Typically, he says, there would be a technical specialist sitting in some dark back room surrounded by servers and cables. If something went wrong with any manner of technology, that specialist would be summoned from the depths.
For those seeking help, it was not unlike going to the window at a McDonald’s and ordering up a Happy Meal.
That’s a far cry from today, says Valdes pointing to an evolving fast-paced world of IT fueled by legions of savvy, skilled young IT professionals emboldened by knowledge of business processes. More creative than their legacy counterparts of 30 years ago, this latest crop of professionals is implementing applications and solutions to create a more diversified and functional business ecosystem.
From his vantage point as the director of IT for a British-based multi-national pharmaceutical company, he says these wunderkind are even taking raw data and translating it to influence artificial intelligence protocols and predictive analytics—in effect posing possible answers to questions that haven’t even been asked yet.
“IT is no longer that guy sitting in that dark room,” the 16-year IT veteran says. “IT now needs the best and the brightest to craft solutions to become strategic enablers to help each business thrive.”
Changing the mindset
So who are the foot soldiers of this new campaign? In a word: Millennials.
As Valdes explains, they are now the largest demographic in the workplace, with the oldest of this generation reaching positions of power and influence. The “millennial mindset,” he says, speaking from his desk in Mexico City, represents a new critical way of thinking that builds being socially conscious into all aspects of life, even IT. Millennials, he says, pay attention to where each businesses spends its money, how they contribute to society, as well as what they sell; and those employees prefer to work for companies that have values similar to their own.
“The world is moving into the millennial space, and to be viable, companies need to tap into that as they are the providing new ideas,” Valdes says. “Of course, the greatest challenge to certain industries is that they possess a more traditional mindset and culture, and to attract new innovative thinkers to work for these businesses board cultures have to change, and progress comes slowly.”
New approaches, defining success
Some new initiatives that companies are experimenting with, Valdes says, include the creation of small working groups of three to five people within an organization to conduct special proof-of-concept projects over a two-to-three-month period, rolling out “mini-deliverables.” These successful experiments often prove to be an example to skeptics that different approaches can—and do—pay off and yield results.
“Learning by their own experimentation and making their own mistakes is definitely something traditionalists aren’t comfortable with; but in these new business models one has to think differently and test out if something will work—or not,” he says, pointing to trendsetters like Uber.
Valdes says a by-product of employees being free to experiment is the creation of a company culture whereby employees feel engaged in the company’s mission and that their thoughts and opinions matter. By working in teams there is also a natural give-and-take of creating and transferring knowledge.
“The most important thing for everyone involved is to be resilient and keep learning. Dealing with failure is a part of the process. If something doesn’t work, the important thing is that people are allowed to try again with a different hypothesis,” Valdes says.
In this spirit, Valdes says companies benefit by incorporating the latest advancements in big data, artificial intelligence (with specific value in vertical markets) to tailor transformative solutions that also help predict how clients are behaving to customize future solutions to meet their needs.
In the next two to three years Valdes also predicts companies once competing against each other may partner together to better craft solutions for customers. He says another trend will be firms developing external partnerships with organizations such as Amazon and Google.
“It’s not always about the individual technology or application; we need to see the employees and customers as the individuals they are, not just a number on a spreadsheet,” Valdes says. “If companies continue to do the same things they did 30 years ago, they will have a very slow painful death. To me what is taking place now is truly exciting and loaded with opportunity.”
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