(“In Case You Missed It Monday” is my chance to showcase something that I wrote and published in another venue, but is still relevant. This week’s post originally appeared on DataVersity)
Five years ago, IT was a completely different ball game — or at least our perception of it was.
To the naked eye, it may not look like a serious transformation. But the way people view IT has undergone tremendous change, especially in the enterprise. Back then, almost everything was hosted on-premises, and the scope of what IT teams were responsible for was clear and well-defined. Organizations were reluctant to move to the cloud, as many perceived it to be an unnecessary move and a potential security risk. But as IT became more embedded into — and essential to — the everyday workflow for employees, the role of IT exploded into something touching nearly every part of the business, particularly the role of applications.
Apps Move from Supporting Roles to the Main Event
As businesses began to realize the critical role IT played in contributing to their success, they began to add support for business-critical, customer-facing services to the scope of their general IT operations. This differed from the past when specialized teams owned the applications or services. Initially, this was largely centered around supporting public-facing web apps used by customers, but with the rise of software as a service (SaaS) tools, they quickly became part of the responsibility of IT operations. This helped make the network more accessible outside the confines of the office — something now business-critical in today’s economy as the world battles through a pandemic. This shift in the scope of applications led to much-needed application performance management (APM) solutions.
Like most of the behind-the-scenes workings of IT, APM has shifted from a specialized tool used only by a particular team for a specific purpose (QA or development) to something essential for ongoing business success and overall monitoring solutions. In retail settings, for example, traditionally, only internal systems were monitored, and public-facing point of sale systems were considered too low-level to require it. Now it’s more common to monitor the entire IT system end-to-end (including POS terminals), something which could have derailed the Target breach if it had been in place at the time.
The Future of IT Management in a COVID-19 World
The pandemic has put a spotlight and microscope on IT. It’s put a microscope on IT because almost everything each employee does now has an element of tech involved, from opening a spreadsheet to joining a video meeting. And it’s put a spotlight on IT because it’s showcasing the ways IT professionals are superheroes every single day. This is causing businesses to imagine new ways they can use IT to maximize resiliency inside the business and as part of their critical delivery to customers. As a result, we’re now expecting to see an even bigger shift toward automation, with organizations integrating SaaS, automated cloud builds, and automated order deliveries into their workflows more frequently as entire workforces prepare to be remote for the foreseeable future.
To build on this trend, businesses will need to be ready for IT to grow. This means budgets, staff, and skills will increase in response to opportunities, technologies, and the scope of the business goals IT is expected to assist. Equally, IT folks (rank-and-file staff as well as management) will need to be ready to track and monitor results against business metrics as well as the traditional technical ones. This is the only way to ensure IT spending is justified, and business leaders become more open to hearing about alternate ways to support the “new normal,” which everyone in IT knows has always been a moving target.
Adapting to Environments Means Adapting to New Roles
IT pros have become far more connected to essential aspects of the businesses they work for and are now a critical asset to businesses and have (or at least SHOULD have) a much larger role in business decisions, specifically when it comes to cost and ROI assessments for technology. Some of this is easy and part of what IT folks have already been doing, such as software licensing, WAN costs, and even those old PRI lines connecting traditional phone systems. But the cloud is a whole new can of worms. Knowing whether your company’s applications are hosted on the correct provider for a specific use case — not to mention the correct offering from the provider — requires someone with technical and financial savvy. Thus, the nascent role of “cloud economist” is growing in popularity. They blend together the technical savvy necessary to understand what’s being built and where it fits in from a product perspective and an understanding of the market to offer advice from a business perspective. A deeper integration into the business is also giving IT pros more ammunition to provide critical support by specializing in the specific IT needs for the business or industry they’re a part of.
IT was already changing. “Old IT” — the team worrying exclusively about replacing broken mice and keyboards and ensuring the office Wi-Fi was up and running — was already becoming an unjustifiable relic of a bygone pre-Amazon and Meraki era. The pandemic has only hastened its demise. With a deeper reliance on SaaS applications and public cloud providers and the trust established after a nearly seamless transition to an almost fully remote workforce, IT departments have unlocked the opportunity for more flexibility in work going forward. As organizations continue to integrate new IT solutions into their portfolios and rely on the expertise of their IT pros, there’s a bright future ahead for modern businesses.