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Typewriter-Trained Techies Pass IT Baton to the Web Weaned

August 16, 2010
By Beverly Schaeffer

A changing of the guard is underway in the federal information technology (IT) arena, with Net Generation newbies beginning to fill the void left by retiring Baby Boomers. Seasoned employees hold expertise and institutional knowledge, while young talent brings with it technical savvy in the world of Web 2.0. In her article "Government Prepares for Work Force Changes" in this month's issue of SIGNAL Magazine, News Editor Rita Boland explores the changes taking place in the makeup of the IT workplace, and how organizations can prepare for a smooth adjustment. To meet the challenges of a workplace in transition, and particularly in the critical realm of national defense, the Chief Information Officers (CIO) Council initiated a review of the current baseline federal IT work force and management practices. The council includes federal agency chief information officers (CIOs) and deputy CIOs collaborating with nGenera Insight to use its Net Generation research. The Defense Department's CIO office led the effort, resulting in a 128-page Net Generation Guide examining the present and future IT work force and influencing factors. The rate at which older workers choose to retire is an unknown but the report states that, "Failing to plan for the succession of the current work force would be a significant weakness in strategic human capital management." Fortunately, for the government, this generation values community and public service. Many want to pursue public sector careers, as long as they believe their work makes a difference and that the job culture provides them with the necessary tools. These include capabilities enabled by Web 2.0, such as cloud computing, mass collaboration, social networking services, and speed and agility in information delivery capabilities. The workplace shift also is altering the way government IT organizations view their field, their policy and their procedures. It calls for removing the stigma of "social media as a playground" and working to its strengths while still ensuring information security. The ability to collaborate effectively across boundaries is important to members of the new work force. Education is another key, both for current employees who may need updated skills and for future employees whom the government needs to fill roles in certain fields. Critical to the Defense Department/federal workplace is employees trained in the hard sciences. The changeover to another generation of IT professionals is inevitable; it's happening right now. But does the federal IT community have a handle on just what this transition entails, and have the Defense Department and other organizations prepared adequately to take on the changes consistently and effectively? Will they end up with a deer-in-the-headlights look, or will they be able to adjust without a hitch? Discuss your ideas and suggestions here.

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