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Grow Your Business Technology

Is IT Becoming Obsolete?

virtual-assitant-11082602 Credit: Dreamstime.com

With cloud computing, smartphones and social media all converging, experts are asking if there is still a need for traditional IT workers.

"It is true that some of that IT infrastructure of managing email and other applications is moving to the cloud, and that has certainly changed the staffing needs of the IT department," said Patricia Sigmon, president of LPS Consulting, an IT-consulting firm. "The younger people just pick up an iPhone and take to it and they are natural users of social media. Things have changed considerably," said Sigmon, who is the author of "Six Steps to Creating Profit: A Guide for Small and Mid-sized Service-Based Businesses" (Wiley, 2010).

While there is still a need for coders, the job descriptions for many IT positions are changing. "They are looking for people with multiple skill sets," said Tammy Browning, senior vice president of Yoh, an IT-staffing firm. "The iPhone and iPad are not only changing the way that people work, they are changing the way that IT jobs are structured. The IT department has to be well-versed in cloud computing and handheld devices as more companies are mobilizing their workforce. IT staffers going forward have to be well versed in how software interacts with mobile devices."

Browning expects many traditional corporate IT workers to end up at technology companies or consulting firms. "The shift doesn’t mean that all of these jobs will all be going away, but these people will be working for different companies," she said. "While there will still be a need for coders, many of those jobs will be at the technology companies themselves, as these tasks are outsourced or pushed to the clouds. Within corporate IT, there will be more of an emphasis on creative thinking and using technology to solve business problems rather than writing code."

With a wealth of outside resources at their disposal, workers are not going to wait around for the IT department to respond to a specific need. "It is no longer OK to just sit in a cubicle and develop code," said Corinne Sklar, vice president of marketing for Bluewolf, a company that provides consulting services to align technology and business process. "IT is being forced out of the back offices and server rooms. Within five-to-10 years, there will be a loss of labor as Baby Boomers leave the workforce. There will be a whole new generation who bring new skills and value to their organizations. There is a greater emphasis on brainstorming about how technology can bring value to the business, and collaboration between technology and the business processes."

IT and marketing functions are intertwined, so there will likely be a good deal of cross-over in these areas, experts said.

"We see a shortage of people who possess marketing skill sets and an understanding of the enabling technology," said Brian Kardon, chief marketing officer of Eloqua, a provider of on-demand revenue performance management solutions. "We are already seeing IT staffers embedded in marketing department[s] as marketing technologists and that trend will continue. The challenge is not putting data in the clouds. CRM, social media and sales-force automation are all cloud-based. The new workforce will have to figure out ways to connect it all."

Brian Finnegan, associate professor and assistant dean of information technology and general education at Peirce College, said they are already training the next generation of IT professionals to have a customer-service mindset.

"There was a time when we taught them how to use the help-desk software," he said. "Now we are teaching them things such as how to deal with frustrated users. Our advisory board of industry professionals is telling us there is a need for people workers who are agile and embrace a new way of working, as part of a team. It is almost to the point where technology is becoming like electricity. You don’t need to be an electrical engineer to turn on the lights."