Automatic switches killed the telephone operator. Digital photography rubbed out the one-hour photo developer. Looms doomed the weavers.
With every technological leap, entire categories of jobs are wiped out — or at least changed dramatically. Switchboard operators are gone, but we have masses of telemarketers and call-center workers. Working with photo negatives is now a hobby, but digital photo editing and processing are booming skills at creative agencies. Yesterday’s weavers are today’s textile factory workers.
In the world of technology, cloud computing has long threatened to effect dramatic changes on the way IT workers do their jobs. As corporate infrastructures move to the cloud, companies are less reliant on people who know which storage cables plug into which switches, or who know the procedures for running batch jobs to nightly backup tapes. The IT worker of the future will be much different than the IT worker of today.
“In fact, most IT pros who've pulled all-nighters, swapping in hard drives or upgrading systems while co-workers slept, probably won't recognize their offices' IT architecture — or the lack thereof — in five years,” writes Paul Hetzel in InfoWorld.
Interviewing top IT executives, Hetzel dives into several trends that will shape the IT team of 2020. In short, those in IT jobs should expect to see:
Above all, experts agree, is the need for IT to get closer to the business solutions it supports — collaborating on solutions and sometimes even reporting up to a line of business leader. This, says Sean Jennings, co-founder of Virtustream, will increase demand for IT staff with a broader range of skills — especially those that support business innovation.
Which adds up to something every business says it wants — greater agility and speed.
“IT can play the role of an enabler for the business to move faster, rather than IT acting as a roadblock to deploying new business solutions,” says David Fowler of INetU.
At QuickBase, we have a unique vantage point on these trends. QuickBase is a low-code platform for building, customizing, and connecting cloud apps, making it a useful tool for IT teams that need a way to support business initiatives while reducing their IT backlogs.
We’ve already seen what happens when IT focuses more on delivering business innovation and less on keeping servers humming. The results are faster application delivery and better alignment between business and IT.
At Ceva Santé Animale, for example, CIO François Tricot started a small team called QuickApps that fields customer requests for business apps (from simple project trackers to highly-customized operations solutions) and delivers solutions quickly. The average time to delivery for the Ceva QuickApps team is 4.1 days. Compare that to the 6-12 month app development cycles typical at many organizations.
And because business users have the ability to customize their own apps, they can maintain agility even as business priorities change. In fact, Ceva transfers ownership of business apps to business users as a way of ensuring that IT won’t stand in the way of innovation.
"What makes a user happy about QuickBase is the fact that they can manage the applications themselves. We generally have to help them to do the first version of the application, but then they take ownership of it and they manage it completely by themselves. They invite new users. They give them a role, security roles. They add fields on forms. They create new reports by themselves. They do everything by themselves," says Tricot.
net result of Tricot’s overall strategy (he calls it “Beyond the Cloud”) is a 30% overall reduction in IT spending over the past five years, with smaller teams doing more strategic work, enabled largely by cloud solutions.
And it’s not just big companies that benefit. At OMS Photography in Cincinnati, Paul Lanterman’s role as the go-to “technology guy” has evolved as the company moved to more cloud-based operations. He spends less time making sure servers and printers are running, and more time figuring out how to connect disparate cloud systems to give his company’s partners a holistic view of the business.
Getting the company's QuickBase implementation connected to QuickBooks Online, for example, has given OMS Photo a real-time window into the profitability of each of its commercial photography projects — something the studio never had before.
At the core of this transformation is the citizen developer — the business user who is empowered to build, customize, and extend applications using low-code platforms like QuickBase. While cloud applications and infrastructure allow IT workers to offload operational duties, citizen developers are the engine that is propelling IT into the future.
Rather than clamping down on business users seeking out and implementing their own solutions, forward-thinking IT teams function as a consulting partner, providing technical and integration services and rapid prototyping and testing platforms.
The outlook is sunny for innovation-minded IT workers five years from now. Backlogs will be burned faster than ever, and IT will drive the kind of agility and innovation companies need.