Four Trends Changing IT
R. Marc Phillips
September 22, 2009
Technology, by definition, is constantly changing. That’s part of what makes working in IT so great, but it can also cause its share of problems. Take your eye off the ball for a month and you could find out that the hot new programming language you selected for your company’s latest Web app doesn’t scale, or that security concerns have trashed the reputation of a product you used to rely on.
Keeping up with everything that’s going on in IT isn’t easy, but here’s a look at a few trends I think will continue to shape the industry for the next few years:
More Tech-Savvy Users
Gen-Y won’t change everything, but it will certainly make things different for IT staffs. As your company brings in more and more young workers, you’ll face the challenge of supporting a generation raised on gmail, Facebook, and Twitter—one that’s unfamiliar with IT policy restrictions limiting app installs and filtering Web access.
The more a group knows about technology, the more they’re likely to demand from it, and that’s a powerful and dangerous thing. Over the next decade, IT will need to find ways to help harness that enthusiasm and savvy or risk becoming irrelevant. At the same time, you’ll need to balance that with continued vigilance about security, both of the apps that are explicitly part of your toolset and of those that your workforce adopts on its own.
Like it or not, more and more work is headed overseas to teams of coders and support staff that cost significantly less than the same workforce in the U.S. So what’s the best way to protect your job from outsourcing? How about learning how to be a point of contact for the outsourced teams you’ll almost certainly be dealing with?
Outsourcing isn’t going away anytime soon, so smart IT workers need to start accumulating experience in working with outsourced teams. Learn which project requirements you have to outline in greater detail to get good results. Figure out which assumptions you’ll have to give up. Adjust. Then apply that knowledge so you’ll have a success story to tell next time you’re looking for a job.
Project management, e-mail, calendaring — even word processing — are all moving online. And whether you’re building the apps your company uses to access your data from anywhere or working with a third-party solution, you’d better get comfortable with the idea of more of your resources sitting out in the cloud.
What do all the above trends have in common? Ideally, they let fewer people accomplish more. But the mere fact that team sizes are shrinking has some important implications. First, it’s more important to be a bit of a generalist or to at least be able to prove that you can adapt quickly. If your staff can’t afford to have a dedicated security professional, you might have to play that role as a network administrator. Second, interpersonal skills, hiring, and how new employees fit in with your team become absolutely critical. If you’ve got a 20-person staff, it’s probably OK if three of you don’t get along. On a five-person staff, even one conflict can really torpedo things.
So that’s my list. I’m sure there are more, so chime in below with the trends you see making a big impact on the next ten years in IT…