Prepare Your People For The Future Of IT Service Delivery

The same forces that are eroding some jobs will fuel new ones. Taking a page from Forrester's Service Management and Automation Playbook, Stephen Mann outlines what the hottest infrastructure and operations (I&O) jobs of the next five years will be.
Written by Stephen Mann, Contributor

At our core we are “IT people” (hopefully you are shouting at your screen “No, I'm a business person” but please bear with me), so it is all too easy for us to look at the future of IT service delivery purely from a technology perspective; that is to be absorbed by the opportunities and challenges such as bring your device (BYOD),mobilitysocial, shiny SaaS ITSM tools, and cloud per se.

For instance, my colleague Glenn O’Donnell can often be heard saying that “The future of service management is an automated one” and, unless you have access to the report from which I lifted this quote (and much of this blog), it is too easy to forget about how the “yellow brick road” to the future impacts our people. Glenn’s report covers this in some detail and I have politely stolen some of it to include below.

Looking at the future from an employee perspective = fear

Many employees fear automation – not only is it change, it is change that potentially affects their livelihood. But it’s nothing new: since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution the “A-word” has conjured up rebellion by those who are vulnerable to replacement by machines. Throughout history, however, the Luddites have lost their battles against progress and they will lose again. The economic, operational, and business-enablement benefits of IT automation are too strong for such opponents to resist.

When you automate any job, there's a high likelihood that the “machinery” will reduce dependence on humans for that job and maybe even eliminate the humans altogether. Some sourcing models, like cloud, apply here too. Consequently, some IT roles will diminish in numbers and possibly even disappear altogether. Anything that can qualify as “intellectual grunt work” is subject to decline — as it should.

So how will automation affect staffing?

Many of the affected jobs are administrator positions that today are improperly staffed. Instead of using the technical talent to its best potential, much of this work is indeed intellectual grunt work. Forrester predicts a dramatic decline in infrastructure administrator (e.g., server, network, storage) positions through 2015. They won't disappear completely, but the work will shift, with the routine functions moving to automated systems and the creative technology development migrating to more of an engineering function instead of an operational function.

The key issue to understand in this labor shift is that the same forces that are eroding some jobs will fuel new ones and Glenn predicts that the hottest infrastructure and operations (I&O) jobs of the next five years will be the:

  • Automation architect. Someone needs to design, implement, and maintain the automation systems.
  • Service manager. Someone must possess ultimate responsibility for the services. The service manager might not be able to write the code, tweak the network, or negotiate third-party service contracts, but that person will own that service (and service delivery) from cradle to grave.
  • Process manager. Central ownership of processes is needed. A process owner may own many processes, but like the service manager, the process manager has ultimate responsibility for the processes under his or her jurisdiction.
  • Service designer. Business services must be engineered like any other complex system. The services need to be assembled using the principles of systems engineering. There are many "engineers" in IT, but there is woefully little genuine engineering.
  • Financial manager. In a geeky culture like that in IT, any mention of financial skills is often viewed as heresy. If IT in general — and I&O in particular — are to act as true business functions, the organization needs some of its people to be skilled in the art and science of business.
  • IT marketing manager.  IT organizations need to improve their communication skills, discuss and promote the capabilities of IT and the value proposition, price the solutions competitively, understand their different customer segments (internal customers such as application development or a line-of-business team), and promote and develop awareness and use of the services IT provides. They need Marketing.
  • Sourcing and vendor manager. As the service manager has responsibility for the service, this role supports the rightsizing of a service with the available suppliers and vendors. Service integration is here to stay.
  • Capacity manager. In the mainframe era, this role was extremely important to ensure that the IT organization had the necessary capacity to provide enough computing resources supporting business operations. Today, it's important to control IT infrastructure in such a way that resource shortages are anticipated and corrected before they occur no matter if on-premises or off-premises solutions and infrastructure are used.
  • Problem manager.  Even in fully automated service management organizations, the I&O team still needs a person, or even a team, who can comprehend dependencies and has the ability to see through the mess to identify and resolve problems that cause recurring incidents.
  • Knowledge engineer. In an environment where services are offered in a service value chain and many service providers need to work together, knowledge (both implicit and explicit) is the lifeblood of the organization (and service integration ecosystem). The knowledge engineer will be responsible for encouraging, enforcing, and creating a knowledge management process and disseminating knowledge across the organization.

What it means

For the individual: If you work in a position that is subject to decline or obsolescence, embrace the force, don't fight it. Be the automator, not the automated! Who better to automate your job than you? Be the change, not a victim of it. 

For I&O decision makers: The future is already here –maybe not with you, but take a look at what the competition is doing. So plan for and start to execute on automation now, AND also make sure you are reflecting business, process, and technology change in your people. Not to do so will be futile on a number of levels. P.S. don’t forget the customer in all this people, process, and technology change. If a change doesn’t positively impact a customer why are you doing it?

Finally, credit where credit is due

The majority of this content is a small extract from Glenn’s “Become Customer-Centric, Service-Focused, And Automated” report which is the “Future Look” report in the Forrester Service Management And Automation Playbook

Editorial standards