The IT profession will change significantly over the next decade in order to keep up with the swift advance of the technology industry. There are four factors driving these changes. IT will split into two separate career tracks.
The world of technology is racing at a pace so fast that it's in a continual state of transformation. So how could the professionals who manage that technology not expect to be caught in the vortex of this rapid and perpetual change?
As bandwidth dramatically increases and mobilizes, computing power becomes more efficient and less expensive, and applications move to an always-on and always-available model, the IT profession itself will be dramatically altered to meet the changing requirements of businesses.
Here come the changes
In its recent article IT 2.0: How Changing Technology is Having Big Impacts on Business, the ReadWriteWeb stated:
"Today, there still may be plenty of businesses employing 'classic geeks' in their I.T. Department, but that's about to change. Don't misunderstand - the world will always need a good engineer, but the I.T. leaders of tomorrow - the ones guiding the business in the use of their computer resources, the ones working with the CEOs to execute the vision and direction via information technology - they will no longer be what we think of as the classic 'computer geek.' You know the type - the stereotypical introvert, who's more comfortable behind the glow of computer screen than interacting with the rest of the human race. The one who likes to speak in acronyms that only he or she understands. The ones who know how to do everything from a command prompt. These folks will be a dying breed...at least around the office.
Instead, tomorrow's computer 'geek' will be a true member of the business team as opposed to the mysterious man behind the curtain who you only notice when something goes wrong. So what does the 'new geek' need to know to run tomorrow's I.T. Department? An entirely new skill set, as it turns out."
In terms of the factors involved in these changes, ReadWriteWeb cited these four:
- Enteprise 2.0 - Collaboration among employees and teams using tools such as SharePoint, Wikis, blogs, and RSS
- Cloud services - A lot of servers will move from the corporate data center to the cloud, hosted by Microsoft, Google, and Amazon
- The mobile workforce - Mobile office work will spread across the organization, and will no longer be confined just to business travelers
- Self-provisioning user base - The next generation of users will be digital savvy and will often select their own hardware and software
Two kinds of IT professionals
While the ReadWriteWeb has accurately described the environment that is revolutionizing the traditional IT department, I have a different conclusion about what it will mean for IT professionals. I think the ultimate factor driving change in the profession will be the long-developing trend toward companies hiring only the professionals who serve the core competencies of their business, and outsourcing everything else to contractors.
This is already be seen in the move toward utility computing and managed services, where a company will contract out parts of its IT department to a provider such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, or Verizon Business. These providers can offer 24/7 service, better specialization and problem solving, and cost containment.
The move to cloud computing will further accelerate the trend. For example, instead of hiring Exchange administrators to manage internal Microsoft Exchange servers, many companies will outsource the Exchange infrastructure to Microsoft in a hosted environment. This type of move also migrates the jobs from the individual company to the provider of the hosted data center.
As such, I believe that over the next decade the IT field will develop into two distinct tracks:
- Business analysts - IT professionals who work directly for individual companies — rather than part of a provider or consultancy — will have to become much more business savvy. These will essentially be business professionals who understand technology and how to strategically apply it to business processes. They will need to be well-rounded technologically and have excellent communications skills.
- Technology experts - This is where many of the traditional geeks will end up, although many of them will need more business skills than they currently have today, especially if they have to interface with clients. They will rarely work directly for one company, but will rather work with various companies to help solve their IT problems, implement new technologies, and manage their IT infrastructures. For example, this will take the form of well-rounded teams of project-for-hire developers and big data centers managed by large teams of network and server specialists.
Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.