Today’s workplace is almost unrecognizable compared to a decade ago. Workers have traded their desktops and landlines for VPN-connected laptops and smartphones, and 9-to-5 schedules for flexible working and telecommuting. As a result, the face of IT, and the role of the IT professional, has changed dramatically. New devices, along with the cloud, are enabling a new way of working, making IT the invisible glue that holds businesses together.
This new way of working, which is so dependent on technology, has been shown to increase productivity and profitability. That means business performance rests on the shoulders of us, the IT professionals, now more than ever. As businesses strive to meet the demands of the modern workforce, we’re being forced to expand beyond the comfortable confines of company-owned devices and on-premises technology. In short, because work is now done everywhere, IT is now everywhere. And it’s time for the world to open its eyes to the role we play in it all.
Workplace shifts, IT Shifts
Newer generations of workers demand a greater work-life balance, and it’s up to us to provide the latest technology to make it possible. In fact, to attract and retain the best talent, 80% of companies globally have introduced some type of flexible working policy, enabling employees to vary hours and work remotely.
As the lines between work and life continue to blur, we now play a critical role in making sure the two blend seamlessly. In fact, while flexible and mobile working is a great benefit for employees, it's placing greater demand on us IT professionals to manage technology outside our traditional scope of control. Not only are we expected to ensure the performance of company-owned end user devices and other technology, as well as on-premises infrastructure, we are now responsible for technology we don’t own, such as end users’ personal devices connected to corporate networks along with SaaS applications and the cloud service provider networks they rely on.
To prove this, SolarWinds recently conducted a survey of nearly 900 end users (not IT professionals). The results are not surprising if you're involved in ITs. End users are connecting more devices to corporate networks, including their personal devices, than ever before. In fact, 47% of employed U.S. workers connect more personally owned electronic devices to their employers’ networks than they did 10 years ago, to the tune of an average of two more personally-owned devices per user. Not only that, but a majority (62%) of survey respondents said that they expect the same level of IT support for their own mobile devices as they get with company-owned equipment.
Beyond the flood of devices we are expected to support, users tap a wide variety of cloud-based business applications. In fact, more than half (53%) of the end users we surveyed said they use cloud-based applications while at work. Once again, despite the fact that we often don’t own these application nor traditionally even had much visibility into their potential performance bottlenecks, we are expected to support them as if we do. -- Eighty-seven percent said they expect us to ensure the performance of any cloud-based applications used at work, with 68% going so far to say it’s our fault if they do not perform as expected.
Beyond the cloud, half of the end users surveyed said they regularly use work-related applications outside the office, with 62% saying they expect these applications to perform just as well and receive just as much support from us as if they were being used in the office.
Of course, it’s not all bad; this greater responsibility we face is leading to booming demand for qualified IT pros. As a result, jobs in the IT sector are expected to grow to about 4.4 million in 2024, up from around 3.9 million in 2014, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. And despite two months of decreased overall job growth, IT occupations grew by 74,000 net jobs in June, the bureau reported. Additionally, according to a 2016 report from Dice, an IT jobs portal, 51% of managers and recruiters said that hiring software developers was a top priority in 2016. So, even though the demands being placed on us might not always be pleasant, they certainly help ensure job security and a bright future.
An ode to the modern IT pro
You and I both know that IT is often a thankless job, running all the technology the world relies on, but often only becoming visible to end users when problems arise. However, as the world relies more and more on technology for every facet of business, we have the opportunity to step out of the shadows of our server racks and become more than just “fixers.” We have the opportunity to become strategic business advisors.
Taking advantage of this opportunity is up to us. But getting the recognition we deserve for all that we already do shouldn’t sit solely upon our own shoulders. Day in and day out, we IT pros make everything work. In small recognition of that effort, at least there is IT Professionals Day.
Taking place each year on the third Tuesday in September, IT Professionals Day is a holiday for us. A day that celebrates all IT pros regardless of discipline --not just systems administrators, but network engineers, database administrators, information security professionals, software developers, IT support technicians, and all others serving in IT-related roles. So, no matter what type of IT professional you are, please give yourself a pat on the back and bask in the knowledge that IT really is everywhere, and you and I are the ones who make it happen.
And from one IT professional to another, may I be the first to wish you a happy IT Professionals Day!