It seems like every year we talk about the changing role of the “IT guy.” By now, change is about the only thing we can count on in technology. But there’s something different about technology today.
Now, more than ever, IT professionals are being challenged to focus on business priorities, including strategic applications and processes. It’s less about infrastructure and keeping the lights on and more about using technology to fuel innovation in the business. Thanks to the cloud, among other big IT trends, the world of the IT professional will never be the same.
Here are some new factors that have emerged in the past year that are reshaping the infrastructure segment and forever changing the life of the IT professional.
Infrastructure providers are mostly flat or declining in revenues
This will come as a surprise to no one. Infrastructure providers—particularly the established players who sell servers and storage—have been stagnant for a while now. The growth in the industry is now coming from hyperscalers, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft with Azure and Office 365, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers, such as NetSuite, Salesforce, Workday, and Xero.
Now that Amazon and Microsoft have both publicly stated that their cloud businesses have each grown beyond $8B/year in revenue, resistance from even the most conservative customers is weakening. Touching and controlling servers and storage within your “four walls” is no longer the only option.
IT is now perceived as a utility
Additionally, business people expect their IT infrastructure to “just work,” like electricity, phone services or any other utility. You plug in, and it is always there. It is not uncommon for business leaders to be impatient about technology, especially when it is unavailable or offline. The risk is that some business leaders still look at IT as a cost center not as a tool that can be used as a competitive advantage.
New storage, server, networking and security upstarts are making their solutions much easier to deploy and manage, even though virtualization and software-defined data center technologies have become incredibly sophisticated and complex. These newcomers have installation guides that literally fit onto business cards.
Cloud computing is a business decision, not a technical decision
Today, when we talk with a company about cloud computing, it almost always involves the CFO or CEO. This is in stark contrast to the reality of 10 years ago when we were only in direct contact with the IT leadership. Now that cloud is on the table, we often find ourselves sitting down with C-level executives to explain the business impact and the effect on the company as a whole. The IT professional has gone from being the primary decision maker to a consultant to business leadership.
This change can be very positive for the career of IT professionals, providing them with insights and exposure to more strategic aspects of the business. C-level executives often have a more comprehensive vision of the company, along with insider knowledge of corporate initiatives that will be affected by major shifts like cloud. While IT professionals may have a better grasp on the needs of the end users or the technological resources required to implement cloud, C-level executives often have broad influence, board interaction and focus on company goals. If embraced, involvement in these discussions and initiatives can be an exhilarating shift for even the most hands-on IT professional.
So, how should the IT professional respond?
This new style of IT demands that we focus on new priorities. Transforming applications from old to new, enhancing legacy systems to coexist in a SaaS model, and brokering the best applications and services for the business, regardless of whether they run in house or in the cloud, is the new norm.
By understanding the broader business needs of the company, while maintaining a deep technical knowledge of the solutions being considered, IT professionals can make their expertise more valuable and earn a seat at the corporate table.
At the end of the day, every business is having to shift IT resources from maintenance to innovation. This transformation provides a significant opportunity to bring together two groups that rarely talk, let alone collaborate. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.