-Specialist:
While CIOs increasingly demand that their programmers understand the business, they’re also asking for a deeper knowledge of new technologies.
While everyone agrees that IT needs generalists today, a more accurate term might be multi-specialists. Programmers who remain solely programmers will have to be highly specialized and extremely skilled to survive against international competition. Meanwhile, other jobs in IT will require at least a solid grounding in programming, along with a strong specialization in other skills, such as project management and business process (probably both).
Let me get this straight. IT people are expected to be technical experts and business experts? We're supposed to "have in-depth technology knowledge" and simultaneously "create new products and capabilities"?
This attitude really bugs me:
"You can’t say, ‘I can manage but I can’t do,’" says Verizon CIO Shaygan Kheradpir.
Is that true, Mr. Kheradpir? As a CIO you obviously manage. Why don't you try configuring routers or firewalls for a day? How about analyzing security events or writing new Snort rules? Incidentally, you'll have to learn the new Snort rule language to do that. Can't do it? You give up? So sorry!
I think the people who write these articles and the CIOs who feed these unrealistic expectations should remember Adam Smith and his ideas of division of labor. You cannot expect someone, especially in IT, to be an expert in everything. "Multitalented specialists" is another term for "someone who can do the job of two or more people, allowing me to further cut my IT staff."
I spend almost all of my professional time staying current on issues involving network security monitoring, and I struggle like everyone else to make sense of the new threats, vulnerabilities, and assets which comprise the risk equation. I am happy to encounter a person who is at least competent in one specialty, and I am suspicious of those who claim expert knowledge of several areas simultaneously.
Incidentally, I briefly mentioned this same problem in January.