Are you encouraging data professionals to move from doing repairs to being innovators?

If you’re a business or IT decision-maker, when you send IT staff to a technical conference you’re probably thinking about the value of having well-trained technologists to make sure your infrastructure keeps running smoothly. But an interesting point came to light during a recent conversation with some database experts who were preparing to speak at the SQL Server PASS Summit: If you’re not asking your conference attendees to focus on your organization’s strategic objectives—in addition to technical training—maybe you’re missing an opportunity to gain a business advantage.

SQL Server data professionals from all over the world converged on Seattle for the annual PASS Summit from October 27-30, 2015. This community gathering provides peer-to-peer technical training and an opportunity to geek out directly with Microsoft executives and developers to solve problems and learn about the latest data platform developments. As newly elected PASS board member Ryan Adams, a consultant for Linchpin People, said, “In this industry, you have to constantly learn, and the PASS conference is unlike any other. The speakers are there because they do this every day and want to help others. The speakers are implementing this stuff every day, so the type of sessions and information you get are incredible.”

But what if you sent your organization’s data professionals to PASS with the mission of identifying how the data platform could be an engine of innovation for your organization? Stuart Ainsworth a consultant with Linchpin People who spoke about Hadoop at PASS, noted that the CEO and CIO have an opportunity to sit down before the conference and ask the people they’re sending to scope out what’s new and how data platform capabilities could be key to business growth. Ainsworth said, there’s “a huge opportunity to begin to steer the business by taking advantage of emerging—and even existing—technologies” to gain competitive advantage.

Often the business perspective is in its own silo, and IT is geared toward problem-solving for the business. But data professionals are eager to apply their expertise to helping the organization innovate. As Ainsworth put it, “We want to get out of the mentality of making do. We really want to get into the mentality of pushing the company further faster and reducing time to market. It’s exposure to the new technologies at conferences like PASS that can help you gain that mentality. We have to transition from being repairmen to being innovators.” The way to do that is to combine the perspectives of the business with the knowledge of the technologists.

The idea of making IT strategic is far from new, but it means that both management and IT need to consciously consider each other’s expertise. In “6 traits of up-and-coming IT stars,” technical recruiter Martha Heller underscores the importance of being able to connect the dots between technology and business strategy:

“We look for people with the ability to contextualize the work they do in the broader context of the business and its goals.This kind of end-to-end process thinking — the ability to think broader than your particular role and responsibility — means IT people are ready to make improvements far beyond their specific areas of expertise.”

Nicholas R. Colisto (“The CIO Playbook: Strategies and Best Practices for IT Leaders to Deliver Value”) insists that “To capitalize on innovation in a competitive global economy, CIOs must solve today’s problems yesterday by seizing opportunities to leverage emerging technologies.” If your organization’s database professionals attended PASS, are you mining the knowledge they’re bringing back? Think about how they can offer new insights based on the exciting technologies they learn about.

Prepare yourself for the discussion by attending the webinar on the how to “Tackle the top 5 data challenges with SQL Server” or by checking out the mission critical advances in SQL Server 2016.