In this special feature, TenFour’s Vice President of Customer Success & Lifecycle, Jessica Carroll, discusses the changing roles of traditional IT infrastructure staff as the technology behind Digital Age business continues to evolve.
With over 20 years in leadership roles in the technology industry, Jessica’s been published in CIOInsight, BizTech magazine, and writes regularly for the Institute for Digital Transformation, covering an array of tech industry topics. We're thrilled to share Jessica’s analysis; be sure to check out more of her IT industry thought leadership, experience, and expertise on LinkedIn and her Institute for Digital Transformation profile page.
Jessica Carroll, VP of Customer Success & Lifecycle, TenFour
The CIO of the digital age understands that the IT team has value only if it is uniquely tied to the business outcomes of the enterprise. It may be jarring for some, but there are clear indicators that the infrastructure team in particular is at risk if its focus continues to be on commodity activities of the network, rather than tasks that help deliver the applications and services that support business priorities.
The cloud has been one of the key enablers for the CIO to pivot the expense of infrastructure management (cost and resource time), into digital enabling activities. According to Forbes, "83% of enterprise workloads will be in the cloud by 2020." This is "…to drive down deployment costs, reduce network and IT downtime, and improve capabilities for managing complex networks… driving the move to remote infrastructure management technologies."
To be fair we all know the cloud itself is not a mythical place where the servers, storage, and applications magically just work without some interaction from the enterprise IT team. However, efficient and innovative use of the cloud requires a different set of skills from them and, if you have the right solution, will significantly minimize their daily involvement with “keep-the-lights-on” network tasks.
However, we can’t forget the on premises environment, including the routers, switches, wiring, APs, IoT gateways, and countless other devices and components that connect the business across the ecosystem (including connecting into the cloud). These complex and necessary network elements have cost and care associated with them, too; someone or something has to implement and administer them. The question at hand is who or what should be expending the time and expertise to own and manage them if they are not directly driving the business value?
A few years ago, I wrote about the changing roles of the infrastructure team as cloud adoption was rising. The crux of the discussion was centered on the need for IT professionals to embrace change and find a path to harness the opportunities that disruption brings into play. Fast forward to today and the value of flexibility is even more relevant.
For example, does the enterprise-FTE network administrator or data center manager role have a place in an environment where those tasks can be more cost effectively managed in a subscription model service, like the cloud? Likely not. AI and other methods to automate some of the traditional IT processes (both in infrastructure and software development) will also shift IT job requirements.
Is this death to the technology staff? No. For those willing to flex in their career this shift is a chance to rise in professional value. A forward-thinking CIO ready to enthusiastically coach his/her smart team down this path of adaptation will encourage and facilitate new and advantageous areas of growth for both the IT employee and the business.
There are already real examples of new roles in the market, such as the cloud administrator. The cloud administrator is part vendor manager, part financial watchdog, and part performance guru. As RightScale notes, “66% of enterprises already have a cloud team or a cloud center of excellence.” What a natural path for the network administrator!
The core tenant of digital transformation is to put the customer at the center of all product and service innovation. This means there is a plethora of new IT roles surrounding customer experience activities. McKinsey touts new jobs including the experience engineer, scrum masters & coaches, full-stack architects, next-gen machine learning engineers, among others.
According to SalesForce today “93% of IT leaders view business acumen as an important skill for technical staff.” It follows that IT hiring managers are looking for candidates that display soft-skills and a business savvy mindset. The business relationship manager is a perfect example of how relationship and business skills, married with a technology pedigree, have spawned new career paths within the IT team.
This circles us right back to the purpose of IT in the first place. The technology department’s core purpose is to drive business success through the solutions, support, and innovation that the highly skilled technologist is uniquely positioned to deliver. Sprinkle in some collaborative spirit and business perspective and the most successful CIOs can create an agile team that knows where it is smart to offload and where it makes sense to drive.
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