By: Kevin Peterson

Is the role of IT changing? My sources say yes.

For many years now, technology visionaries have told of a not-too-distant future in which IT job descriptions would look quite different, primarily due to a shift from commodity IT to a services model. Some laughed this off while others embraced it entirely. But no matter which end of the spectrum you fell into, you can bet the sound of change is becoming near deafening to all.

I regularly read the CIO Journal in the Wall Street Journal, as for years it has provided interesting insight into what is truly shaping IT…right down to the core. So it was again this week, when I noticed three individual articles that jumped off the page. I encourage you to have a look for yourself. While each is interesting on its own, taken together their message is powerful. 

If I could summarize these three articles into one sentence, it would say something like this: “Business transforms itself, completely redefining IT roles at nearly all levels.” But it’s worth looking a bit deeper into each article to get a fuller picture of what is really going on here.

Consider:

CIOs: The first article, “Execs from Outside IT Win Key CIO Jobs,” highlights that in organizations where the business is already digital, the business leaders understand the needs and can run with the tools of their trade. But that is my brief summation, and I encourage everyone in IT to read and understand this illuminating article. I simply can’t do it justice in summary. Believe me, I tried.  

CTOs: As if the traditional CIO jobs were not already in jeopardy, here you have proof-positive that top CTOs are increasingly overshadowing CISOs on many security fronts. I’m a bit more familiar with this shift, as I have had many IT leaders over the past few years ask me where I thought the CISO role would go: up, sideways, or into the annals of history. Truly, people seem to feel a bit of a wobble in their universe and are looking to see if others are feeling it as well. Whether you would argue that this shift is a bad idea or a good one, I would merely point out that this article is further evidence that the CISO position is increasingly being eclipsed by historically more transformative technology leadership; in this case, the CTO. So when this new CIO (again, of the non-traditional–IT variety) comes and asks the security and cloud-oriented CTO to help take their digital business into the future, the partnership just seems to work a bit more naturally.  

IT Staff: One of the more popular talks I do with security practitioners around the country is entitled, “Being a better security practitioner — than your peers.” The punchline, of course, is (spoiler alert) to be more skilled at business transformation and the cloud than your colleagues. While the article paints a grim jobs picture in May (which followed a month of similar declines), I would hate to draw too many inferences from it at this point. 

Remember when everyone was sounding the alarms a decade ago about the impending nursing shortage? My wife is a nurse (first in the UK and currently practicing here in the U.S.), and I recall all too well the warnings that as Baby Boomers entered retirement, there would not be enough nurses to go around. Many predicted that by now we would be seeing nurses coming out of school and starting their careers in the six-figure range. That didn’t happen. And not only did that not happen, but when you research median salaries across that entire decade, you can see that the inflation-adjusted salaries have only gone up by a few hundred dollars — per year! So what happened? Well, let’s just say that the healthcare business leaders used technology and many other programs to blunt the impact of increasing patient needs.

That said, it is, without a doubt, an interesting time to be in IT and it’s probably a safe bet that your position in IT will increasingly be steered toward services; just as there was a shift from Siebel to Salesforce, PeopleSoft to WorkDay, BackOffice to Office 365, and a security shift from appliances to Zscaler.

For those who do embrace the services model, things are looking up. As reported in the final article referenced above, “One bright spot were jobs in IT services within the sector, which increased by 7,400, adding to the year-on-year total of 86,700, the group said.” After all, this is the group that will instantly recognize that as applications shift to the cloud, that is where security will naturally go, and will make the changes as fast as the business wants it to be done.  

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