Data Centers

Sanity check: Is IT no longer about technology?

Gartner researcher Tom Austin believes that the future of IT is much more about people than technology. While he makes a compelling and visionary argument, there are aspects of IT that will remain tied to a keyboard and screen.

Gartner researcher Tom Austin believes that the future of IT is much more about people than technology. While he makes a compelling and visionary argument, there are aspects of IT that will remain tied to a keyboard and screen.

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It's become horribly cliche to talk about the importance of IT-business alignment and the need for IT professionals to become much more business-savvy, but Gartner's Tom Austin (right) takes it to the next level. He believes that the IT professional of the future will be less of an engineer and more of a social scientist.

What? Yes, you heard that right -- the word "social" will become a key part of the IT professional's job description. It flies in the face of most of the stereotypes about techies and it sounds a little corny, but Austin does draw some interesting conclusions that are worth a look, if only because they are so unconventional.

Here are some of the most salient quotes from Austin on this subject (from an interview in Fast Company):

  • "The problem with IT today is there are too many engineers and not enough social scientists."
  • "Too often, we have measurement and reward systems that are focused on how many transactions did you process, how many orders did you ship, and how many deals did you close -- rather than who helped these other people succeed."
  • "There's a recognition that if you relax some controls -- not all -- you're probably going to get more creative behavior out of the individuals than if everything is locked down."
  • "There are still people in IT who'll have to worry about keeping the systems running, but now we're going to think more about how to exploit the things we can do with social networking, expertise location, and all of the other higher-level social ordered phenomenon we can facilitate using technology."
  • "It's not the technology that counts. It's the people."

The fact that IT keeps running into these issues about being more business-savvy and people-savvy may simply be a natural part of the evolution of the profession. My TechRepublic colleague Mark Kaelin said that when he was in business school studying accounting, his professors constantly drilled home the fact that too many accountants were just number crunchers and that what the field needed was accountants who were more focused on understanding the business and how they could best serve it. Sound familiar?

In order to evaluate Austin's arguments, let's take a look at the three segments that IT is going to be divided into over the next decade:

1.) Operations and infrastructure management

We're primarily talking about server rooms, data centers, and network operations centers here. IT pros in this realm will manage the backend infrastructure that powers businesses large and small. In the years ahead, this category of IT is going to become highly centralized and highly commoditized. The increase of virtualization and cloud computing will hasten this development.

As a result, managed services companies will grow and take over the data center for many companies. It simply won't be cost-efficient to have your own data center, in many cases. As such, the administrators and engineers who run these uber-NOCs will be highly trained and highly versatile. They will be the blue collar workers of the IT industry, focused on maintenance and process work.

Although many of these IT pros will need to have strong communications skills because they will deal with multiple customers and multiple accounts on a daily basis, there will also be plenty of IT workers chained to keyboard and monitor and tasked solely for monitoring the infrastructure and keeping it running. Austin's argument doesn't hold up very well in this category.

2.) Solutions and project management

Today's developers and software engineers will morph into this category, which will have a greater focus on delivering end-to-end solutions to businesses, whether in pre-packaged software or custom applications. Just as it happens in many organizations right now, project managers will gather business requirements and build out the plans for solutions that software engineers can deliver.

This is primarily where Austin's ideas apply. He sees these solutions makers evolving from technology-focused engineers to people-focused scientists and business associates. And, he's correct that IT needs to build better solutions that are more customer-centric and get the technology out of the way so that users can collaborate and work more effectively.

3.) End user management

From help desk to training to PC provisioning, IT is also responsible for deploying, managing, and supporting the systems that employees use every day. This isn't going away anytime soon -- although some companies have tried to outsource pieces of this -- because it almost always involves some form of physical access to the machines. Managed services could take over some of this, but there's always still a need for at least some physical access.

In the future, the role of this part of the IT department will diminish, although not entirely disappear. Many companies will move toward a self-provisioning model and will support user-owned systems and devices. Plus, the bar for usability and ease-of-use will continue to to be pushed higher and higher.

Nevertheless, even a diminished support department will likely need to change many of its attitudes and policies, as Austin notes, in order to help the company stay competitive. IT will need to relax some of its standards in order to allow more users to easily collaborate and share data and documents.

