- Gordon Gekko, Wall Street, 1987
Our IT systems and processes, thanks in large part to standardization and Web services specs, are pulling data out of stovepipes and making it accessible to anyone who needs or wants it. A purchase order can cross the boundary from one enterprise system into another in milliseconds.
The emphasis now shifts to taking all that data that's piling up, and turning it into actionable information. That's why business intelligence is a booming part of the market.
But the ramifications go even deeper. Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age, opines that the "information age" is actually passe, that we've moved to a phase which demands more, as he puts it, right-brained capabilities. An excerpt of his book runs in Wired magazine.
We've reached the point where most systematic tasks can be automated or standardized, or even outsourced, Pink writes. IT professionals certainly have been feeling the heat from data center automation and outsourcing. (Or perhaps freed from the monotonous drudgery of coding and network management, depending on your perspective.) Pink quotes computer scientist Vernor Vinge: "In the old days, anybody with even routine skills could get a job as a programmer. That isn't true anymore. The routine functions are increasingly being turned over to machines."
It isn't just IT professionals that need to watch their backs, Pink adds. "Any job that can be reduced to a set of rules is at risk. If a $500-a-month accountant in India doesn't swipe your accounting job, TurboTax will." We've progressed, Pink observes, "from a society of farmers to a society of factory workers to a society of knowledge workers. And now we're progressing yet again-- to a society of creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers." Meaning, we're now going to be leaning more on creative and critical-thinking processes to make our systems run as successfully as possible.
The ramifications extend to applications and systems development, which may be increasingly turned over to what Microsoft calls "software factories." Microsoft's Jack Greenfield defines this as "a development environment configured to support the rapid development of a specific type of application. While software factories are really just the logical next step in the continuing evolution of software development methods and practices... introducing patterns of industrialization." Through the use of standardized components and methodologies (such as XML and Web services), we may be able to assemble applications far more quickly and efficiently than the more pain-staking approaches we've known.
Readers: are you seeing the impact of data center/development automation on your jobs?