Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Working from home: The future of business is remote

Remote working jobs row shows how much tech has changed

Tech's biggest priorities have changed, but not everyone has realised it yet.

Microsoft is worried about remote working. Here's why

Tech is now a people business. It's about running teams, understanding motivation and guiding some very smart people to be effective and to make the best decisions they can. It's about leading a group of creative people who can then have an outsized impact on the performance of the organisation they work for.

This vision of the people working in tech is not, perhaps, one that all managers recognise. That's especially true if they work for a company that has traditionally seen IT as part of the plumbing; necessary but not core and certainly not exciting.

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But tech has changed over the past decade or so. While the overall number of people working in the average tech department hasn't changed very much, the composition of that team has changed quite radically.

SEE: When the return to the office happens, don't leave remote workers out in the cold

Once it was the hardware that mattered. Many organisations ran most of the technology they needed themselves. They had email servers and web servers and all manner of hardware in the data center or in the basement. All of that kit had to be looked after by an army of engineers.

The advent of cloud computing has changed all this, of course. The corporate data center is shrinking, and few organisations would see the point of building their own finance system or anything like that, preferring instead to buy it from the cloud.

This shift has changed the make-up of the IT department. It's now much more focused on delivering the breakthroughs that can make organisations stand out and succeed. For the CIO and all the other managers, that means that having excellent people skills and being able to align the team with the right business outcomes is vital.

But, because the developers and security experts and others that work in tech are so sought after and so highly mobile (have laptop, will travel), that also means that tech is inevitably one of the industries first impacted by changes in working life happening right now. 

In particular, remote working has been the standard option for many office workers over the past 18 months and many are reluctant to change, even if bosses are keen to see desks filled again. 

There are good arguments on both sides; the efficiency of working from home is easy to see, but the benefits of bringing teams together in the real world to solve problems is obvious, too. 

SEE: Is remote working good or bad? Big tech companies just can't seem to decide

But right now, it seems that workers and managers are pushing in two different directions: three-quarters of tech workers in one survey quoted remote work as the key perk for them, and if their employer doesn't offer it they may look elsewhere. No wonder managers are getting worried. Without those talented people, all the software and hardware in the world means little.

This scenario will play out differently across industries, but it's a reflection of how much tech has changed. It's a reminder to all that the most important thing in tech is no longer software or hardware, but people.

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