Why IT is a profession in 'flux'

Red-hot market demand for IT skills masks enormous underlying pressures to deliver business value.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

Yes, demand for IT skills is red hot -- companies need all the tech talent they can find to carry forward strategies based on ciphering Big Data, and achieving the nimbleness required to quickly build or dis-assemble business lines to meet ever-shifting market demands.  However...

In a recent commentary, Shawn Edmondson, VP of product strategy at rPath, explains why he feels the typical IT job isn't as stable as it may appear to be.

 As Edmondson puts it: the more robust "macroeconomic view hides an important microeconomic truth for IT professionals today: Despite the stability of the IT job market, there is nothing particularly stable about the role. In fact, it’s a role that’s very much in flux."

IT professionals are under considerable pressure to deliver more value to the business, versus being good at coding and testing and deploying and integrating.  "Outsourcing, automation and, most recently, cloud computing have forced IT pros to move 'up the stack' to deliver differentiated value to business," Edmondson observes.

IT jobs are being shaped by three converging trends:

  1. IT is increasingly entwined with how companies create and sustain value and business advantage. This elevates the role of IT within organizations. "IT has shifted from a tactical necessity for keeping the lights on to a strategic weapon for seizing opportunity through Web, mobile and social commerce, and brand engagement." 
  2. Consumers of IT services now have choice. IT is not only expected to understand the business, but is instilling business value into its own operations as well. "Corporate IT used to be your cable company; they made you wait and there was little you could do about it. Today, Amazon, Salesforce.com and others are just clicks away."
  3. Automation, abstraction and self-service drive IT projects.  These all "point to a certain creative destruction of traditional IT roles," Edmondson points out. It begs the question: "Is this like designing yourself out of a job?" The answer is no, he adds. "It’s just the opposite. It makes you a leader in redefining how IT delivers value."

IT is now being asked to step up and take leadership roles in organizations, Edmondson says. "IT continues to deliver value by automating away the infrastructure and underlying complexity that has traditionally stood in the way of application value. By doing so, it delivers the speed and agility business lines need to make IT a true strategic weapon. As participants in this transformation, IT professionals must decide whether they want to be a catalyst or a casualty -- among the disruptors or the disrupted."

Of course, pity the plight of the chief information officer, who, as Chris Skinner artfully points out, has an average job tenure of four years. He describes the flow of those four years:

  • Year 1: "Trying to find ways to fix the crap their predecessor was challenged with or put in place."
  • Year 2: "Choosing new solutions and planning the implementation of change."
  • Year 3: "Struggling to make the change and finding your peers and colleagues asking questions about what you are doing."
  • Year 4: "Being found out over-promising and under-delivering and getting the call from the CEO to think about leave while you look for a new role."

(Photo: US Bureau of Labor Statistics.)


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