Career Insights|7 Minutes
Here’s What the Future Holds for IT Professionals
If someone predicted how IT roles will change in the coming years, they’d likely envision tech roles maturing around emerging and high-value new technologies, such as AI, data science, and the cloud, as well as an ongoing focus on cybersecurity across industries and business divisions.
These topics frequently come up in discussions with tech leaders about the near future of IT roles.
But many would be surprised by two major trends:
- There are radically new positions today that don’t fit into the tech categories above; and
- The very employment model for IT itself is shifting beneath our feet.
The IT Skills Mix Will Change More This Decade Than Ever Before
Perhaps the most significant of the two new trends is the rise of in-demand roles that will change how IT work gets done and how a mix of full-time and gig workers will help deliver results, allowing workers to create designer careers and cherry pick the projects they’re most passionate about working on.
It also points to how these changes suggest a road map for making strategic career adjustments or corrections that can help IT workers thrive in the years ahead.
Plan for Dynamic, Distributed Remote Teams
Remote work, like the gig economy, is not only expected to increase, driving the need for new tools and approaches to meet deadlines and goals, but it will become the leading new model for employment over the next decade. While some don’t expect a full-fledged shift in how IT career paths will unfold, in some cases it will be exactly that.
These new work patterns will be available to those who are interested in them, with Gen-Z finding them highly appealing alternatives to traditional employment that gives them consumer-like control of their IT careers. Many CIOs just don’t foresee the continued hiring of FTEs and contractors in IT to continue nearly as much as they did before the pandemic.
While individuals who prefer those working models should not have trouble finding those jobs in IT, it’s clear that major new shifts in technology talent sourcing are not just coming down the pike, but are here today in the form of popular new online talent platforms that allow just-in-time sourcing of individuals and even entire teams.
Democratization of IT Means IT Careers Must Shift
Widespread adoption of new IT development tools across business divisions that can help employees develop apps and make sense of big data has become a major trend in 2020. In general, IT is experiencing a de-industrialization and de-centralization of IT. Technology is accessible to everyone in the business, with almost no barriers, with literally thousands of SaaS and data services available to the novice.
This is pointing to two emerging trends: The rise of low-code development platforms; and tools that make data science and data visualization more accessible to business users.
IT skills are changing dramatically as technology evolves quickly and new practices like DevOps become common, but in rather interesting and unexpected ways. Cloud and SaaS solutions with low-code or no-code capabilities have greatly simplified application development. Organizations are also shifting to cloud platforms to build solutions upon services like ServiceNow and SAP Cloud Platform to rapidly develop major business applications with limited IT support.
Rapid developments in data visualization through tools such as Microsoft PowerBI, Tableau, and Snowflake have moved traditional business reporting functions from the obscure corners of IT to the front of the business where analysts across the organization can now easily analyze data in real time and provide advanced visualizations to gain deeper insights into the data.
With so much of the business shifting to self-service IT, the role of IT will be more as a steward and governance function, ensuring data is safe and secure, end-user developed solutions work correctly and are well-supported, and that application lifecycles are managed for an order of magnitude more than in the past.
Automation Will Become IT’s Job Function #1
Already, automation has transformed IT workloads and skills, and continued dependence on these technologies is giving rise in demand for IT professionals deeply skilled with automation as well as a shift in roles surrounding the work impacted by them. IT work itself will be increasingly automated, from end-user support to project tracking, with estimates that up to 90% of the existing IT job function will be automated by the end of the decade.
The next-gen IT worker will steadily help automate much of what IT does today from managing IT announcement email distribution lists to setting new application permissions. While these tasks are small in nature, the volume of such work really adds up in IT when it has to be done manually, and so will increasingly be the focus of IT. In short, IT workers will increasingly become automation experts, building capabilities like service chatbots to service inbound help inquiries and otherwise support the business more quickly and at scale.
With automation set to become a major budget and time saver for IT, workers will become more strategic as well as they are freed up to handle bigger picture tasks.
It also creates a better employee experience if they can have their requests handled in a matter of minutes with the use of technology. An IT department’s machine learning platform will proactively resolve a majority of help desk requests, leaving IT staff to deal with creating and fielding more solutions for the business, or more likely, ensuring end-user created ones work well, and that the entire process is self-improving.
As Jon Grainger, the CIO of Slater & Gordon, noted in terms of this starting to happen already today, “not only am I getting a specific fix suggested to me, and the chance to standardize and fix the problem out of the system, but it’s actually conveying engineering knowledge to the service desk, too.”
In this new IT environment, vast help desk teams will fall to the wayside as they are automated. Instead, more skills relevant to innovation and digital transformation surrounding technologies like IoT, edge computing, and large-scale data operations will predominate.
Those going into IT over the next period will also need the right people, tools and strategies for capturing and analyzing this data at the edge. Many IT executives see automation reducing the amount of menial work people do now, coupled with a need for human-driven, high-level thinking.
There are risks to these developments as well that will leave their mark on IT careers. AI and machine learning will increasingly be used to support and augment employer capabilities, leading employers to focus more on areas requiring high-level human judgment. This will lead to a need for IT staff to be able to both explain why IT systems made the decision they made, or to become human “circuit breakers” to oversee AI that’s not working correctly.
The downside to this shift is it risks hollowing out the employee base towards the more highly educated, which can ultimately exacerbate employee inequality. Additionally, even traditional physical areas of the business previously untouched by technology will find themselves subject to automation, and software solutions will continue to migrate to data and statistical solutions.
IT Careers Will Require Astute System Thinkers
In the end, while a balance of good enterprise technology, data science, and emerging tech skills will serve as the educational base for new IT staff, IT in the future will at its core be about managing the overarching state of the dizzying complexity of IT itself while encouraging end-user self-service and enablement. Demonstrated skills in managing complexity will become a top experience that employers will hire explicitly for.
At the same time, more and more IT staff will become on-demand. This will expose IT staff to far more experiences, situations, technologies, and skills than ever before, both demanding and creating far more multitalented IT practitioners.
The next decade holds more change in the IT career than ever before, and it’s largely a quantum leap in opportunity and career satisfaction.