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Why Most Enterprise IT Roles are Transforming

Savvy CEOs have high expectations that their Information Technology (IT) organization will be a strategic enabler of Digital Transformation. However, there is often a mismatch with the IT talent demand, and their internal IT team's digital business skills.

The roles and activities performed by IT professionals must evolve dramatically due to the demand for convergence of modern software development technologies, cloud computing platforms, and the creation of Everything-as-a-Service offerings.

Many IT professionals will find themselves in hybrid roles that combine traditional development activities with activities that formerly were associated with operations professionals who historically had few or no development-oriented responsibilities.

Enterprise IT Role Market Development

A new International Data Corporation (IDC) market study provides an extended census and forecast with detail for both traditional IT operations roles, and these new hybrid roles. The data shows that a dramatic once-in-a-generation shift in the composition of the IT workforce is underway.

"This shift is akin to what took place during the years from 1997 to 2002 when the emergence of the commercial internet and the .com era turned priorities upside down for much of corporate IT and led to the hiring of vast numbers of web developers and networking experts," said Al Gillen, vice president at IDC.

The increased adoption of cloud computing is driving similar transitions today in IT teams supporting this modern deployment model. In developing a data set, IDC used the following definitions to describe the IT job roles in their market study:

  • DataOps uses a combination of technologies and methods with a focus on quality for consistent and continuous delivery of data value, combining integrated and process-oriented perspectives on data with automation and methods analogous to agile software engineering.
  • DevOps uses collaborative, agile approaches paired with extensive automation development pipelines, testing, infrastructure configuration, provisioning, security controls, and life-cycle continuous integration (CI) for continuous development and continuous delivery (CD).
  • DevSecOps uses a methodology that asserts that security needs to be prioritized at the beginning of the DevOps delivery pipeline. It enables DevOps teams, collaborating with security, to act as key stakeholders in defining and implementing security policies.
  • ITOps uses technology and methods to provide routine, scheduled tasks and unscheduled support activities related to IT systems. ITOps professionals may spend as much as 50 percent of their time engaged with business users in support, the elicitation of requirements, and performing contingent or secondary business tasks.
  • MLOps uses technology and processes to streamline and automate the entire machine learning (ML) life cycle. The key capabilities include managing and automating ML data and pipelines, ML code, and ML models from data ingestion to model deployment, tracking, and monitoring. MLOps uses similar principles to DevOps practices, applied to machine learning processes.
  • Platform engineering is a discipline of designing and building tool chains and workflows that enable self-service capabilities focused on managing and optimizing the software delivery process to deploy applications and services to cloud platforms.
  • Site reliability engineering (SRE) includes software engineers who build scripts to automate IT operations tasks such as maintenance and support. To enable efficiency and reliability, SRE teams fix operational bugs and remove manual work in rote tasks.
  • SysAdmins configure, maintain, and support computer systems and systems of systems using a variety of tools and methods appropriate to the system or systems of systems in use. They may spend as much as 50 percent of their time engaged with business users in defining key requirements, business goals, and adaptations needed to maintain fit for use and fit for purpose.

The IDC study uncovered a substantial shift in the responsibilities of IT professionals over the next five years. The data indicates that legacy IT professionals in Operational roles are facing a transition to a more Technical or focused role that very often may involve some level of software development work.

Accordingly, the traditional roles of IT operations (ITOps) and system administrators (SysAdmins), respectively, are projected to decline at compound annual growth rates (CAGR) of -8.2 percent and -7.8 percent over the 2022–2027 forecast period.

By comparison, the recently emerging roles of DataOps and MLOps are projected to have CAGRs of 17.9 percent and 20.1 percent respectively, although the growth is starting from comparatively small numbers.

DevOps and DevSecOps roles are also forecast to continue growing with DevSecOps roles showing a double-digit CAGR over the forecast period.

DevSecOps roles will benefit from the growing application threat landscape and the dependence that organizations have on their software capabilities to be competitive, combined with the recognition that incorporating security as early as possible in the software development life cycle reduces costs and increases quality.

Meanwhile, DevOps growth will be muted somewhat by the growth in platform engineering roles, which will absorb some of these same functions.

Outlook for IT Professional Skills Development

"This census and forecast data was developed as a companion product to IDC's developer census and forecast, rounding out our count of IT professionals involved in today's modern data center and overseeing cloud-based deployments," said Arnal Dayaratna, vice president at IDC.

This collaborative effort involved IDC analysts covering artificial intelligence, data management, software development, DevOps, DevSecOps, and IT operations and platform services. This data set enables IDC to produce deeper cross tabs of this market in the future.

That said, I believe the average enterprise IT organization doesn't have many team members with 50 percent of their time engaged with business users. In most cases, the main reason is the lack of skills and experience. In some cases, it's also due to a lack of interest in gaining business-oriented skills.

Traditional IT vendors often have similar skill deficiency issues, and therefore are unable to help their customers discover and select best-fit solutions for their Line of Business leader's desired outcomes. Therefore, vendor technology or product-centered professionals must also transition, in-sync with their enterprise buyer needs.

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