What Is a Business Technologist? Discovering the Digital Future
As a society, we are still coming to grips with the power of the internet and the digital age. In the midst of this storm of change, businesses are moving quickly to adapt useful technologies into pretty much everything they do. Even businesses that would prefer not to embrace new technology are finding their markets altered by the digital landscape.
“Companies are increasingly facing digital disruption from new categories of competitors,” says Joshua Feinberg, vice president and co-founder of SP Home Run Inc. Businesses with an eye to the future are beginning to see the need for full-time employees invested in technology integration.
This is where business technologists come in. “The role of the business technologist is more important than ever today,” Feinberg says. “It's more critical than ever to use technology to solve a company's biggest business challenges.”
In that sense, companies aren’t the only ones looking to the future. Enterprising job seekers are stepping up to fit the combo of business and technology skill sets in demand. If that intersection interests you, or if you’re asking, “What is a business technologist?” then keep reading! This exciting career could be exactly what you are looking for.
So, what is a business technologist?
“Business technologists bridge the gap between technology and business strategy,” says Michelle Kubot, marketing director at Ambrosia Treatment Center. “Technology is advancing fast. Faster than companies can keep up. That’s why this role is so critical.” Kubot explains that many companies don’t know the possibilities technology has opened up. They also might not recognize pain points or areas where technology can ease inefficiencies. Business technologists make that information a priority.
In short, business technologists are the professionals who help organizations identify areas where technology can benefit and also how to implement it in their day-to-day operations.
What does a business technologist do?
“A business technologist works with marketing, operations, product design and engineering teams to identify a critical business problem and to creatively build solutions,” says Akash Agarwal, CEO at Threadest Inc. As professionals who help connect the dots, business technologists may work across different projects at an organization or be focused on a particular project or process.
“Business technologists communicate to translate a requirement from another area like customer service, sales and marketing and so on to engineers working in IT, so that they can develop exactly what is needed,” says Cristian Rennella, CTO and co-founder of elMajorTrato. But this kind of bridging communication can look very different from company to company. As an example, Rennella worked as a business technologist in charge of giving IT support to marketing and sales. “We developed all the websites and services necessary to improve our sales.”
Business technologists need to be versatile, since the heart of their job is finding technological solutions and improvements for the company. They typically act as “change agents” to drive new initiatives for business growth or cost savings, according to Agarwal.
What job titles should a business technologist look for?
The title, “business technologist,” is only recently appearing on job boards. But according to our experts, there are lots of job titles that function as business technologists. Feinberg and Agarwal both shared some potential job titles in this area:
- Digital technologist
- Chief digital officer (CDO)
- Marketing technologist
- Chief marketing technology officer (CMTO)
- Product manager (in any company with IT functions)
- IT project manager
- IT and business analyst
What skills does a business technologist need?
Since this role is cross-functional, business technologists must have background and skills in business or operations, as well as technology or engineering. “It's not enough to just be knowledgeable about relevant technologies and business issues,” Agarwal says. “In order to be effective, you must understand goals and challenges at company, department and individual levels.”
Other important skills include communication, interpersonal abilities and negotiating skills to smooth friction between different teams in the organization. Business technologists should be able to communicate with financial executives, developers, engineers and really any professional in the company—and be able to sell their ideas and streamline processes.
Business technologists also need a general grasp of current IT trends in software, hardware, infrastructure, cloud, cybersecurity and automation, according to Feinberg. “They need to understand business issues most germane to their industry, but especially IT, operations, finance, engineering, marketing and sales.”
If that sounds like business technologists have to be pretty good at everything, you are getting the right picture. Since their role is all about uniting the organization around the potential of different technologies, they become the rally point in many different ways.
“A business technologist must have a real passion for driving change and a lot of energy as it can be a daunting task working across different groups of an organization,” Agarwal says.
How do you become a business technologist?
Since this position depends on experience in both business and technology, a business technologist is not an entry-level job title. “It’s not an ideal role for someone straight out of university,” Kubot says. “To have a true understanding of how businesses run, this role requires five or even ten or more years of experience.”
Students in a technology program would benefit from adding business experience to their resume, according to Rennella. “Do a three-month internship in a marketing agency. This will give you background knowledge to be an excellent business technologist in a company in joining the IT area with marketing.”
But Kubot emphasizes that credentials and experience don’t necessarily make someone a good fit for the job. “This isn’t a role for just anyone. It requires big-picture strategic thinking, as well as detailed technical knowledge.”
What is the future of the business technologist role?
The ball has only just started rolling in terms of business technology—and it has a long path ahead. “In a world that's on its way to being dominated by digital technology—including use of search engines, social media, mobile devices, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning and the Internet of Things, no company in any industry can afford complacency,” Feinberg says.
The business technologist role is increasingly important for companies today and into the future, Agarwal says. “I can envision companies in the future having a business technologist within every functional team whose role is really to be a bridge between people of different backgrounds and skills.”
What’s next at the crossroads of business and technology?
It’s clear business technologists play an important role in facilitating and implementing tech advancement and solutions for businesses. Anyone interested in working their way up into one of these roles will need a strong mix of business and tech know-how. They’ll also need to keep an eye out for tech trends shaping business practices. Want to get an early start? Check out our article, “10 Business Technology Trends That Are Changing the Game,” to learn more about just a handful of the potentially disruptive trends shaping modern businesses today and in the future.