Call it ‘cloud’ if you like, but looked at from the high level, more and more of the IT infrastructure that businesses rely on is being managed by third parties. This ranges from the use of co-location data centers to house private infrastructure, through to full blown software-as-a-service where the users provide nothing but the access device (and even that may be maintained by a specialist managed-service provider).
What does this mean for the long term future of in-house IT departments and those that work in them? It certainly means that the balance of skills needs to change, away from technical specialists and toward business-savvy individuals who are tasked with making sure that applications, however they are sourced, support the business processes of the organizations they work for.
To be clear, this does not mean that technically skilled IT engineers are going to find themselves out of work, it is just that the best jobs for them will be with service providers rather than end user organizations. Here, they will find their jobs more motivating, as service providers have to achieve the goal of delivering better-quality, more efficient IT services than end-users organizations can achieve in-house; the whole model relies on this.
Those that doubt this is an imperative should look at the wastage of IT skills in end user organizations exposed in a free report recently published by Quocirca, The wastage of human capital in IT operations. On average, businesses estimate that on a day-to-day basis they are using well under 50% of the skills of their IT staff, and in most cases this wastage is just accepted. This leads to demotivated staff who will start looking for more fulfilling jobs, especially if the economy starts to pick up. They will find them by turning to service providers.
The irony of this latest research is that IT managers admit that, if they were able to free up more of their staff’s time, they would focus on two things: modernizing their IT infrastructure, and providing better applications to the business. Both of these could more rapidly be achieved by turning to service providers anyway; driving that need for less technical and more business-focused in-house skills.
This is the IT equivalent of the real time value chain identified in an earlier Quocirca blog post. Just as with the outsourcing of other business requirements, the service-provider-driven sourcing of IT needs access to reliable, high-performance networks. However, it is not as if there is any other choice; as workers become more and more mobile and all organizations participate in network integrated business processes this is bound to be the case.
IT departments that continue to rely on fossilized applications running on creaking infrastructure which they are ill equipped to manage will find themselves lagging further and further behind competitors who make more agile use of third-party IT services.
For those seeking a career in IT, they will increasingly have two choices. Either a more technical role with service providers, helping to manage enterprise-quality, massively scalable infrastructure that will underpin the majority of business IT needs in the long term; or a business-focused role in an end-user organization sourcing and integrating those services to best serve a given business. Either way, IT will continue to offer a great career path for many aspiring young people for years to come.
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