Agent of e-change

By David Raths, InfoWorld |  Career

Caution and change can collide, especially when an organization switches suddenly
to the Internet's high-change/high-speed environment, says Jim Highsmith, director of e-
project management advisory services at Cutter Consortium, an IT consulting company, in
Arlington, Mass. "There are demands for continued high quality but also for speed. It
calls for behaviors not traditionally seen in IT departments: You have to become more
agile, follow the new technology more closely. It requires a degree of creativity."

As Getty Images changed, Albers saw the need to reshape his IT team. The
department's project management skills had to be upgraded -- changed to match the
evolving expectations of Albers.

"At the management level, the change in our IT department has been considerable,"
Albers says. "I lean heavily on vendors and consulting people who think in terms of
time to market." He's brought in people from Cap Gemini Ernst & Young and Hewlett-
Packard. "It's much more like a software company than like an IT shop. It's built
around updates and release cycles,"Albers says.

Another big change at Getty, which has 275 IT people spread across offices in
Seattle, Chicago, Calgary, and London, is that the people in IT -- and not just senior
execs -- now follow the financial aspect of their work much more closely.

"It's a foundational shift," Albers says. "My people want to know the endgame. In
the old days, it was just sit down, shut up, and build this. Now we're working more
closely with the business side, and the employees are more concerned about the bottom
line."

But if that's true, then Getty may be an exception to the rule. In an era when
there's so much demand for new IT staffers and so much outsourcing to contractors,
fewer IT managers actually understand their company's business issues. And that number
is continuing to decrease, says Cutter Consortium's Highsmith.

Yet if e-commerce is a crucial part of your company's revenue stream, then it pays
to work internally on collaboration issues, Highsmith says. "It's not that business
line managers can cede authority to IT. It has to be a collaboration," he adds. "And
this is true not just at the CIO level, but all the way down the line."

Reshaping project management

In addition to increasing IT's stake in fundamental business decisions, e-commerce
is also reshaping how the department manages projects.

In the past work was divided either/or: Techies either worked on research-like
projects or on mission-critical applications. Not today. Now they're expected to do
both at once, Highsmith says

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