Bottom line

So, yes, IT is becoming more about people than technology, and IT professionals will need to become more business- and people-savvy. Part of the change is a natural evolution of the profession, and part of it has to do with some of the big technology shifts happening in the back office. Still, there are a lot of IT jobs and roles that won't be directly affected by these changes, especially in operations and infrastructure. Those jobs will become the blue collar jobs of IT, focused heavily on processes and maintenance, and employed by managed services companies in many cases.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

154 comments
Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

I do wear nice clothes. I do dress sharp. I'm also active and not afraid to get dirty, greasy and sweaty off hours. I actually love it. It's a nice break where you get to see the fruits of your labor. I do NOT however, ever order anything that ends in *ini, or anything fruity. I'm not permitted to be metrosexual and own a chainsaw. :)

mjstelly
mjstelly

Let me admit my bias first before I answer. I have a BA in Sociology and an MS in Computer Information Technology. To me, IT has ALWAYS been about people, not toys. Technology of any kind is pointless by itself. In a recent presentation, I made the technological connection between a wooden stick and an iPhone. All that separated these technological breakthroughs were 40,000 years of human development. So, rather than a sanity check, a more apt title would a "reality check". It's always about people.

james
james

A valuable asset has always been someone who has, not only the knowledge, but the ability to use it in a way that benefits others. K

lucien86
lucien86

This article made me laugh, IT not about technology? It ignores one tiny detail, IT is technology. They've been trying to sell us this 'people centered approach' for decades, since at least the 70's. The fact that they are still doing it and that it never totally succeeds should tell everyone something. - Ordinary People are still merely that irritating thing at the end of the process - the users. ------------------------------- In many areas computers tend to kill you if someone gets the tech side wrong, anti-lock brakes or flight management systems come to mind - and that is not going to change. Tech is hard - but even office tech can be pretty hard, how many company failures have been due to tech (IT system) failure? a lot. ------------------------------- In the sector I work in - research a new piece of hardware can throw decades of work out or change the whole playing field at any time. (take usb flash drives). It is a basic principle that tech evolves by revolution - and its still true even today. My own project area is still probably the most extreme of all - Strong AI. If any SAI project is successful and quite a few have been fairly close for some time - there won't be many pieces of computer tech that don't eventually get affected. The question is will standard software even survive as an industry once SAI arrives? (probably yes - if my own project wins). Putting an ordinary computer against an AI based machine for anything is like putting a cardboard monkey against a real monkey. On the other side AI is very complex and is likely to require whole new classes of technical assistance. Anyway the point is that it's a total revolution - and its only one of many.

stevepardee2003
stevepardee2003

I focus on building out web sites for clients and I still focus my time on making web sites more reliable, faster and more secure. If others want to spend their time worrying about their wardrobe have at it. I am thinking about aggresive caching using Open Source Varnish, APS, and memcache, the MTron SSD RAID arrays and Virident EcoRAM that are going to give my clients a 30X performance gain on their web sites. I guess I must just be passe, and ask my clients if they care.

klaasvanbe
klaasvanbe

Well, in my opinion your clients basically care about two things: 1. What's in there for me? 2. What I have to pay for it?

Sretko
Sretko

IT has always been about people and not technology. Technology brings change and people do not like change. The biggest IT failures have as the root cause a failure to bring people along with the changes. Maybe IT is just realising this.

developer
developer

IT was never about the technology. In my opinion, if IT is all about technology, then a Construction company is all about construction. I hire a construction company to build my home. My home needs to be comfortable, have street appeal, have great security, and appreciate in value over time. If the construction company ignores the real end game -- the user's needs -- I could care less that it uses state of the art, patent-pending construction methodologies. If security is so tight that even i cannot enter or exit my home, where is its true value in terms of the bottom line? If my home is pink and beige because the cost savings and production efficiencies dictates the same, then ... well ... yuk! One example of failure to meld IT with the human beings who are to be using the end products, is those darn esoteric security handcuffs. Yes, I understand the importance of security as I am a extroverted technologist/developer with business acumen who has been partying in the industry for over 20 years. But, my gosh, why do I have to 'conform' to a tool which force feeds me a password, such as d7o)ee3abcjw6? Now of course, if I write this awful password down on a sticky, it defeats the purpose, but how am I to remember this password? Once I do remember it, I get fed yet another password which I may or may not be able to change. Also, why (in many organizations) can't developers create and test stored procedures within a DEVELOPMENT database? When the dba is out of the office, why are the handcuffs tighten even more so? Why not empower the user who supports the business while at the same time implement the much needed security features? IT should be in the business of melding business/corporate bottom line concerns with efficiency and productivity while balancing security. Believe it or not, I have heard many times from IT departments, that my deadline for pushing a product to market are not of their concern and I must wait in the queue with the user who has a deadline 5 months out. The IT department and its activities should be ALIGNED with the business goals and be informed and flexible to make business decisions accordingly. Why would one concern herself with freon if all she wants is a cold drink from the refrigerator? p.s. the point of my diatribe is really not the password issue. that is just something i threw out there as an example. As a matter of fact, the so-called problems can be remedied if properly acknowledged and addressed. So, please don't use my example as a major point of contention. Thank you very much. Faith R. Sloan http://www.linkedin.com/in/faithsloan

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Someone spotted it. In all IT systems people are the major component, we are the ones who convert data into information, not always correctly admitted.... Witness this thread.

