Do you remember when you joined the tech industry and why you did it? I remember thinking I was going to change the world with all this new and awesome technology. I thought my work would have a direct impact on my company and our customers.
The reality was quite different. In the late 1990s, in one of my first tech roles, I worked in IT at the United Nations. I was geeking out with software, helping people get their laptops and fixing things when they broke, but I wasn’t really changing the world.
Back then, IT was the gatekeeper for the whole organization. Nobody got any tech without us. We decided who got what and when. We were always busy—racking and stacking, patching systems, handing out laptops, and working the help desk. But did we work on what mattered most? Were we changing the world? Hardly.
By the mid-2000s, we started to realize there was a better way. Cloud, SaaS, and agile-based programs started to develop and flourish. IT’s main job evolved from supporting the infrastructure to providing services across the organization.
Today we think of the colleagues we serve as our customers. We do our best to meet their needs. We’ve made progress, but where is our profession heading? What is the future of IT?
I believe this future is trending towards using tech to deliver great experiences at work. Not just UI experiences, but experiences that drive significant productivity for workers and companies.
When I look around at the technology I use at home, it feels like the future has already arrived. I can get my entire grocery list purchased and delivered within hours. Standing on a street corner, I can order a ride with one click. With three more clicks, I can buy that car.
The tech we use at work is a whole different story. What if your mouse breaks? Chances are you have to file a ticket requesting a new mouse. Usually you don’t hear back about the ticket, so you follow up with an email, and then a phone call or two. That’s a lot of work … for a mouse.
Fear the routine
On the practitioner side, routine work is destroying the promise of IT. How much time does your team spend every day just handling tickets? For most industry vets I talk to, the answer is “Way too much.” We’re caught in a vicious cycle where we can’t build better service experiences because we’re too busy navigating the current experience.
If we’re serious about providing great experiences, we must deliver what the business wants, efficiently, at great speed. We need to be agile, so we can adapt quickly to changing needs.
We need to get better at using machine learning. Today’s artificially intelligent systems are still scratching the surface. Despite years of hype, AI has yet to deliver consistent, high-value outcomes.
And we need to improve how we take action. IT teams have worked very hard over the years, but our effort has outpaced the value returned.
Agile, intelligent, automated
Today’s IT operations are too brittle. There’s too much to monitor, too many tools, too much data, too much swivel chair. Everyone is moving to cloud and trying to get more speed.
IT needs more agility so it can adapt quickly to market demands and deliver technology efficiently. The DevOps ethos is a good start, but we really need to look across the entire IT value chain. It’s about getting the right work to the right team at the right time, and then optimizing workflows from end to end.
Humans and machines are generating a tremendous amount of data, much with untapped potential. IT needs intelligence that pulls the signals from the noise. Imagine being alerted to all the systems that were impacted by a zero-day hack with their relative criticalities so you could focus remediation efforts. AI will earn its keep through such outcomes.
Lastly, we need automation—the engine that delivers your outcome quickly and predictably. Digital workflows and machine learning can eliminate the endless spin cycle of level-one incidents. And we can automate corrective actions when an issue is detected.
With these three elements in place, employees and customers will enjoy work experiences that rival or surpass their consumer experiences. As technologists, our job is to build that future. Isn’t that why we got into this business in the first place?