A job listing for a technology leader today looks very different than it did twenty years ago. As technology continues to evolve in every market, the role of tech leaders has evolved too. For the sake of this article, the term “tech leaders” refers to anyone in a management role whether at the highest level as a CIO,CTO or director, or at the school level as an instructional technology specialist, etc. The changes in technology as a profession have affected employees of various titles and in various stages of their careers.
“Twenty years ago a tech leader’s job was 80 percent technical. It was knowing things about the insides of your server, your network and your infrastructure and being able to fix things,” says Jean Tower, director of Technology for Northborough and Southborough public schools and chair of the CoSN Board of Directors. “Over the last twenty years it’s slowly morphed into a real leadership role understanding the business of schools.”
As technology becomes less complicated, more automated and less likely to be physically managed in-house, the need for a “techy” leader has been replaced by the need for a business leader. Rather than a “Chief Information Officer,” schools are looking for “Chief Innovation Officers,” employees who can take the lead in driving technology trends and identifying ways in which technology can be used for improvements or efficiencies. Tech leaders must also have some level of business acumen as today they are more likely to be managing vendor contracts and relationships than they are servers.
The changing role of the tech leader has been covered in a number of reports including CoSN’s Framework of Essential Skills of the K-12 CTO and PricewaterhouseCooper’s Center for Technology and Innovation’s research on the next generation CIO. The idea of the tech leader as an innovator is a common thread.
Communication is Key
So what does this mean for today’s tech leaders? It means the key skills and core competencies of the job have changed. While, yes, technical knowledge and abilities are necessary, there are now other skills that top the list as well. Chief among those may be communication.
“There is a much more increased focus on managing communication with stakeholders,” Tower explains.