Harold.Sims
Harold.Sims

I think that this example is a by-product of the technology age where everyone from the bottom entry level to the top boardroom execs must be tech savvy. There are new ways of doing business now, gone are the corporate mailrooms, and secretarial typing pools. Today's business is tech dependent so everyone involved must understand technology and contribute to accomplishing the business goals. Agility is the key to succeed in a rapidly changing business environment. One can not afford to be type casted into any fixed row or pattern else you???ll find yourself deprecated.

Mrinal.Desai
Mrinal.Desai

Fantastic piece Jason - I/We at CrossLoop couldnt agree more and hence bring out the 'ibrand'. Fundamentally people do business with people!

blarman
blarman

here is not one that can be approached with such a simplistic take. While it is tantalizing to take the approach that things can be forecast so easily, in reality, there are several factors that are going to come into play and several assumptions that the author takes for granted. #1: Size of business. You can't lump all businesses' approach to IT the same. Small businesses outsource almost everything to local vendors for lack of resources. Medium-sized businesses outsource a few things but tend to keep critical infrastructure in-house. Large businesses usually have a dev group that handles their custom software needs. You can't simply lump all business needs into the same boat. #2. Application ubiquity. The assumption of the article is that there are hosted applications that meet all needs. Simply not true. Businesses by nature differentiate based on cost or added value (brand name, service, etc.). These differences mean that business software has to flex to accommodate the way the business functions. That means customization. So you either end up with a tweaked vendor program that meets 50%-80% of your needs and costs less, or a custom (internally-built) application that meets 90%-99% of your needs and costs more. I've been in the business for over 10 years as both a contractor and consumer, and the do-all, be-all hosted app just doesn't exist. #3. The ubiquity of the cloud/utility computing. While nice in theory, it breaks down quickly outside of major metropolitan areas, especially when you start trying to pay for all the bandwidth needed for hosted services. #4. The uber-NOC. In order for the uber-NOC concept the author advocates above to work, you have to have a sufficient number of customers (#1) running the same software (#2) with enough remote bandwidth (#3), not to mention the conflicting security, etc. needs of every one of those customers. I see this limited to a very few areas like healthcare records, real estate transactions, financial services (credit), etc. These all focus on providing nearly the same exact service to customers based on geography rather than business. The real key: business analysts. In my view, the key to IT is having a good business analyst: someone who can take in the entire picture from a high level: What is the problem? Who is affected? In what ways are they affected? How can we solve the problem? What process changes need to be made? What systems changes need to happen? What value will we see from all this? In my opinion, the biggest value to the company of the future is going to center around people who know how to identify and solve problems using IT. It isn't a matter of engineers going away - it is a matter of companies hiring an engineer to organize the engineers, ie and IT leader.

Troy Wilkinson
Troy Wilkinson

My background is as an IT consultant. My observations are that forward thinking companies/entities are moving toward using highly skilled IT generalists with outstanding communication skills and a very good grasp of the cause and effects of IT related decisions on businesses to make the right decisions. Interestingly, I believe these people are the best suited for promotions to positions like CIO and CTO. Companies selling their products are winning big by placing these same sorts of people in the sales calls right from the beginning. Face it, sales people usually do not understand the full implications their wares have on the IT departments, managers and of extreme importance, the end-user, who can make or break almost any effort. One of my consulting gigs is as a pre-sales support analyst large corporation. My entire function, in that role, is to determine the customer's needs and feasibility of a positive outcome and eventual sale. I use information based on the end-user's abilities and views, security, current infrastructure/budget, current environment (more of a social science), long-term goals and over-all effect to both the customer and vendor(s). Businesses utilizing independent consultants or, if large enough, in-house talent to perform similar pre-sales/purchase analysis will save themselves lots of time, frustration and confusion. Therefore, it makes sense in all medium to large implementations. IT leaders and analysts are good advisors that have a 30,000 foot view of the situations effecting their companies. The companies will benefit from their counsel. The engineers and practitioners of the day to day help desk and maintenance functions will not go anywhere any time soon. Though I do see a huge move towards outsourcing and managed services there will always be a need for in-house support personnel.

ID.10.T
ID.10.T

If we could buy Hiner and Austin for what they're worth and sell them for what THEY THINK they're worth, everyone on this board could retire. Anyone want in on that fund?

klaasvanbe
klaasvanbe

Are you psychic?

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

that is telling the future not reading minds!

