IT job roles in flux thanks to consumerization

In the coming years, consumerization could bring serious changes to traditional IT job roles and IT department structures.

Consumerization won't just affect the tools and services IT delivers to end users. In the coming years, the trend is expected to alter the structure of the IT department itself and the IT job roles within.

Even the most forward-looking IT shops may have difficulty accepting the changes that consumerization imposes upon them.

IT can either evolve and survive or go stagnant and die out.

Brandon Porco,
CTO, of Northrop Grumman Corp.

Inventing the scientific future is practically NASA's bread and butter, but it took the federal government sequestration in early 2013 and looming budget cuts for NASA's IT department to embrace consumer services for its employees.

Consumer-driven IT opened a world of possibilities never previously imagined, said Tom Soderstrom, chief technology officer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., during the CITEworld conference in early June. To manage that change, JPL needed to adapt how IT does business.

The lab built an "IT petting zoo" where it experiments with emerging consumer technologies such as 3-D printing, augmented reality and Apple Inc.'s iPhones and iPads that control robots. It built internal websites inspired by Dropbox, Pinterest, Facebook and YouTube for employee collaboration. It has even held crowd-sourced application-building challenges that are open to the public.

To top it off, Soderstrom said they have created new jobs and roles within IT, such as a Head Body Part Maker that oversees JPL's 3-D printer, specifically for guiding these new consumer-driven initiatives.

Departments will need to be agile and think outside the box despite the need for those traditional IT job roles. For example, it could be important to have at least one member of IT be a futurist or technology forecaster, according to Brandon Porco, CTO of Northrop Grumman Corp., a defense technology company based in Falls Church, Va.

"I don't know if there will be an IT organization in five years, or at least it won't look like what we've been used to," Porco said. "But IT can either evolve and survive or go stagnant and die out."

"IT is going to need people a little left-of-center to figure out new technology they can take advantage of to better enable the business," he added.

It's not enough to look at Google Glass and shrug it off or worry what kind of management and security software it will require. Instead, IT should look at Google Glass and imagine how it can be used by mechanics or field service technicians. Can 3-D printers be used to build parts rather than buy them from a competitor? Does it make sense to morph the help desk from an email ticketing system into an Apple Genius Bar-style kiosk?

What will new IT job roles look like?

Some have suggested organizations need new positions that can be phased in and out over time, like a chief mobility officer, within the IT department to aid in an efficient transition to a modern infrastructure environment. Other industry watchers believe IT will be more closely coupled with other departments, such as marketing or legal, which are by and large buying much of their own technology now anyway.

"Some companies will need to make a few small tweaks here or there to [their] IT structure in the coming years to deal with consumerization," said Dan Garcia, an enterprise architect at MassMutual Financial Group, an insurance company based in Springfield, Mass. "Companies will need to adopt more pervasive technologies to attract and retain talent."

Not everyone is convinced such sweeping changes will come to their IT department.

More on IT job roles and consumerization

VMware CTO: 'There are roles that don't yet exist'

IT business transformation will change CIO's role

"We're just trying to wrap our head around BYOD [bring your own device], so something tells me we're not going to blow up our entire IT department just yet," said a systems administrator at a Massachusetts-based energy company who requested anonymity.

The role of social, mobile and the cloud shifts IT departments to become agents of enablement instead of merely being responsible for keeping systems up and running, said John Mancini, president of AIIM International, an organization for information management professionals based in Silver Spring, Md.

It's the difference, he said, between a railroad company that takes passengers in one direction and a taxicab company that takes customers exactly where they want to go. IT is still the one driving, but it takes different skills to drive a cab versus a train, he noted.

Those new skills could potentially turn IT departments into more of a consultant role, said Mark Ridley, director of technology at reed.co.uk, a recruitment agency based in London.

"A lot of times people are doing their job in spite of the systems being offered by IT," Ridley said. "Can we be doing more analysis? Can we do more relationship management to give employees what they want instead of being bogged down by engineering? It's hard not to think about what IT's role in an organization should be going forward."

The tasks and the focus may change, but the structure will remain the same, said Raj Sabhlok, president of Zoho Corporation, a software vendor based in San Francisco.

"You'll still have an applications admin but instead of patching or updating software they'll be responsible for access, privilege and roles management," he said. "It's just a different way of delivering and supporting applications within an organizations when they move to cloud or SaaS apps."

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Has consumerization changed your IT job role?
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increasing pressure for BYOD policies and infrastructure.
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We are having to spend more time on better business needs alignment and agility is a big role. Automation is becoming a big player in getting IT Infrastructure roles into the spaces that allow for synergy, diversity, compliance and improved IT mergeance.
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"Agents of enablement" perhaps an apt title, but the reality is that you are a purchasing agent. Those who maintain IT infrastructure are by and large technical folks, with training, certification and experience, veritably some are like a doctor, but in networking, coding, or systems engineering. What some businesses are doing is now purchasing that expertise from cloud vendors. What is happening to IT is not consumerization, but rather commercialization. It does not take much knowledge to buy from a cloud vendor, and hardly can be called IT of any type. This article is written by the usual non-technical folks who don't know what it takes to keep an infrastructure running and secure at all hours of the day and night. And most importantly, they don't know why they shouldn't be using the cloud....and if you don't know why you shouldn't do something, you don't know why you should do it...
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I am working on it :-)
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In my opinion I don't see the IT deparment vanish completely because they will still be needed to Support the back end and ensure the devices can access internal systems from anywhere. I don't see IT as being merely the "agentes of enablement". There is much more than this behind the scenes.
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Now I need to be aware of the new features of a lot of devices at the rithm the are been released, in order to give advice not just to executives, but also to the rest of users need to do something with their devaices. They use to rank you in relation with your knowledge on things that apear to be trivial and beyond IT.
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I agree, its rather a "commercialization" issue
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Not yet. But seeing it in near future the way my employer purchuing new techs. We will definatly have to keep this change in our radar as its going to heppen if not today must be tomorrow.
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I think that things will change in the next couple of years. Consumers are now starting to rely on clouded applications and these applications are more efficient because the consumer needs only a browser to make the connection. Of course, having a browser based connection provides flexibility to the consumer because he or she is no longer anchored to a specific piece of hardware.
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Software companies should move to public for development using cloud such that qualified professional can sit at room and deliver the same which requires low development and infrastructure cost.
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Not working in "bleeding edge" of technology. Volumes are still in core process and technologies
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Basically IT is an cost to every non IT and IT company to establish the business in the current market, but there are lots of benefits of IT for the customer and business prospective which will give best service and business in the current competitive market.

Khandesha Kothale
Country Manager-IT
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DoD is slow to change
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redefined set of responsibilities
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It allows me to work remotely and enables me to be more productive.
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The Role requires a wider breath of knowledge than just the traditional IT.
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change is driven by the electronics available on the consumer market - currently all the changes in Mobile Devices. This is driving the access model to deliver the services anywhere, anytime to any device.
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As a consultant I provide insights on services improvements to companies (at all levels). Right now the conversation is at multiple levels and has multiple audiences. Very, very interesting times.
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End users want things customized on an individual level these days. Just like Mobile/cell phones can be customized to suit each users needs, IT in organisations is now experiencing this expected behaviour from their 'information professionals'
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because very large it experience employee is not good salary.
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