The explosion in data that characterises our age has prompted countless articles on its potential impact on businesses and their customers.
Less attention’s been given to the likely impact on IT teams, who may be the most affected of all.
It’s worth giving this serious thought, as the way that IT teams work will have a major influence on many other aspects of business, from recruitment and training policies right through to areas such as goal setting and salary levels.
At Sundata, we’ve identified five key trends that are changing how IT teams work and have also stuck our necks out and predicted the likely outcomes of those trends over time.
Automation in IT Infrastructure
Automation and intelligence is becoming increasingly embedded in infrastructure, databases and middleware. Various, repeatable aspects of systems deployment and management are becoming automated, and time to deploy and support newer technologies is reducing all the time.
This won’t eliminate the need for skilled engineers – while automation can improve productivity, it should free up resources to focus on more high-value activities in support of the business.
We see less need over time for the kind of deep and narrow skillsets that were traditionally required for things like optimisation of disk pools or layers in storage. Engineers will need a broader range of skills and be ready to adapt quickly to a fast-changing landscape.
A move away from monolithic applications development projects
Just as automation is enabling rapid development and testing (followed, where appropriate, by rapid failure), the cloud is driving a move away from centralised computing power and associated monolithic applications.
This change is already well underway, but far from complete. Large teams that have traditionally been needed to build large-scale applications are changing characteristics, their ecological niche being occupied instead by app developers who understand the API economy. In this world, being able to connect platforms, apps and systems so they can call on or share data is more valuable than an ability to build the Taj Mahal. An ability to leverage existing technology for new purposes may deliver more value than creating entirely new technology.
This trend also means the most successful IT people will think more like business strategists than technicians. They’ll see how to take advantage of technology to deliver new business results – leaving development to others. Much shorter cycle times for development of smaller enhancements will also change the way the business articulates its needs to developers.
The explosion in data is unstoppable, fuelled not only by technology but also by the demands of business to leverage existing data throughout the enterprise. That means different parts of the system need to be able to interact more effectively.
Consequently, the number of integration points within business systems is growing. If you think of each system as a machine, it’s as if each one is developing more and more moving parts.
The heroes in this world are those who can make disparate moving parts work well together – to talk to each other and continue doing so as the system becomes more and more complex.
According to one study, the global system integration services market will likely reach nearly US$500 billion by 2021, driven by increased adoption of cloud-based integration solutions, rapid implementation of big data and analytics integration services, and the emergence of hybrid integration technology.
In 2014, Kaspersky Lab said it had detected 325,000 new malware files every day. How can you possibly provide security against that number of threats? Machine learning is the answer. Despite the massive number, each new piece of malware has almost the same code as previous versions. Machine learning can easily cope with minor changes in code – so the malware threat is not nearly as dramatic as it first appears.
Now translate that into other business scenarios such as airport security, financial trading, self-driving cars and healthcare. Machine learning, and associated technologies like deep learning, cognitive learning and artificial intelligence, are cracking open new opportunities all the time.
IT people wanting to keep pace with these opportunities must become adept at recognising new opportunities (they rarely announce themselves) and creating strong business cases so the enterprise can see the worth in pursuing them. For many IT people, this may require a massive leap in perspective.
You can read my recent article about how artificial intelligence will change how we work, here.
Blockchain means new business opportunities
When most people hear “blockchain” they think Bitcoin or some other cryptocurrency. But that’s a sideshow. The real impact – and opportunity – for business is blockchain’s ability to remove friction from business transactions, often eliminating middlemen like banks and lawyers, while also providing a permanent, verifiable, tamper-proof record of agreements and transactions.
Thanks to blockchain, transactions will happen much faster within and across national borders.
It would be a brave person who said how quickly this change will happen – as Harvard Business Review recently stated, the technological hurdles are large and complex, and the security issues not yet fully resolved. Even harder to predict is how quickly – and possibly whether at all – blockchain technology will be widely embraced.
Nonetheless, we predict the growth and spread of blockchain technology in the near to medium future, to the extent that IT professionals can no longer afford to ignore it. As with other trends noted here, the winners will not be those who master the technology itself, but those who see opportunities to implement it for business gain – particularly around supply chains, provenance and other areas where secure validation is critical.
Where to next for you?
Maybe you’re looking at brand new infrastructure options. Perhaps you’re deploying new workloads such NoSQL, HDP and SAP HANA or moving to a containerisation approach. Each will perform differently depending on the application, architecture and processing demand.
To develop a deeper understanding and learn how IBM Power systems can help you get insights faster out of today’s new workloads, watch my recent 30-minute webinar here.