It’s Time for Infrastructure and Operations to Get Versatile

I&O organizations will lead the shift from IT specialists to versatilists.

Infrastructure and operations (I&O) are changing. During the next five years, I&O organizations will implement vastly different roles and technologies. I&O leaders will need to identify the skills, technologies and processes required to ensure their organizations’ continued relevance.

The digital mesh of interconnected people, devices, content and services will create new business and operating models by connecting people, objects, data and services. Speed and uncertainty will increasingly be the norm, while the profound impact of artificial intelligence (AI) will involve high levels of experimentation as organizations learn how to apply it to different business scenarios. I&O will have a key role to play in providing an organizational “nerve center” that can quickly sense, respond to, and provision applications and infrastructures.

“IT operations organizations are being forced to redefine their roles and value propositions, but the big question is whether they will have the relevant skills required to make a success of their digital business initiatives,” says Terrence Cosgrove, research vice president at Gartner.

Clearly the IT workforce is at a tipping point. Specialists accounted for approximately 42% of the entire IT workforce in 2017. However, bimodal and digital business initiatives demand a much wider and more versatile skill set.

The key to delivering digital value at scale is having the right people talent.

As a result, Gartner predicts that by 2021, 40% of IT staff will be versatilists — those who can hold multiple roles, most of which will be business-, rather than technology-, related. Tellingly, this shift will originate first in I&O and will then be followed by an increase in nontechnical IT managers and leaders with versatilist profiles. After the leadership wave, marketing-oriented digital business efforts, such as business intelligence (BI), will be next, followed by versatilists in software development, digital product management, project/program/portfolio management, customer experience management and architecture.

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These waves of change will have enormous implications for IT employment. Many CIOs believe digital is all about new technologies, but the biggest role for digital technologies will be in supporting people and making their work and personal lives easier, more convenient and more efficient. It will be people-centric roles and experiences that provide critical support to digital business transformation initiatives.

“The key to delivering digital value at scale is having the right people talent,” says Cosgrove. “Currently there just isn’t enough talent with the digital dexterity for hire, so I&O leaders will need to develop this core competency in the talent they already have.”

Gartner predicts that by 2020, 75% of enterprises will experience visible business disruptions due to I&O skills gaps.

Gartner predicts that by 2020, 75% of enterprises will experience visible business disruptions due to I&O skills gaps. This represents an alarming increase from less than 20% in 2016. “Closing the gap will require a considerable shift in mindset from I&O leaders who have tended to focus on the “what” of I&O jobs — technical knowledge, education and training, for example. Moving into digital business and new ways of working in I&O, these leaders now need to focus on the “how,” that is, the behavioral competencies,” says Cosgrove.

Corporate “digital business universities” will eventually emerge to close the skills gap, while formal mentoring programs for and within I&O will become standard for individual development. In the meantime, I&O leaders should work closely with HR to develop a tactical skills gap analysis and find tools and methods for improving I&O skills.

Gartner clients can read more in “Predicts 2018: IT Operations,” by Terrence Cosgrove, et al. This research is part of the Gartner Special Report “Predicts 2018: Stimulate Creativity to Generate Success,” a collection of research that focuses on predictions to help support the goals of capturing value from new opportunities and overcoming threats.

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