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

post was titled "Reading Minds" No problem.

klaasvanbe
klaasvanbe

When you're talking about selling you're talking about the future.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

invest that money in the stock market after you've got your profit. Go for something stable like bonds or a CD until the bear market recovers.

ID.10.T
ID.10.T

Jason, please accept my apologies. I crossed the line and you didn't deserve that.

ID.10.T
ID.10.T

G-man. Just trying to right a wrong. I can hold my own. I'm a big boy.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

I got a chuckle out of your comment. People unload on me all the time here. It's just part of the business. I could easily write stuff that got very few comments or just pats on the back, but I don't. I pick the stuff that will get people thinking and talking. That's my job. That's the only way we can all put our heads together and build a better future.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Watching Martin.M quaking in his boots after posting a message that got a decent comeback.

mishanv
mishanv

Too many seem to have forgotten the premise of INFORMATION technology, namely to use technology to deliver information, in its various forms, to PEOPLE. This article does not point out a new shift or evolution of the business, it points out a fault of forgetting the central purpose, as "IT people" began worshipping the creation (technology), rather than the creators (people).

Still_Rockin
Still_Rockin

Has Gartner's Tom Austin ever been a computer programmer? A programmer/analyst? A software engineer? A software developer? If the answer is no, someone making pronouncements such as his about how I.T. is going to function (and the nature of the work that individual job descriptions will involve, particularly with respect to software development) is next to useless. Now having said that, it is not as if there aren't SOME elements of truth to what he and other people say about the "social elements" of I.T. I have been in I.T. for 25+ years and have consistently bemoaned the lack of people skills in a large percentage of I.T. personnel and how that quite often impacts negatively on how well I.T. serves a company. But the main point that I started out this post with is also, IMHO, valid. It would be like me making observations about how nuclear physicists will be doing their jobs 20 years from now, never having been a nuclear physicist (and only being a "nuclear industry analyst" observing the industry from the outside).

Fregeus
Fregeus

IT IS no longer about technology. IT is all about business nowadays. For good or bad, I don't know, but that's how I see it. Now reading the different replies to the story, I can clearly see that the change is not being welcome. Then again, IT techs are notorious for not liking change. Not because of the change itself, but because we feel (at least, that's my view) we get way too much of it. Man, by nature is not play-doh. We are maluable, but these days, it seems to be to the extreme. The younger you are, the better you can adapt. But sooner or later, fear, doubt and the tired sensation gets to you, and you find yourself Less and less inclined to follow the trends. Should IT become more social, I believe it should. Will IT lose all contact with technology, I don't think so. The formula will change, but not the ingredients. Will it be better, probably not. But it probably won't be worst either. Like we often say; same sh*t, different day!!! On the same not, am I the only one tired of these "trends" that keep poping up every month that seem to pledge to "fix" IT but sound more like a fashion trend that will be out with the what the next pop star will try on? Everyone knows there seem to be something wrong with IT and everyone proclaims a solution but no one seem to be willing to really look at what is wrong from the ground up. The Software manufacturers are going one way, the business is going another and we are caught in the middle trying to keep the two connected. TCB.

HumZ
HumZ

Having been part of this field for all of my adult life, I'm curious why is it always IT and its professionals that need to undergo metamorphosis? Is it the psychology inherent in our industry caused by ever reduced technology life cycles and a sense of planned obsolescence? Has it ultimately damaged our self perception and self esteem? In no other industry did I see this self defeating survivalist talk. Even accountants, shoe salesmen, or janitors don't seem to have this debilitating insecurity. But yet it seems IT needs to "align" itself to business - and become more "people" oriented, and add-value to the "business". The bottom line is IT is an essential service to any organization in this information age - it's the single most cited pet peeve/problem of CEOs, yet it's near the bottom when it comes to importance for the success of an organization. I believe it's when organizations "align" goals with their success factors, the IT "people" will follow along, and that to me makes "business" sense.

Fregeus
Fregeus

Ever since the Y2K debacle, business have been ticked off. They feel they've been duped by IT into spending tons of money with no results (I'm not saying its true, just that they think that way). Businessses have been mistreating IT eversince. We are not helped by firms like Gartner and the likes. I compare them to the Entertainment Tonight kind of reporting. Reporting tons of stuff with tons of glitz and glamour but very little substance. Business buy it by the truck load. They eat it up like there's no tomorrow. TCB

dcolbert
dcolbert

There are a lot of us in this industry who buy into Betamax, that buy into Amiga, that buy into tech that looks so much better on paper than it ever delivers in reality. Our basements full of Laserdisc players don't hurt our professional credibility, but, that store-room full of unused PDAs, Thin-Clients, or NAS storage devices that lasted all of a fiscal year before being deemed useless... that hurts our credibility. Part of the problem is early adopting (and SOMEONE has to be FIRST) and the other problem is that the signal to noise ratio on what is good and what isn't is so high (and so influenced by bias and wishful thinking), that making the correct choice is like being Indy and deciding if the next step is safe, or going to send a poison dart shooting out of the wall at you. Do I stick with Win32 platforms, or do I start moving toward OS X, or maybe Linux is really where things are headed. Depending on what you read and where you read it, the answer is Yes. :)

