As powerful forces like the cloud, mobility, and big data reshape the IT industry, the job roles within it naturally grow and evolve.
Mark Myers, director of cloud services at Datalink, explained the increasing need for business and IT to get on the same page. He’s noticed five roles in particular that are shifting in that direction, and he recommends a three-year plan that could help as companies try to change IT into service providers.
“My whole message to IT right now is pull your head out of the sand and realize that in some ways, internal IT is now competing for their jobs,” Myers said.
1. Business analyst
While the role of business analyst can change from company to company, Scott Wolf, a business analyst in the payment processing industry, described the traditional definition as bridging the gap between business people and IT.
Myers talked about the way the role is changing: “IT has met with the business [units], but they’ve never really had a role that had authority to drive what IT should be doing to meet the business needs, because they never had anybody who truly understood the business.”
For Wolf, building relationships ends up being one of the most important parts of his job. “I have to be respected by the business, the developers, and outside vendors. Establishing successful relationships there is key,” he said. Myers said that most likely, someone already within the company would be a good pick to fill the analyst role.
2. Infrastructure architect
Keith Stevenson has been an IT architect for five years. “When I explain it to my family and other people who don’t work in IT, I say I figure out which technology Lego bricks we need and how to click them together in order to deliver a service or a project,” he said.
The IT architect, in conjunction with the business liaison are important roles in aligning IT with business, Myers said.
Stevenson sees a large part of his job as translation. “I need to be able to relate to the business analyst and the business needs of the organization and be able to translate those needs and requirements into concrete things that my IT specialists can then do their thing with it,” he said. As far as how the role is evolving, he said if done right, it’s not a role that will be made obsolete by the cloud. “You need architects, even if you don’t own any of your hardware.”
3. IT programmer
Myers said IT needs a group of its own programmers that can write the APIs, write the automation, and bring all the components together.
“While there are programmers as software developers who are typically a part of IT, the infrastructure team now needs a set of IT people, who actually understand how to program the infrastructure,” he said.
An infrastructure programmer could come from within the infrastructure team or, Myers said, from a whole brand new discipline of people who are actually learning how to program the IT infrastructure from a service delivery point of view.
4. IT generalist
In the 1990s and 2000s, Myers said, IT had three pillars – storage, service, and network – but now the trend is shifting back toward converged infrastructures. A generalist can understand each of the three areas and work closely with the infrastructure architect and specialists to make everything work.
This is similar to the business analyst in that it’s about connecting the dots and filling in the gaps, but instead of translating between the business and IT it’s about translating between different technologies and vendors to make different solutions play nicely.
5. Applications liaison
“As the data center evolves, and as network devices become more programmable, the applications can and should take advantage of that,” Myers said. The applications liaison is someone who understands IT infrastructure and can work with the applications development team, “helping them leverage all of the technology that they have that the applications can utilize.”
This role would most likely fit with someone already in the industry, versus someone freshly trained. “I don’t think that’s something you can just casually teach in school,” Myers said.