Imagine that your boss calls you and nine of your co-workers into his office. After lining the 10 of you up against the wall like you're facing a firing squad, he points to two of you and says: "You two made the cut. The rest of you are through here."
Which group were you in?
More than two years ago, I began studying and contemplating what the future would hold for IT professionals. In my book, The Quantum Age of IT: Why Everything You Know about IT Is About to Change, I laid out that vision and have continued to develop it in the year since its release. I have come to believe that within the next five to 10 years, fully 80% of what the average IT organization does today will no longer be done within the walls of the enterprise. That means that for 80% of you, your job -- at least as it stands today -- will not exist in the IT organization of the future.
So which group were you in?
There's a pretty good chance that you have no idea. Of course, you'd like to think that you're so invaluable to your organization that you'd survive. But you also know that your organization has a lot of talented people.
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Talent won't be enough. The reason for the uncertainty and doubt that you're feeling is that you're not confident about which 20% will survive. So how can you know if it will include you?
Here's the next surprise: I don't know either. And there's a pretty good chance that neither does your boss. The 20% is going to be different for every organization because it's going to be driven by the 20% of the technology investment stack that provides some kind of differentiating value to each organization. If it doesn't provide real competitive differentiation, the odds that your organization will continue to operate it in-house are slim to none.
The future of IT
Just to be clear, I don't think we're going to see 80% staff reductions in IT. That may occur in some circles, but for the most part technology is becoming more critical, not less.
I expect that the IT footprint will continue to expand in most organizations. But over the next five to 10 years, 80% of current IT job functions will cease to exist within the walls of the enterprise. As an IT pro, your options will be simple:
1. Become one of the best 20% in a technology domain that provides strategic differentiation to your organization.
2. Be prepared to compete for a job at a technology company such as Amazon.com, Google, or Salesforce.com.
3. Retool your skills to remain relevant in the IT organization of the near future.
The purpose of this column will be to serve as a roadmap to the future for those of you who selected Door No. 3. You will need to begin by understanding what that future will look like. What will be required of pros in this future IT organization? How will the IT organization be organized? Will it even exist the way it does today?
And once you understand what the future will look like, then you must understand what you must look like to remain relevant in that organization. Which skills will you need? Which types of business acumen? That's what I will help you understand in this column. I will break down some of the key concepts from my book (what are the market forces driving the upheaval in our industry, which organizational traits will prevail, etc.) and then help you examine them on a personal level.
I'm a big believer in you, the IT pro. We are some of the smartest, most dedicated, most well-rounded people I know. We have a lot to add to our organizations. In fact, I believe that we're in the middle of one of the most exciting times our industry has ever seen. And I want to help you seize this moment.
But before I leave you, there's a question you should be asking yourself: "Why does this guy think he knows what the future of IT will look like?" I don't. None of us knows. But we're seeing glimpses of the future right now. Big changes are already happening. So while I don't claim clairvoyance, I'm confident that whatever the future holds, it won't look anything like today.
So whether I'm right or wrong, you had better be prepared for a very different future.
Together, we will explore and try to understand the various possibilities. More important, we will try to make sense of the future on a very personal level so that you will be prepared to help lead us all into it.
So which group will you be in?
Engage with Oracle president Mark Hurd, NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle, General Motors CIO Randy Mott, Box founder Aaron Levie, UPMC CIO Dan Drawbaugh, GE Power CIO Jim Fowler, and other leaders of the Digital Business movement at the InformationWeek Conference and Elite 100 Awards Ceremony, to be held in conjunction with Interop in Las Vegas, March 31 to April 1, 2014. See the full agenda here.Charles Araujo, Founder and CEO of the IT Transformation Institute, is a recovering consultant and accidental author of the book The Quantum Age of IT: Why Everything You Know About IT Is About to Change. He is an internationally recognized ... View Full Bio