In the past year, cloud computing and how organizations would take advantage of this new “more scalable, lower cost” direction surfaced as the hottest topics. Shortly after, the emergence of BI and predictive analytics jolted organizations into thinking about how to make better use of their data. Of late, I have noticed more and more articles related to artificial intelligence, augmented reality, robotics, and IoT.
These innovative technologies have had, and will continue to have, broad impact that we don’t yet fully understand. Organizations that adopt these technologies will require new business models and processes. We will need to understand who our customers are and what they expect. The world of work as we know it today will continue to evolve at a faster pace—this is why adaptability and resilience are critical to a vibrant career.
When I started my career in IT, I caught the end of the mainframe era and waltzed straight into the client/server era. Not to say that there was little innovation during those years, but it felt more measured, and technology was not as ubiquitous as it is today. Technology now envelops and influences our behavior. We remain in control but, let’s be honest, how many of you sleep with your phone by your bed? We now feel a sense of anxiety if phones are not in hand around the clock. The other day I saw a TV commercial for a refrigerator that takes a snapshot of the inside each time the door is open and sends it to a smartphone. Is this necessary? Have we gotten to the point where our appliances have to tell us when to go grocery shopping?
Having said that, we all lead busy lives, and I understand the appeal of convenience and the increased efficiency potential inherent with this new wave of connected technology (Connecting my fridge up to my in-home smart grid would save me a bit on my electrical bill, but really?). Where thought leadership falls off, as I see it, is in a lack of dialogue and planning around the very real job losses resulting from robotics tackling more and more routine work that once kept many of us gainfully employed. Some experts insist that displaced workers will now be free to pursue more fulfilling careers, which may be true in some cases, but there will be, without question, collateral damage on a grander scale. What happens to a person mid-career who supports a family or elderly parent and has worked at the same organization for most, if not all, of his or her working life? According to The Wall Street Journal, the number of Americans working in a narrow set of repeatable tasks (welders, bank tellers, etc.) has fallen from 40.5% in 1979 to 31.2% in 2014. These downward trends are by and large consistent across industries.
Overall, I have to say that my IT journey has been energizing, fulfilling, and tremendously satisfying. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t felt as if I have helped someone in a small way. Not every day has been joyful, but, overall, I feel lucky to have been in an industry that has seen so much innovation, change, and impact. The benefits definitely outweigh the disadvantages, by far. What I see ahead is continual innovation and change, but at an ever-accelerating rate. Before that pace picks up even more, I believe it is time that, as an industry, we start actively viewing ourselves as strategic contributors: Raise the hard questions; offer differing views; and find solutions. As president of the IOUG, it must be obvious by now that I am a passionate advocate, contributor, user, and supporter of the technology user community. We learn from each other, share with one another, and advocate as a community with one, larger voice—and it is now more important than ever to engage with a trusted, professional community. In this day and age, it is good business for all of us to contribute.
I leave you with questions to ponder. Every action has a reaction, as Isaac Newton famously said. I say, every technology innovation has a consequence. So, here are questions for each of us: How do we, as invested professionals, contribute? What role do we choose to play? What outcome do we aim to achieve?