IT jobs are rarely based upon the status quo, but depend on and are impacted by various factors; technological advancements, shifting business priorities and global opportunities. Last August, Tech Pro Research released a research report discussing the critical skills and obsolescent roles in IT. Yet there are other factors afoot which can help us get a better look at IT career paths going forward. One such example is that of automation, which is a diverse concept.
Nick Heath of TechRepublic recently wrote an interesting article, Why you shouldn't worry about a robot stealing your job. The takeaway of his piece is that humans aren't about to be replaced by robots due to the complexity of various tasks at which humans still excel by far over mechanized competitors. It may be quite some time before IT workers are kicked to the curb by robot replacements.
However, there are other automated processes besides robots which can and do perform many tasks currently conducted by humans. After all, one of the main reasons IT exists is to automate low-level work to enable applications, services and devices to run as predictably as possible. Automation in this area involves such as examples as scripts, scheduled tasks, password reset portals, operating system deployment, configuration management and elaborate monitoring capabilities.
Such advances don't always translate into reducing headcount; forward-thinking organizations can benefit from technological automation to free up system admins, developers and other IT staff for more meaningful work. Reducing mindless grunt tasks reduces pressure and fire-fighting to and can stimulate creativity in other areas, particularly those in the revenue-generating segment.
However, in other cases automation may translate into eliminating jobs, particularly those related to basic operations. "One click virtualization" whereby operating system images can be periodically reset has reduced the need for physical servers and staff to maintain them. Cloud computing backups which run in the background have reduced the dependency on in-house data storage and retrieval operations. Centralized logging utilities such as Splunk which can comb through event logs from thousands of systems may make it less necessary to employ large-scale staff to babysit these servers. There are dozens of similar examples - and the concept of automation isn't merely limited to technology, but can apply to other departments as well.
As automation continues to advance, the time to act is now. How you can avoid being eliminated; by focusing on elements which cannot (or which it may be difficult to) automate? By evolving to higher level work? By changing departments? In this survey, we look at where employees should focus in the future so they can align their careers alongside - rather than in fear of - automation.
Take this survey and share your experiences, observations and views on the subject of automation and how it applies to your organization and career. Respondents will receive a free copy of the resulting research report.
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Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.