In the early 1980s, information technology pros were helping their colleagues set up the very first personal computers. Then came the 90’s, where Windows was all the rage and IT support roles were educating their peers on basic file sharing using servers. The mid to late 90’s brought the internet. And everything started to change, at what seemed to be a faster and faster rate with each passing year.
Fast forward to today where we look at the future of information technology. In the age of AI, automation, cybersecurity, and more, how does the IT professional keep up? Where does that leave the IT career track? Is their main purpose to provide reactive support for the rest of the company? Or is there a deeper calling to overhaul entire workflows and office structures? We gathered insights straight from the source to make sense of it all, from the minds of IT professionals at Accenture, Downer/The World Bank, Network World/Cumulus Networks, Pendo, and Wayfair. This is the IT pro’s metamorphosis.
The information technology conversation has changed
IT departments used to approach problems or opportunities with a single solution. Word processing? Here’s a personal computer. File sharing? Here’s a server network. But with the meteoric rise of technology, the days of this one to one relationship between problem and solution are growing shorter. Nowadays, if an IT pro has to respond to one small hiccup, it could require looking at the entire ecosystem. This is all because multiple technologies, especially with the IoT, are often interwoven together to make to make one seamless workflow.
Disruptive technologies are also to blame for, well, disrupting the information technology ecosystem at various companies. While disruption is welcome, since it almost always makes one part of our lives easier, each disruptive moment requires the IT professional to be deeper and deeper in tune with the technological ecosystem that they work in. And at the same time, they must also be more agile so they can react faster to the next evolution -- or pull ahead in front of it. And with new technologies, IT can optimize each part of a corporate employee’s day. When you have a SaaS solution for even the smallest scenario or interaction, IT is in the midst of it all to connect the dots: the conductor of the entire tech symphony.
Change isn’t only happening at the top, it’s anyone’s game in IT
Positive change is no longer a top-down process. Fewer employees are waiting around for their CIO or Director of Information Technology to bark orders at them to then search for a new product or service. Instead, CIO’s are hiring people who take pride in identifying both outright problems and slightest frictions to see how they can make the technology infrastructure even a little bit better.
Glen Willoughby, who has over 30 years IT experience, working for the UN, the World Bank, and now at Downer, says everyday IT professionals are just as important as Elon himself. In an interview with Tanushree Rao of Future Crunch:
The Elon Musks of the world are doing radical things at a global scale, and they’re important, they have their place and they’ll be significant in future. But just as significant is what can each individual do to look at the challenges in front of them, and the ideas they have to change the game.
And IT pros agree, with the right support. "Having senior leadership on board with change is certainly helpful though," says Jeremy Smith, an IT innovator from Pendo in Raleigh, NC. "Luckily, our leadership team is very open to innovative changes, and that has made working at Pendo easier and more enjoyable. They really embody our core value ‘bias to act’ and when something needs to change to makes things better, they are behind it 100%."And Jeremy has the freedom to act -- going above and beyond from Day 1 for new employees with new ideas and technologies that help make the Pendo workplace better.
Innovation not only in what IT is doing but the skills of who’s doing it
There is a whole new focus on the types of skills needed to be successful and innovative across the information technology landscape. While many IT professionals still need technical skills and experience, forward-thinking IT pros display a soft skill set of empathy, problem-solving, and creativity.
Or, sometimes the solution for an IT hiring manager is to bring in someone new for a fresh perspective.
Rotation to the new is not only about bringing new services to business, but it is all about bringing new skill sets in people and new offerings.-Bhaskar Ghosh of Accenture
IT leaders should be thinking about how to keep their teams fresh and unique by staying up to date on the latest tech trends. For Accenture, their innovation labs help do this and are housed in 4 different countries around the world so no Accenture tech associate is out of reach of testing and learning innovative new ideas.
Technological change requires management and getting everyone on board
\Introducing a major change to the information technology infrastructure has to be followed through on. Oftentimes, the rest of the organization is reluctant to change (unless you have an employee advocacy group, which we’ll cover in the near future). Empathetic IT pros avoid roadblocks by approaching change with an open mind. New solutions are bought into by stakeholders early on in the process. Efficient training and onboarding programs are put in place to make sure everyone knows how to use the new tool and knows where to go if they don’t. WOCinTechChat[/caption]Introducing a major change to the information technology infrastructure has to be followed through on. Oftentimes, the rest of the organization is reluctant to change (unless you have an employee advocacy group, which we’ll cover in the near future). Empathetic IT pros avoid roadblocks by approaching change with an open mind. New solutions are bought into by stakeholders early on in the process. Efficient training and onboarding programs are put in place to make sure everyone knows how to use the new tool and knows where to go if they don’t. Asad Rahman, IT game-changer from Wayfair, knows how to integrate IT updates with the rest of the company.
We are constantly providing information to end users through email and our IT Help Bar. We let them know what's coming and give ample time before making a change. That transparency is key to building a trusting relationship. Our department needed to get out of the backroom and in front of our colleagues.
But it’s not easy, especially at larger companies or non-tech industries where an IT pro’s peers could have varied tech experience. Willoughby from Downer again:
In any tech endeavor I’ve been involved with, I’d probably say the easier part is the technology. The harder part and lengthier part is interacting with people and implementing change. When I’ve looked at challenges around implementing tech, it’s primarily been around introducing tech too early, or not understanding the change management effort of people through that journey.
The more emphasis the IT rep can place on onboarding and follow up, the better off the rest of the company will be in getting trained up and running with the new tool.
The formidable combo of the new information technology skill set
As more and more companies make the switch from proprietary hardware to open infrastructure they’ll use the savings to invest in employees who are change-makers, automation experts, and great problem solvers.
The change-maker part of the new IT pro needs to be able to identify what will drive the business forward and again take a look at the entire ecosystem to make the most of the tools and services they bring on board.The automation expert portion will embrace as much automation as they can muster, using it to streamline the minutiae in their lives and the lives of their non-IT colleagues.
In doing so, overall the company will get faster and better, leaving more time for the IT pro to focus on the bigger and more important projects.The final piece of the new IT pro is the problem solver. This person’s not just finding a solution but epitomizing a team player. They don’t seek out the easiest or cheapest answer but have the most creative way to solve an opportunity and at the end of the day, find the most useful solution for their end-user peers.
This new wave of IT is already starting to make positive changes at companies like Wayfair and Pendo and will continue to encourage peers in the industry to look at their work life the same way. We’re psyched to see the future of information technology continue to innovate. Feel free to share what you’re working on with us.If you’re looking to innovate your meeting room scheduling, we have something in mind.