7 opportunities and threats for IT managers of the future

By Andy Roberts Head of Enterprise Mobility at Telefónica UK

When I sat to write this article I gave myself 2 objectives. The first was to write as if speaking to my younger self; the second to write it all, in one go, in less than 2 hours, without reference to outside material.  Why?  I really wanted it to be personal and uncontaminated by the opinions of others.

IT has always been a fast-moving industry compared to most and what we expect from IT has also changed over the years.  Back in the day – early 90’s for me – IT contractors were paid fortunes for often in reality knowing little, certainly by today’s standards. In those times simply knowing more than the ‘average Joe’ got you by.  But times have changed and the bar has been drastically raised.

We now live in a world of always on, always connected where technology is a natural part of everyday life and not reserved for corporate use or a minority of geeks.  From PC’s to tablets, smartphones to wearable tech, IT is only ever an arms-length away.

Nevertheless the IT Industry is still as rewarding and exciting as it has ever been. The consumer IT experience is forcing corporate IT managers to improve. The necessity to expand, diversify and increase profits, means IT is still a hot topic and very much in demand.

To understand what skills IT manages of the future will need you must consider the mega-trends driving the industry over the next decade – Mobile, Social, Cloud and Data.  People are accessing the same information from multiple devices. We interact and collaborate in so many different ways. Our data resides in any number of locations and how we analyse and sanitise it via many different applications and backend systems is mind-blowing.

So where are the challenges and opportunities for future IT managers?

  1. IT has lost control – As an ex-IT manager I don’t say this lightly. IT departments are losing control. Bring your own device, ubiquitous content via Software as a Service (SaaS) and the ability to save sensitive data to personal and cloud storage is a huge challenge to most IT departments.  Stop it and be seen as old-fashioned and stifling innovation. Allow it and risk the leaking of sensitive data and a damaged brand reputation.
  1. Consider the non-sexy side of IT – as the IT world changes so does the not-so-glamorous side of it. Licensing, risk management and security. Anyone looking to make a career in IT should seriously consider these avenues.  They’re not for everyone but they’re gaining an ever increasing importance as companies adapt to this ever-changing world.
  1. Service providers – to focus on their core business many companies have outsourced their commodity IT services to 3rd parties. This means often the best IT opportunities lie with the providers and not the organisations themselves.  Service providers have great opportunities for those seeking IT and customer facing experience.
  1. Data security is huge – security of data is a real headache and becomes increasingly challenging with the lines blurring between on-premise and cloud. How do you secure it? Where does it reside? How do you prevent data loss? These are just a few of the challenges facing most organisations.
  1. It’s all about the apps – most companies are mobilising their workforce and business processes. Application development, hosting and deployment is a hot area with apps being created and/or reengineered to work across multiple operating systems, interfaces and device footprints.
  1. Non-linear career – from my hazy memory career paths in IT were linear and mapped out ahead of you, a natural progression from one role to the next. This is no longer the case. Diverse skill-sets are gaining increasing importance in the workplace with employers seeking individuals with business experience and not just ‘pure IT’.
  1. Strength vs. depth – always a challenge. Do you go for detailed knowledge of a single or smaller set of products or become a generalist with ‘good enough’ knowledge of many? Pros and cons for both although the latter often stands you in good stead for later career roles.

So what would I say to my younger self?  Always keep an eye on future trends to ensure you’re skills are relevant.  While qualifications are important and well worth the investment in time and cost, nothing compares to real life experience. And last but not least enjoy the journey. Often periods of transition are the best times of your career, and the destination isn’t always everything you thought it would be.

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