dcolbert
dcolbert

I think we all know this intuitively, as well. We're expected to "bridge the gap". We've been throwing around analogies, and I think as far as relating professions and expectations ours would be similar to the automotive industry. Auto mechanics are mistrusted, given wildly inaccurate information by end users, and expected to make complex networked machinery "just work" by people who think they understand that equipment but really do not. Of course, it is harder to outsource your auto-mechanic. Maybe we're in the wrong career.

Fregeus
Fregeus

I believe it is time to form that professionnal body. I'm totally in. TCB

HumZ
HumZ

The automobile provides more or less a simple, albeit essential, service - to move from point A to point B - with a whole lot of conveniences around that basic requirement. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) on the other hand provides a substantial and essential set of services to the very survival of any business in this day and age - ask any CEO what would he do without e-mail, a laptop and/or a blackberry, unless of course they're a mom and pop shop selling widgets, but any medium-large organization relies entirely on ICT to conduct its business. Operational efficiency relies almost entirely on ICT in just about any industry - and frankly, again, unless business leaders align their goals with key success factors such as IT, this will be an ongoing conundrum - from which we're seeing some side effects such as the low entry into the field as well as disenfranchised IT professionals. Many professions (i.e. Physicians, Engineers, Electricians, etc.) have dealt with business owners' and leaders' myopia by establishing professional bodies to regulate and protect the relevance of their professions - and given the importance and impact ICT has on the many facets of life, isn't about time something similar was established.

camilla.groneng
camilla.groneng

Darling, the auto-mechanic IS outsourced. To a highly specialised type company often called a garage. As a rule, we don't repair our own cars any more, they are just too complex.

ID.10.T
ID.10.T

With all due respect J.H. this is second time you have pushed "the geek must evolve or die" type article on this forum. I'm beginning to see you as the "ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT" town cryer of the IT industry! You are taking an overly complex subject and seriously over simplifiying the proposed solution. I agree with you that good hygene, good appearance, and good people / social skills are always a plus but that's true of any industry and not limited to IT. I see no difference in the IT of the past and IT of the future. There has always been a need for someone to bridge the "ditital divide" between executive management and the IT guys. Both the IT professionals and IT workers (i.e. backroom guys) need each other. Bottom line, is that someone has to do the work. Someone has to write the code. Someone has to manage the IT assets and someone has to strategically look for ways that IT can help the company gain a competitive edge. As far as Cloud computing & consolidation goes? Have you forgotten the stranglehold of the pre-1980's mainframe / central computing era? Where would we be today with out the EXPLOSION of talent and creativity that resulted from cutting the cord of the mainframe and setting free technology for ALL to experience, learn, and develope first hand, without limitations? !! The single biggest risk to cloud computing today is the same single biggest risk of mainframe past...When the server is down...everybody's down. With Cloud computing, it will be that plus "when the internet feed is down...everybody is down." I for one like being in control of my own destiny, access, data, and infrastructure.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

There's no way the IT world will go back to the mainframe model. Cloud Computing will be a model with centralized services and locally-cached copies, very similar to the way an Exchange mailbox works today. You get the best of both worlds.

schmidtd
schmidtd

Hiner is picking up on a real issue in IT today, but I think he doesn't understand the real problem and sadly the management of too many companies don't get it either. As computer technology is included in more and more items, does everything with a computer in it become an IT job? Once your coffee pot has a network connection, does that make IT in charge of getting everyone coffee? And BTW, I am not joking about the coffee pot with a network jack, I really believe one day it will (out of water, out of coffee, etc). There will always be a tension between technical skills and social ones. Time spent learning C+ is not spent learning customer service and vice versa. Both are vital, but can't be learned at the same time. But the real challenge for companies today is identifying what really is an IT job and what is not. The graphic artist who makes a cool looking web page may be a very talented and valuable employee and may know more about computers than your average bear, but is not an IT staffer just because they make web pages.

No User
No User

Just because it has electronics and or connects to the PC or Network doesn't exempt users from being required to both learn how to use it and be held accountable to do so. Most of all those things DON'T make them IT's responsibility. A great deal of the IT issues that companies have are do to the fact that they occupy IT time with non IT duties and there for create situations that IT folks could prevent or more efficiently handle if they didn't.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

what's happening is that many users are becoming more self-sufficient. They don't need IT to come plug in their phone when they move cubicles. Understanding basic computing and handling basic technology tasks are becoming prerequisites to being hired. Thus, the role of IT is going to be limited almost exclusively to "high-order bit" activities that can only be done by highly-trained business technologists. The generalist IT pro who handles anything electronic in the office (or the workgroup) is going to be phased out over time as technology basics become a prerequisite to most types of employment.

