Is the Golden Age of Information Technology Almost Over?

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Today we have a guest editorial from Andy Warren as Steve is on vacation.

I became an IT professional in 1997 after teaching myself the basics of computers and programming. That first job led to a second and better job based on a reference and some database skills, though the latter were nowhere near expert or DBA level. From there I had the chance to learn and grow to the professional level, perhaps even becoming an expert in one or two areas. I’m sure that’s a path common to many of you reading this today.

I marvel at an industry where someone can go from an outsider to making serious money without a formal education or a decade of apprenticeship, often in just a matter of a few years. For the past 20 years if you were capable of self-teaching and could get your foot in the door, you were just about guaranteed an opportunity to work.

Most of the changes in technology have generated more work, not less. Businesses have thrived on the evolving capabilities we’re built and there is no doubt still room for a lot more growth. So why worry about the end of the golden age? Or even think that we’ve reached the golden age?

I think about what I see in these areas:

  • Declining PC sales. For a long time it was about more power. For now that doesn’t seem to be the case (virtual reality is one technology that might change this)
  • DevOps. It’s taken far, far too long for this to rise to the forefront. We’re finally getting serious about building and deploying. It’s not done yet, but it is happening.
  • The Cloud. For the first few years “the cloud” felt like vaporware. Today I look at it and think “almost”. I think in four years or less the cloud is a first class contender when 80%+ of businesses are looking to add capacity or consolidate.
  • Businesses are really tired of tying up capex that could be used in other places. Ease of scale and pay per usage are attractive to businesses.
  • IT is really becoming a commodity

All of those signal to me that we’re at a tipping point where businesses will outsource and expense the hardware and much of the standard software, shrinking the core IT staff but still keeping enough to work on features and differentiators. If that happens, it will have an impact on our industry. Fewer jobs is one result, but for the jobs that remain there will be far more competition and a much higher bar for the skills needed, making it a lot harder for people to self-start their way into the market.

I don’t think we’re all going to be about of work tomorrow, but I think we all have to think about the skills we should have to make sure that if the market shrinks we’re the ones who keep our jobs. Good advice in any age, but maybe more so now as we try to predict what the next 5-10 years will bring.

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