The future of IT: Fewer workers, more data analysts

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Organizations are in the midst of redesigning IT operations in order to better meet the demands of external customers, and that is creating the need to redefine many job roles. Unfortunately, many organizations say they lack sufficient skills on staff in the areas of analytics and data management.

That is the conclusion of a new study – “As Tech Management Structures Change, Roles Become More Strategic and Externally Focused” – by Forrester Research. Authored by Marc Cecere, the study looks at how key roles in the IT organization will change over the next five to seven years.

Three key takeaways:

The number in IT will shrink significantly

“Automation, cloud, external services and empowered business users will reduce the number of people needed in IT,” Cecere says. “In a few years, we will start to see reductions as soon as a large, installed base of legacy systems is removed or re-engineered.”

Key roles will become increasingly strategic and externally focused

“Many of the roles, such as architects and developers, will require increased business knowledge, consulting skills and responsibilities that span the enterprise rather than a narrow functional area, technology or business unit,” Cecere says.

Agile methods and DevOps teams will be the defaults

“DevOps teams combined with agile methods will become the accepted means of building capabilities,” Cecere says.

One of the most important messages to come out of the report is a caution to IT professionals that they need to reassess their current skills, anticipate the new skills needed, and begin acquiring those skills. After all, there will be fewer jobs available in IT, and they will go to those professionals who can demonstrate that they bring value to the business. Most needed: expertise in analytics and artificial intelligence.

“Specialization will be required in hot new technologies, including voice recognition, IoT, machine learning and blockchain, and methods such as agile and DevOps,” Cecere explains.

Technologists will also need stronger business knowledge and consulting skills, Cecere says. Business people are increasingly involved in traditional IT decision making, and IT professionals must be able to communicate with and work well with those new partners.

Organizations are also heading toward a multi-sourced environment, in which “their use of micro-services, contingent workers cloud and internal capabilities as recast as services,” Cecere says. “This will require many roles to manage many sources of services and move away from internal assets such as servers, data centers and custom applications.”

How will data management change in this new model?

Data and analytics will become more segmented between business and IT, Cecere says. He defines data and analytics roles as including a broad range of data functions like data analysis, master data management, data integration and architecture.

Data experts will be aligned with specific initiatives, Cecere believes.

“Machine learning, for example, requires people who know the algorithms, data and business purpose of the project,” Cecere explains. “Business intelligence requires expertise in tools such as those from SAS, Microsoft or Tableau Software. These are different, but overlapping areas. To support these initiatives, data experts will have a major in tools and methods and a minor in initiatives such as machine learning, automation and business intelligence.”

Finally, Cecere sees a growing need for IT professionals with experience in automation.

“Business and IT processes have been automated for as long as there have been organizations,” Cecere says. “Within IT this has been done by Bas, developers, engineers and numerous others. Future IT organizations will include automation specialists with knowledge of tools, such as UiPath and Pegasus, software engineering methods and business processes. These experts are dedicated to automating processes and keeping up to date with associated tools and techniques.”

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