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

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New roles for IT shops and pros

Do you think your current IT job function will exist in 2020?

  • Yes: 57%
  • Yes, but it will have changed dramatically: 26%
  • Not likely: 7%
  • No: 10%

In 2020, will there be a traditional IT department as we now know it?

  • Yes, there will be an IT department as we now know it: 9%
  • Yes, the functions of the IT department will change only slightly by the year 2020: 27%
  • No, the IT department will become a dramatically different kind of operation by the year 2020: 48%
  • No, the stand-alone IT department won't exist at all by the year 2020: 11%
  • Other: 3%
  • Don't know: 2%

What do you think the IT shop of 2020 will look like?

  • IT will be fully embedded in the business units: 16%
  • IT will be a two-tiered organization, with some people embedded in business departments and other strictly technically-focused people within a smaller IT department: 62%
  • IT will be a career backwater of IT/technical specialists: 9%
  • IT won't exist as a stand-alone department: 7%
  • Other: 6%

Source: Exclusive Computerworld survey of 465 IT professionals, July 2010

Tier 1: Tech specialists

Technical specialists are the people who work in a centralized IT or business services organization. If you want to work here, you need to know about data standards, information standards, virtualization, networks, mobile technology, and IT architecture, among other things. "You need to get skilled in emerging technologies and develop a deep technical skill set," says Mark O'Gara, vice president of infrastructure at Highmark, a health insurer in Harrisburg, Pa.

Overall, this organization will have far fewer people than today's IT department, but these workers will have an extremely rich set of technical skills, and they will understand precisely how their business makes and loses money and how all transactions flow through the enterprise.

This is where the enterprise's overall business process and technology architecture will be maintained. The infrastructure will be made up of multiple services furnished by a variety of outside suppliers, coupled with software components that were designed both externally and in-house and that are extremely intuitive and easy for various business functions to assemble and use competitively.

As business units put together these applications, "the critical role the IT department will play is ensuring that business value is not lost through fragmentation," says Andrew Morlet, global director of the strategy and transformation practice at IT consultancy Accenture. "IT will play a central coordinating role that protects the interests of the entire enterprise over the divisions themselves."

Cummins, a worldwide supplier of diesel engines that's based in Columbus, Ind., is in the process of completing a major restructuring of IT. CIO Bruce Carver estimates that in the end, "only about 5 percent of IT roles will be purely IT, and these roles will be few and far between."

Cummins' centralized IT department is staffed by technical experts charged with creating standards and structure and managing the overall cost of the IT function. This is the home of the IT architecture group -- and architect is fast becoming the hottest role in IT.

Another services and support group is made up of third-party service providers and a limited number of Cummins employees. All other employees are business specialists in what Cummins calls "business-facing roles."

All indications are that by 2020, a big chunk of technical specialists' work will involve integrating a broader array of technologies and services into the overall enterprise infrastructure, CIOs say. That's why a broader set of networking, software, virtualization, and other skills will be required.

This trend hasn't been lost on vendors like EMC, which is developing a cloud certification to complement its storage certification. Additionally, EMC is working with its security division, RSA, and virtualization subsidiary VMware to develop multidisciplinary certifications for technical specialists, says Tom Clancy, vice president of education services and productivity at EMC.

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