Mercenary developers – the future of IT?

Posted by on Jul 26, 2011 in News & commentary | 0 comments

Today I read two interesting blog posts predicting radical changes in IT management and employment.  Both writers seem to see similar forces at work, but have rather different views of their ultimate effects.

The world they see is being driven by a confluence of demographic and technological changes.  On the technical side, the consumerization of technology, the cloud, virtualization, softare as a service and mobility will drive massive changes in how information is processed, businesses are automated, and infrastructure acquired and maintained.  On the demographic side, younger, more tech-savvy workers will be more independent, needing less help from IT departments.

Jason Hiner, the editor-in-chief at Tech Republic, thinks that these forces will drive jobs out of IT and that in the future there will only be three types of IT jobs: consultants, project managers, developers. His view is that organizations will not want IT people on staff.  Consultants will work for giant outsourcing firms.  Project managers will work within companies but report in to business functions.  And developers will be like mercenaries, hiring out their services for those with the cash to pay.  Hiner seems to think that the IT department we currently know will go away because we’re at the end of the road for major innovations in applying technology to business problems.

Dan Woods, writing over Forbes sees much the same landscape, but predicts a world of innovative chaos in which CIOs and IT departments are being outmatched by fast-moving reality. He sees a future in which IT departments become overwhelmed and broken before rising Phoenix-like to figure out how to handle the surge of disruptive technology.

Both are predicting that a good deal of the control over IT will shift from the CIO and the IT department into the business functions who consume the technology.

I’m not quite convinced that either scenario will play out as described.  I do agree that the forces at work will encourage departmental leaders to bypass IT whenever possible and to take more control of their technology.

But, I’m not sure that it will become a long lasting trend.  I am reminded of an old saying from a boss of mine.  “Everyone here wants to be a project manager…except those who have done it.”  If the fast-moving forces at work overwhelm IT departments, what will they do to business functions that have other things to do, like their own work?

I suspect that this will create an environment in which we have an opportunity to work more effectively with our business partners.  If we don’t take it, they will be tempted to take responsibility for their own IT.

What do you think will happen over the next 5 years?  What will IT of the future look like?

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