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IT's workforce of the future

The following is an abridged version of a lengthier interview with Branndon Kelley, CIO at American Municipal Power, which runs in the September/October 2011 issue of Intelligent Utility magazine. The magazine will be in mailboxes this week and the issue's articles will appear online in coming days.

Intelligent Utility: What are the workplace and personnel issues you deal with as a CIO?

Kelley: IT in general is experiencing a generation gap between the so-called "Millennials" who are just starting in the workforce, really gung-ho and very optimistic about the technology, and the more seasoned workforce that wants to be sure that things work and are thorough in testing. You need new ideas as much as you need the discipline. Yet when you bring those two mindsets together at the table it can create real conflict.

To be competitive, in my department, we have to embrace new technology such as hosted services, software-as-a-service and "the cloud," potentially. Even when the right security measures are in place, seasoned IT people may be against that. Yet we cannot just walk into these new technologies blindly. As we lose seasoned IT people, that concerns those of us in charge of the integrity of systems.

We need to find a happy medium. It's really up to leadership to lead the charge.

Intelligent Utility: Workers, their tools and the work environment have all changed. The IT department has to support a mobile workforce, sometimes with 24/7 responsibilities. 

Kelley: That's right. People want to bring their own devices to the organization—smartphones, tablets, every gadget possible in order to do their job—and their workday may be eight hours, but it's strung out across various locations. So it's up to CIO leadership to respond and provide secure support. That's driving what I call the "consumerization of IT."

Intelligent Utility: Personal computing and personal communications have certainly changed expectations, haven't they?

Kelley: When I got into IT in 1999, they had better technology at work than I had at home—the computers were newer, the Internet was faster. Today, the technology at work is struggling to keep pace with the technology at home. For the generation just entering the workforce, they've been completely surrounded by that technology. If they need new software they're accustomed to just double-click and it's downloaded to their system. No bureaucracy. They come in here and say, "I can do better if you just give me the control." The more seasoned IT people will say, "We need to control security—the reputation of IT lies in the integrity of the systems and data." They're both right. Again, I go back to leadership to bring the two sides together. We cannot always say "No," but we can't always say "Yes." I have to ensure that what we're doing will ensure the security of our systems first, benefit the company second and satisfy our workforce third.

At Knowledge2011 Executive summit, Branndon Kelley will lead a CIO roundtable discussion on "The Workforce of the Future."

Phil Carson
Intelligent Utility Daily




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