How The Role of IT is Changing
When most people think of IT professionals a few types of people comes to mind. The first is someone wearing a white lab coat working in a server room and the second is someone you can email or call when you need your password reset. Both of these things used to be true. IT was a legacy function designed with the sole purpose of making sure that things don’t break and that employees can access whatever devices they are using. IT was kind of like the plumber you would call when you had issues with the pipes in your house.
“Big data, wearable devices, cloud computing, collaboration platforms, the internet of things, and the like are all forcing IT professionals to think differently about we work.”
When it came to technology, IT was also focused on the technical requirements needed to make something happen, in other words it was simply about checking off the boxes. So let’s say you wanted to deploy a collaboration platform, IT professionals would just look to see, does it have commenting? Check. Can it do threaded discussions? Check. What about rich user profiles? Check. If the check boxes matched up then boom! The technology was considered a good fit.
Let’s face it, IT used to be boring and unsexy and it’s why we used to see media publications around the world tout “The Death of the CIO.”
But something has happened to turn IT into one of the sexiest and coolest functions inside of any organization today. What happened? The five trends shaping the future of work happened which are:
We are all comfortable living a more public life where we share information, communicate, collaborate, learn, and purchase in new ways. Our entire professionals histories are on Linkedin are friends are all listed on Facebook, or thoughts go up on Twitter, and our pictures are free for anyone to view on Instagram. In fact you can Google pretty much anybody and find anything you want about that person. This is all new.
We now live and do business in a world where boundaries of any kind are disappearing. The language that you speak, the culture that you subscribe to, the currency that you transact in, and where you are physically located are all starting to matter less and less. The world is becoming like one giant city.
Big data, wearable devices, cloud computing, collaboration platforms, the internet of things, and the like are all forcing IT professionals to think differently about we work.
Millennials and Changing Demographics
According to PEW, in March of 2015 Millennials surpassed Gen Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. By 2020 millennials are expected to comprise 50 percent of the workforce and by 2025 this number will be 75 percent. After that, we already have to start thinking about Gen Z. Try showing a millennials or a Gen Zer a legacy technology solution, better yet, try sending them 150 emails a day. Many of our legacy approaches to how we work doesn’t align with how most of us live. We live in 2016 and work in 1975, that gap must be closed.
To be the smartest person in the room all you need is a smartphone; so how do we enable access to people and information anywhere, anytime, and on any device? Work is no longer a place you go to, it’s something you take with you wherever you go.
These five trends come together to create a perfect storm that not only revives the role of IT but also creates tremendous opportunity for anyone in the IT profession. We are seeing IT move from focusing on requirements to understanding business needs, working in a silo to collaborating with other lines of business, catching up to the future of work to leading it, long deployment cycles to rapid cloud deployments, and legacy technologies to best of breed platforms.
Of course there are plenty of other items you can add to this list as well but the point is that we’re at an exciting evolution of IT. In fast most of the themes and concepts we hear about around the future of work such as flexible work, real-time feedback, collaboration, getting rid of annual performance reviews, big data analytics, and the like, are not possible without technology and hence IT. Said more bluntly, there is no future of work without IT.
So what can IT professionals do to succeed in this new world?
1. Look at what can be done to close the gap between the year we live in and the year we work in. Whirlpool for example dumped a legacy technology they were using in favor of Google because they new it was something employees were used to and comfortable with.
2. Leverage rogue technology deployments within your organization as a springboard to start your own initiatives. EY did this with their internal collaboration deployment. They turned their rogue deployment users into their greatest champions and evangelists.
3. Understand that the workplace demographic is changing which means new ways of working focused on modern digital technologies. GE implemented FastWorks, an app that they custom built which allows employees to collaborate and provide real-time feedback to one another.
4. Deploy collaboration technologies and internal social networks to make sure that employees can stay connected anytime, anywhere, and on any device. AON does a fantastic job of this by making sure that employees are able to access anything and anyone they need regardless of where they are.
5. Rethink convention business practices and approaches to getting work done. Treat your organization less like a factory and more like a laboratory that is able to experiment, test, iterate, and explore. T-Mobile has been doing this for the past few years as they literally rebuilt and redesigned their people centric functions from the ground up. Redesigned by people but supported and enabled by technology.
When I think about the future of IT I’m very excited for what’s on the horizon. I see tremendous opportunity for IT professionals to not only shape the future of work, but to lead it!