No User
No User

I think that it's every IT person's dream. That would mean IT only, filler up and keep it coming. The IT generalist is typically someone who is not really an IT pro, a newbie or an IT person who has been pigeon holed by business and thus held back from their true IT potential which is what they are after as well as the paycheck and all that goes with it. I see absolutely no movement at all that users are now expected to be functionally literate (and beyond) as well as being held accountable. Once again that is every IT person's dream. If it were that way everyone would massively benefit. In fact do to the fact that it is not happening that is the single greatest source of conflict between IT folks and all the rest of the folks. Jason as in many of your articles or perhaps "articles you pass along to us" it's all about business stagnating and belittling IT folks and having the expectation and mindset that we are and should be their lap dogs. It's the old don't train IT folks or they will leave for a better job. So you just hammer on them and force them to learn on their own free of charge and threaten to outsource and in fact actually outsource everything that is desired by that generalist or IT folks as a whole. It is not my intent to be either mean or cruel with you but since you have come from outside IT and specifically from business (a.k.a. you are one of the standard business types) it could not be more obvious that your eyes are clouded. You always step on the very soul of IT folks. You clearly just don't get the drift of the true IT mindset and experience. Instead you are deeply rooted in the mindset of those whom you claim that you are "just passing along so we can prepare for it". I think the preparation you intend is for IT wear knee pads and stuff donuts in our mouths and wear a sign that says Thank You Sir May I Have Another.

developer
developer

hmmm... I sense that you interpreted this to be a conversation around whether technology itself is become obsolete and is going by the wayside and thus the job associated with IT folks are going to go up in smoke. Of course not! What the author is referring to is what IT is about in a business setting. Is it simply about the technology or is it truly about the business? I purport that it is truly a tool used on the journey to the the most important thing within a business entity -- THE BUSINESS GOAL -- THE END GAME -- THE HOLY GRAIL OF WHY THE BUSINESS EXIST -- ad nauseum, ad nauseum... We have loads or technology; loads of programming languages; loads of stuff. I am of the opinion that our business processes (along with executive and many non-tech folks 'thought processes) surrounding the same are the critical success factors which leaves us with faulty applications and systems. Tootaloo for now! Faith --- Faith R. Sloan http://www.linkedin.com/in/faithsloan http://www.lexjansen.com/cgi-bin/xsl_transform.asp?x=ast&s=sugi_a&c=sugi#faitloan http://faithsloan.mykioskhosting.com

dcolbert
dcolbert

Once you get done waxing philosophical on Tech Republic, could you go on into the break-room and check the Coffee machine? I think it needs to be rebooted. :)

uberg33k50
uberg33k50

I keep hearing about how more workers are more tech savy and don't need IT as much to do things for them. Not where I work and not the places I do consulting for either. More people may well be able to make their cell phone do what they want and they may how to download music and burn a CD but when it comes to ANY set up and configuration of a workstation they are pretty lost. This is more media tripe. You guys that write this stuff need to get out in the real world and find out what is happening at these companies.

schmidtd
schmidtd

Users are becoming more self-sufficient, this is probably the biggest effect causing a change in any requirement on IT. The days when the "mystical" IT guru could wave his hands and tell everyone, "that is just the way computers work" are gone. So I kind of agree that a good IT staffer should have been doing the same things all along. But in my experience the generalist isn't going away. If anything it has become more needed. I heard the same thing 10+ years ago, but my answer is the same today. If users never wanted their computer to do anything new we wouldn't need IT, but there is always some new application or function to be implemented. IT isn't about clicking on "setup" and then "next" a whole bunch of times. It is about what happens when that doesn't work right. Of course if all software came perfect from the factory, generalists wouldn't be needed either, but then I guess we wouldn't need patches also. So the generalist it the first line of troubleshooting and implementation to ask questions like "is it hardware, network or software". And of course it is the gateway to other things as often as not (should college focus on teaching theory or specific applications, I say theory, applications change!). People still need in the trenches experience. The future isn't cloud, or mainframe or PC, it is all the above and maybe more. My fear is as computers become yet more ubiquitous, management stops understanding exactly what IT provides and what it doesn't.

