The impact of COVID-19 on the workforce is making the IT world more challenging for infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders, but it's also a chance for those leaders to drive some serious business changes and increase resiliency, according to analysts presenting at this week’s virtual Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Conference.
“I&O leaders need to drive change, not simply absorb it,” said Jeffrey Hewitt, research vice president at Gartner, to the virtual audience. I&O leaders are expected to deliver more adaptable and resilient service from anywhere — and for an increasingly distributed workforce, Hewitt said.
Other changes are afoot as well.
“With over 40 per cent of organisations’ staff now acting as business technologists, we have a wider variety of users depending on IT departments today than ever before,” said Douglas Toombs, research vice president at Gartner.
By building adaptive platforms that are loosely coupled, but tightly integrated, I&O can empower creators of all types of systems throughout the organisation. “As hyperautomation is a critical path to achieve growth and operational excellence, I&O leaders must make automation a first-class discipline in everything they do,” Toombs said.
By using hyperautomation, I&O can pave the way for intelligence systems, such as AIOps and incident response automation, that play a key role in the day-to-day operations of IT. Gartner estimates that by 2025, 60 per cent of I&O teams will use AI-augmented automation across their organisations, up from one per cent in 2020.
Hyperautomation is only one of the key developments Gartner said will influence I&O in the next 12-18 months. The other key I/O trends Gartner expects to see include:
How quickly companies can deliver infrastructure components at the right place — colocation, data centre, at the edge — and time is the driving theme behind this trend, Hewitt said.
The idea is to reduce infrastructure deployment times as well as fuel enterprise responsiveness to business needs and anywhere operations, Hewitt said. On the plus side, the trend can offer customers a better negotiation position through the comparison of providers and options. But, it also can increase complexity and it requires a provider to be responsive to speed and costs if they are late with delivery or implementation, Hewitt said.
Digital-native companies are those that made public cloud and other digital capabilities part of their business model from the start – companies such as Door Dash and Uber, Hewitt said.
“There is an opportunity for traditional I&O organisations to leverage their digital-native counterparts that thrived during the pandemic to also produce highly agile, innovative and competitive offerings themselves, or join those that can,” said Hewitt. It's an opportunity for I&O to lead with innovation in traditional businesses, but it requires a cultural shift from the old ways of doing business, he said.
By 2025, 70 per cent of I&O leaders who ignore innovation will be marginalised to legacy system support only, Hewitt added.
This trend reflects the need for the growing number of management and monitoring tools – from IT service management (ITSM) to artificial intelligence operations (AIOps) and more – to be brought together in a single, comprehensive tool. Such integration is indispensable in the adoption of composable technologies, one of the three domains of business composability, which allows components of systems and data to combine more quickly and easily.
“What we are seeing is a trend for IO to integrate results from the many infrastructure and operation management tools and the ability to bring that data into more of a single view so that organisations can get better results and act more quickly on the data," Hewitt said. This is another area where the use of hyperautomation would help these management views come together quickly and efficiently.
The downside of this trend is that the integration of the output from different tools is not easily enabled and it requires greater collaboration amongst vendors and different parts of the organisation, Hewitt said.
“I&O leaders can extend composability throughout the entire technology stack by inventorying their current management tool usage and identifying those that can be combined to form a more valuable, all-inclusive portfolio that improves I&O agility and drives optimal business results,” Hewitt said.
As businesses continue to expand their data collection and holding efforts, I&O will be instrumental in guiding the policies surrounding the processing, retention and legal requirements of enterprise data.
Cloud and edge implementations will drive the proliferation, Hewitt said. Data management challenges will increase, and creating effective data retention policies will become paramount. The key here is for organisation to determine the right data to retain, Hewitt said.
“I&O workforces need to work closely with their chief data officer to expand data literacy and effectively support data management across the enterprise,” said Hewitt.
Interesting fact: Gartner expects that by 2025, CIOs will fill 65 per cent of open I&O leader positions with people who have no I&O experience, Hewitt stated.
“Technical skills’ shelf life is shortening,” said Hewitt. “As the I&O function is asked to provide more business justification for what they do, organisations are looking for I&O new hires to have business backgrounds rather than strictly technical degrees.”
Driving this trend is the fact that the rapidly changing and distributed technology environment threatens the IT talent gap and requires new skills. According to a recent Gartner survey, 64 per cent of I&O leaders point to insufficient skills and resources as one of their greatest challenges this past year.
It’s a skills shift that aligns with more public cloud and edge usage and integrates effective business-based thinking, Hewitt said. The downside is that it challenges traditional hiring approaches and requires cultural changes, he said.
Career ladders to career lattices
As the appeal of business acumen increases, I&O will move away from single domain career paths driven by workloads and legacy technical skills. In fact, 29 per cent of the skills in an average I&O job posting in 2018 will not be needed by 2022, according to Gartner data.
Instead, I&O teams are moving laterally across a competency-based lattice that takes into account softer skills and emphasises both learning agility and cross-domain expertise, Hewitt said. So instead of a single ladder path to a technical career, organisations will have to offer a latticework of options in order to offer employees more options.
“While this certainly requires a mindset adjustment for some of the more tenured I&O workers, there will be much more opportunity within I&O teams as they move away from territorial thinking and toward fostering a collaborative environment,” Hewitt said.