IT Strategy | Tech Education | Technology | Trends

How Have IT Roles Evolved?

The post covid-era world is shifting faster than it did in the previous 20 years. Accelerated changes include workplace operations, culture, and social norms. We see shifts everywhere, ranging from working from home to drones delivering our dinner.  

The workplace cultural evolution drives leadership changes, team dynamics, and operations supporting the transformation. Leadership and management styles were evolving at a moderate pace pre-covid, mostly shifting from autocratic leadership to one of innovation and creation. Covid rapidly ushered in a new era of leadership being challenged by remote workers, employees silently quitting, and customer preference changes.  

Changes Impacting IT 

IT is a relatively new industry with roots in the 1950s and growth in the 1960s. The advent of mainframes, data rooms, and big computers with flashing lights and tape reels buzzing gave way to the beginning of the PC with Microsoft Windows in the early nighties. We saw a quick shift from mainframes to client/server, the explosive growth of the internet, and the popularity of cloud service. Today, we face the newest part of the evolution, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and all its variants. You can read our blog on ‘Evolution of IT in 2023: What Today’s Leader’s Should Know’ here. One common thread through the years ties everything together, the staff.  

Today’s IT staff is barely recognizable from where it all started. IT professionals are better trained from traditional universities to trade schools to specialized certifications. Today’s staff is paid significantly higher proportionately to the early days of IT. The remote workforce can manage entire networks and infrastructure without ever seeing devices or teammates in-person, often managed from half a world away.  

IT Team structures continue to evolve, struggling to keep up with the constant evolution in technology, operations, and cultural shifts. Reactive managers focusing on putting out the proverbial fires do not have time to ensure alignment. Strategic leaders understand business and technology changes, proactively responding and enhancing IT services and cyber security profiles.  

How do you build a team to keep up with the changes? 

Your IT evolution is not about technology. It is about your organization’s vision, mission, and goals. Consider evolving IT services and cyber security posture to elevate your organization’s offering and market position.  It is easy to get wrapped up in the latest technology offering instead of focusing on how the IT evolution serves your organization.  The most important part of evolving and change is the IT teams and staff roles. 

The key to any team is leadership, and this is especially true for IT. Modern IT leadership goes beyond technology. The modern leader is a business leader responsible for information, technology, and cyber security. The modern leader builds flexible, agile teams reflecting adjusted business, market, and technology changes.  

The New IT Roles 

Modern IT roles are constantly changing; gone are the days when organizations had large, centralized staff managing facilities ranging from small data closets to large data farms. Today’s IT engineers are business-focused, understanding organizational requirements and then creating plans with integrated cybersecurity solutions. Other evolved roles include: 

Decentralized IT. The concept of decentralized IT staff is the bane of legacy IT leaders. Modern leaders welcome creative solutions, including putting traditional IT roles within business units. Decentralizing IT only works with solid governance, strong business leadership, and mature thinkers. Placing application and data control in the business unit that leverages it the most often leads to lower costs and higher outcomes.  

Business Partners (BP). Part Project Manager, part Business Analyst, part IT, part Business Unit Staff; this role is the strategic liaison between business units and IT. The BP represents IT to the business unit and the business unit to IT. It is a bi-directional advocate for both sides. Additionally, if the BP represents multiple business units, it will quickly aggregate ideas from multiple units aligning business requirements for the entire organization.  

Application Managers. The advent of Software as a Service (SaaS) elevated business requirements over the rigors of managing centralized software. Consider placing this role in the business unit if it can follow the centralized governance program.  

Data Analysts and Scientists roles unveil potential business opportunities by leveraging the exorbitant volumes of data being amassed. Ideally, this role should be within the business unit, where the data and information are consumed.  

Project Managers. Centralize a strong project management program with defined parameters. Allow business units to manage their own projects if they align with the centralized program.  

How to Get Started with Modernizing your IT Roles 

Every organization is different. Everyone evolves and matures at different rates. Do not try and mimic other organizations. Create a plan and update it along your journey. 

Consider the following steps :

  1. Identify the correct leaders; avoid the common mistake of taking the “smartest person” on the team and promoting them to a leadership role; a great engineer does not necessarily make a great leader.  
  2. Create alignment between IT and all the business units. Understand the organization’s needs and create a plan to stay aligned. 
  3. Discuss strategic technologies and resources required with the business and how your organization will respond.  
  4. Determine the correct balance of centralized and decentralized IT. 
  5. Establish a strong governance program aligning centralized and decentralized IT. 
  6. Identify the roles required to achieve business requirements and evolve.  
  7. Make incremental steps and avoid the big “reorganization” exercise.  
  8. Validate what works, grow what works, and change what does not.