IT careers 2020: The end of IT as we know it

Specialty IT ops jobs are on their way out in favor of planners, orchestrators, and architects

Welcome to the IT organization of the year 2020 -- and brace yourself, because it's a far cry from the department you find yourself in today.

Computer programmers have gone the way of the typing pool. So have one-dimensional technology specialists like network engineers. Deeply technical professionals with multiple certifications in virtualization, networking, and security technologies work primarily as component engineers and IT architects. Job titles include cloud architect, cloud capacity planner, cloud infrastructure administrator and integration architect.

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The people who work in these roles design and maintain the underlying framework or architecture. On top of this architecture sits a shifting inventory of cloud services, plug-and-play Web-based applications and easy-to-use proprietary software components that together represent the key source of a company's competitive advantage.

How these various components will be innovatively mixed and matched will largely be decided by marketing, supply chain and other business functions and divisions that will be guided by a second tier of IT professionals: super-IT-savvy business experts who reside in the business.

They don't build software, but they work with the business to invent new products and services. They also assemble the software components needed to bring those offerings to market. They have titles like business systems analyst and business solutions consultant.

Sound far-fetched? It's only 2010, but already, the savviest companies are well along the path of implementing this kind of two-tiered IT workforce structure.

"2020 is already here," says Ian Patterson, CIO at St. Louis-based Scottrade. There, the IT organization includes project managers and business analysts with deep analytical and communication skills, and technical architects, who make sure "we don't step on ourselves by doing something that will negatively impact the business from a technology standpoint," Patterson says.

Going forward, CIOs and IT employment experts predict that this bifurcation of IT roles will vastly accelerate, with most professionals falling into one of two major categories: technical specialists and business specialists.

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