As new technologies change behavior, IT pros must attain new skills or risk being ignored.
IT Careers: 8 Steps Toward New
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The other day I was onsite with a customer and heard the director of IT say, "Most of what's going on in IT right now is just hype. And if it's not, we'll have time to figure it out. These trends always take longer to play out than everyone predicts."
This statement worried me. I don't think IT has all that much time to "figure it out." What IT really needs to do is evolve quickly to keep pace with change.
Ask anyone who's been around technology for more than -- oh, say, six months -- and they'll tell you they're already comfortable with change. Just consider this timeline over the last decade or so:
2001: VMware shipped ESX Server 1.0 and server virtualization becomes top of mind, changing how IT provisions servers.
2003: VMware introduced vCenter, changing how IT did backup and replication.
2005: Hadoop was created, bringing Big Data into the lexicon and changing IT's role in analytics and business intelligence.
2006: Amazon conducted a limited public beta test of EC2 and cloud computing was born, changing how IT designed data centers.
2007: The first-gen iPhone hit the market, changing how IT provisioned devices.
2008: Yammer brought social to the enterprise, changing how IT provisioned collaboration tools.
2011: OpenFlow version 1.1 was released and the software-defined networking (SDN) debates started, changing how IT thought about networks.
You get the point. Major technologies hit enterprises frequently and change how IT goes about its business. I'll also hazard a guess this hasn't rattled you yet. New technologies will always emerge and disrupt existing architectures. But it's not these technologies that worry me -- it's the entire shift that comes with it.
So why am I so worried? Because three behavioral phenomena are converging as a result of all this change:
A shift in users' expectations. The last 18 months have seen a huge shift in users demanding new capabilities, giving birth to a renaissance in consumer apps, devices and services. Ever used Concur? Then you know what I'm talking about -- and you'll never go back to the old way of doing expense reports. I suspect the next 18 months will witness an even bigger shift from "new" to "simpler." Users will demand that IT provide a simpler, better experience for accessing their plethora of data and apps.
A shift in business involvement. Achieving alignment with their business peers is necessary for IT execs, but not sufficient. IT leaders need to guide their peers to better IT decisions. At a recent IDC Directions 2013 conference Kathleen Schaub, VP of research in IDC's CMO Advisory Practice, cited that by 2016, 80% of new IT investments will directly involve line-of-business executives, up from 25% today. And consider this: the budget will come directly from those lines of business and not IT, making influence even more critical.
A shift in IT's role and responsibilities. Let's be clear about one thing: IT is not going away. Roles and responsibilities need to evolve, but IT is not just some big switch the business can flip. Instead, expect IT to morph into a more consultative role that guides business technology decisions, regardless of whether the underlying technology resides in the four walls of the enterprise data center, a personal device or a public cloud. The catch? Most IT professionals are not equipped for this level of business dialog.
These shifts are defining the unique IT era we live in. Technology disruptions will come and go, but massive behavioral shifts like this will redefine the industry. Ask any IT executive and they'll tell you the technology isn't the hardest part -- it's the people, process and politics.