Versatility is on the rise in infrastructure & operations

By Terrence Cosgrove, Gartner Inc.

As the digital mesh of interconnected people, devices, content and services creates 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. Infrastructure and operations (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.

As will be discussed at the upcoming Gartner CIO & IT Executive Summit in Toronto, 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.

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

As a result, Gartner predicts that by 2021, 40 per cent 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.

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.

Gartner predicts that by 2020, 75 per cent of enterprises will experience visible business disruptions due to I&O skills gaps. This represents an alarming increase from less than 20 per cent 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.

Terrence Cosgrove is research vice president with Gartner, Inc. His coverage involves configuration management, server automation, endpoint management, mobility management and cloud office IT support.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) delivers actionable, objective insight to executives and their teams. Our expert guidance and tools enable faster, smarter decisions and stronger performance on an organization’s mission critical priorities. To learn more, visit

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