dcolbert
dcolbert

In the mid 90s I wrote an analysis report for MCI executive management as they considered a move to thin-client computing. At the time, there was a strong media push suggesting that the arrival of thin-client computing was inevitable. That movement never gained steam. People paid half the price of a PC at the time for a thin-client, but in several years, they had no clear upgrade path and the liabilities of thin-client outside of specialized applications had become notorious. NCD went the way of the DoDo. I had predicted this in my analysis, and to the best of my knowledge, my departments at MCI never embraced thin-client computing. Now, we see a push toward "Cloud Computing", which is really more of the same. The drive this time is based on subscription based applications and services. The major software vendors want to turn applications into utilities like power, and offer metered services. But it is really more of the same. Wildly popular web applications have probably emboldened key stakeholders that they can begin to effect this strategy. One of my biggest industry fears is that consumers blindly start to adopt any model of this nature, which shifts the power firmly from their arena to the vendors who supply their applications. The idea of ISPs metering access by bandwidth and consumers and end-users accepting these models is a similar issue which causes me concern. We could conceivably end up in a situation where our own destiny, access, data and infrastructure have been wrestled away from us - and if we do, we have no one but ourselves, collectively, to blame.

mike_patburgess
mike_patburgess

I recently read an article which said that mainframes are back.. Given the move to virtualization at the desktop, people will no longer have that expensive PC on their desk. One monitor, one keyboard, and one mouse... that's it. Event the IT guys will have the same technology as eveyone else. Clamp down on the personal use of IT resources and use it for business only. VMWARE, and other virtualization engines will move the compute engine back into the glass room where there is more control. The great men of the company need to understand the "new" technology wave and make sure it gets implemented.

dcolbert
dcolbert

It just doesn't work. The same liabilities and limitations that have ALWAYS been there, going back to the big-iron, dumb-terminal days, are still there. They're part of the design when you move all of the power to the back-end and leave the front end completely incapable of functioning otherwise. Of course, they keep trying to address THAT problem, too... (offline thin computing)and the fact is, that is a problem that has already been solved - have a powerful client *and* powerful back end machines. That way, neither is a single point of COMPLETE failure. Neither is tied to the other completely. People no longer have an EXPENSIVE PC on their desk, anyhow. A powerful machine can be had, desktop or notebook, for under $500. You cant get the thin client cheap enough to justify it when a desktop PC is this affordable. I see thin clients in the $200-$500 range. They're crippled PCs with no I/O and no logical upgrade path. I think there is an incentive to convince top brass that thin clients and big back office machines are the wave of the future, but EVERY time this goes around, the unfortunate suckers end up with a stock room full of 4 year old thin clients that are woefully obsolete with no resale value and no alternate purpose within the organization. There are VERY limited niche industries where thin-client solutions work well.

No User
No User

Nicely done!!! Jason and for that matter TR in general are plastic and systematized. What ever the industry goons push (most notably the vomit spewing morons at the gartner group) as the new Gospel so does Jason. To him we are all droid like servants for the human beings in business which of course is everybody who is not in IT. We MUST bow to our masters shivering in fear that they may depose of all of us at their whim. Yes the cloud thing is right up there (in the clouds) with decentralized computing and moving from PC's back to mainframes and IT-business alignment in his previous articles. Jason is a poster child for taking someone with no formal IT background and from outside IT and placing them in a power position with in IT. That is not a good thing!!!! It rarely is. Jason, Stop looking through a kaleidescope or perhaps it's that you have kaleidescope eyes and can't help doing so since it's your nature! What ever rolls down from the top (usually soft brown smelly things) those types adopt it and push it to the masses as gospel and anyone who disagrees is a problem child that needs removed. You can bet if he worked in real estate he would still be touting that those cheesy loans are good for the economy and houses are still UNDER valued and prices are heading up. ;) I'll bet he believes that the cost of gas is less then it should be since that is the company line the masters put out. ;) Even although it's still oil in the ground that is pumped out just like it has been for over a hundred years nothing new there except the actual cost of doing so has dropped. No doubt stocks were under valued on 12/31/99 as well. ;) It is not my intention to be hateful and cruel but enough is quite well enough! As I have said so many times opposition to this trollop is desperately needed. It's fine to mention things like cloud computing, decentralized computing and moving back to mainframe STRICTLY as developments of our times but not to package them as the second coming and everyone better snap to attention to the new world order especially us subservient totally unworthy IT driods. We should just be snip snap snapping to attention perpetually so not to provoke even more hatred toward us from the human beings. If it were up to the goons that controlled IBM back in the 70's we would all still be using Green screen dumb terminals. You can bet Jason would be touting the advantages of that as well. ;) IT has been and always shall be about IT. Business, Government, Institutions and People in general are and shall use IT in various forms as it pertains to their needs and the options available to them. As far as business is concerned you must first separate IT businesses from non IT businesses what are IT businesses all about IT of course that is their mission in life and then place them back together because they are both businesses and you have IT a tool just like people in all positions and occupations that business needs to either function or better function otherwise it tends not to be there. WHAT IS NEW HERE? Stop treating both IT and IT people like the unwanted Red headed step children of business. We are here to stay. It is our nature to transform over time and in doing so we shall continue to perceiver. Social engineers? IT professionals becoming Social engineers!!! OMG!!! More slop from Gartner being pushed by their favorite son! ;) You know I could certainly see someone stepping up to the plate and writing an article about how both people and business and so on need to have technology better formed around them. Everyone makes mistakes with technology and to design technology so that it reduces those mistakes is certainly a benefit we all would like and I see things heading in that direction as they always have been to one degree or another. I can also see a need for technology to be utilized with out thinking about making the technology function so to make it work with the ease of talking to a friend. You simply don't accomplish that by belittling IT professionals. Turning IT professionals into Social engineers is not the way to make that happen. But what else would you expect from pond scum err I mean gartner oops same thing I was right the first time!!!

