Successful companies know the importance of technology in business today. Nearly every aspect of those organizations has been automated in some form or fashion, from manufacturing to sales to customer service and beyond, to reap productivity gains. What many companies don’t know, however, is who’s going to lead the next generation of technology-driven advances now that business users are giving information technology (IT) pros a run for their money.
IT Knowledge: From Mystic to Mundane
Historically, the IT group has been the organization responsible for technology within a company. And while IT is a pretty good place to find job security, it’s also a place where you have to swim hard to keep up with the prolific changes in technology. For a long time, IT staff seemingly had mystic knowledge that kept non-technical people within the company at bay. Ordinary workers had limited awareness of technology and were at the mercy of IT.
Today, the veil hiding the nuances of technology has fallen as white- and blue-collar workers alike are more knowledgeable about and often immersed in technology. The average worker isn’t studying up on technology, of course. Technology has just become more accessible, powerful and user friendly. For proof, just look in your pocket or purse where you’ll likely find the equivalent of an early-generation mainframe — aka a smart phone. And nearly all of us are familiar with WiFi networks and have probably even set up or troubleshot a wireless router.
IT at a Crossroads
Knowledge is power, and now, the tables have turned on IT; and, in many cases, the shift has them on their heels. IT pros find themselves in this position because they have not been able to evolve as fast as technology. More precisely, most IT organizations have not been able to move beyond their traditional tasks.
For most of its existence, IT has been responsible for buying computers, providing break/fix support, rolling out Windows upgrades, helping users out with email, and of course, spending a lot of time resetting passwords. Fortunately, most of these tasks have been automated, or at least they should be automated.
Therein lies the problem. Many IT organizations have not automated mundane rudimentary tasks, and as a result, they find it difficult to manage the fire hose that is technology. And businesses are not waiting for IT to catch up. Workers today know what is available and are not afraid to go around IT if they think a technology can provide a strategic advantage.
Debating the Role of IT
There is an ongoing debate regarding the role IT will play within companies in the future — and even on the relevance of IT. Many suggest that the lines of businesses will drive IT, or even the functional groups such as sales and marketing. The likelihood of such a future is really up to IT organizations themselves. If they can rise above the fray, IT can command an important role in shaping corporations as technology becomes synonymous with business success.
Without a doubt, IT and the future of IT professionals is limitless but only for those who can, ironically, keep up with technology. The description of IT is changing (more on that in my post next week) and skills need to be upgraded, just as they do for professionals in other fields.
Where troubleshooting a Blue Screen of Death was the skill to have for an IT professional in the past, here are the eight hot IT skills for 2014 according to a recent Computerworld survey.
- Programming/application development
- Help desk/technical support
- Mobile applications and device management
- Project management
- Database administration
- Security compliance/governance
- Business intelligence/analytics
Note that resetting passwords didn’t make the top eight. Technology is about automating manual tasks. In a Darwinian way, new technology obsoletes old technology, and old skills must give way to new skills. And if old IT professionals are to survive, they too must evolve.
Raj Sabhlok is the president of Zoho Corp., which is the parent company of Zoho.com and ManageEngine. Follow him @rajsabhlok.