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

I don't always agree with the opinions on the future of IT, but I don't always disagree either. Regardless of how I feel about the topic, and no matter what industry or field you're in, failure to stay current or failure to anticipate and act on major paradigm shifts in that industry or profession will doom your career. In this case, I mostly agree with Jason's points. It's his job to be the watchdog and, like it or not, the IT world IS changing! I'm not saying that the change will be good or bad because I don't know. Attacking Jason personally for bringing up these kinds of points isn't going to change the facts or the future! Keep an open mind. None of us know what the future will bring, but well thought-out possibilities will help us prepare. Scott

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

It helps if you actually read the article. My point is that people are running around out there in the world of analysts and trade shows -- and these people have a lot of influence on CIOs and CEOs -- and saying stuff like IT professionals should become "social scientists." I obviously think it's a bit absurd and overstated, but the Gartner analysts purposefully say stuff like this for the shock value in order to get people talking. You need to be aware of it so that you're prepared to argue against it where appropriate and possibly change your IT department if the bosses subscribe to these ideas. My job is to let you know which way the winds are blowing, and to inject some analysis to help make sense of it.

No User
No User

I agree that nonsense like IT folks becoming Social Engineers is spread like wild fire among standard business folks and the goobers that make that stuff up never seem to run out of that kind of simple minded garbage. However as with the gartner group I think that it's more of a self fulfilling prophesy. I think one branch of gartner makes this garbage up and others swear that it's gospel thus completing the circle. Jason, well said about making it known to us so that we can prepare. Perhaps you might add that as a disclaimer as a rule of protocol from now on. It will paint you in a much better light as being forward looking and insightful instead of a droid follower of that nonsense. It would also thwart attacks on you and instead have them directed to where they belong centered directly at the plastic systematized morons that spew this kind of vomit and their nutty ideas. In doing so folks would produce many creative ways in taking that nonsense head on and in doing so we can as you suggest prepare for it. For myself though Jason I have no recollection of you ever stating to the effect that the article you are presenting is not your opinion you are just passing it along. It always at least seems to me that you are giving it a hear hear if not outright claiming it as your own idea. To that I would suggest that in addition to the disclaimer I mentioned above that you also drop a few lines about what you disagree with in the article and why also anything that you agree with. Do those things and you avoid my wrath and that of most others. For instance to suggest that all folks in all occupations become more perceptive of how they speak to others and tailor their communication in a more personable tone is something that would get my vote as does suggesting that specifically IT folks should (in doing so IT would be seen as making the first move and holding their hand out to be shaken in good faith which puts IT in good standing) but just don't paint the the picture that IT folks better or else they are really gonna get it or that only IT folks need to everyone else is doing just fine, do that and you get my wrath, that kind of stuff is absolute hogwash that has been peddled far to long and demands to be feverishly opposed. That said until I see you do both as I suggested above and a 180 with your posts I'm just not going to buy into the "you are just passing it along to us so we can prepare". By saying "your posts" the post which I'm now responding to is blatantly contradicted by other posts you have made in this very thread example, your (Actually ...) post. You have shown that these ridicules articles you write are the exact expression of your mind and beliefs and not something that you are "just passing along so we can prepare for it". It sure seems to come directly from your soul!!! I'll bet that comes from gartner too. ;)

dcolbert
dcolbert

I nominate Jason to head up our proposed Washington IT worker's lobbying group. :) Because the spin he put on this, "I don't MAKE the news, pal, I just report on it, and I'm doing it for your own good"... is *flawless* and inarguable. Niiiiice. Seriously. :) Executed with the sense of a ruthless lawyer.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

It's good to know which way the wind is blowing so you can have your sails hoisted and ready.