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A Job a Little Too Well Done
They came, they saw, they automated, now Gartner predicts that as many as 50 percent of US IT operational jobs may vanish over the next twenty years as a result of the automation of IT infrastructure services through utility computing models.
While the industry was focusing on the effects of outsourcing, automation joined the ranks of job security threats facing IT departments in the US and western Europe.
"The trend towards offshore services has monopolized attention in terms of job losses," said Gianluca Tramacere, an analyst in the IT Services and Sourcing group at Gartner. "There is less awareness that increasing reliance on highly automated infrastructures will significantly reduce the need for manual procedures and direct involvement of the workforce. IT automation can mean greater flexibility and cost efficiency for businesses."
And this, Tramacere added, will make it harder for IT personnel to defend their jobs. The shift toward automation, fueled by the global economy and competitive pressures, is seen as an inevitable consequence of IT progress.
Tramacere stressed that this will require IT staff, both in-house and those employed by external service providers, to move their skills further up the value chain.
Accessing technology infrastructure rather than owning it is becoming more prevalent, according to Gartner, and management is becoming more willing to give up more highly customized, internal IT infrastructure in favor of greater flexibility in accessing IT functionality.
"External service providers, including IBM and HP, are investing heavily in new technologies that will allow the automated delivery of IT services," said Tramacere. "Ultimately, organizations will be driven to access utility infrastructure services more frequently and to reduce the size of their internal IT operations."
Donna Scott, an analyst at Gartner, likened the shift to changes in the manufacturing sector, which lost many jobs to automation over the past few decades. She said the standardization of IT infrastructure, applications, and processes will increase productivity and lead to a change in skill needs.
Scott predicts demand will grow for employees with IT architecture skills and those with business and customer-liaison knowledge, and cites project management as an example of an area where IT labor costs will rise.
According to Gartner, over the next five to ten years, business processes will become less reliant on people and more focused on IT. Analysts suggest that while automating existing processes will be key, it will be more important to use IT to speed up decision making, respond faster to change, and make more effective use of assets.
"Once fully available, real-time infrastructure—IT infrastructure as a utility—has the potential to become the underpinning layer of business process automation," said Claudio Da Rold, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "The final aim for highly specialist service providers will be to provide greater business flexibility by developing and offering applications and business processes on a large scale as a one-to-many model."
Gartner predicts that through 2015, the US will be in a better position to use business change as a strategic weapon compared to western Europe because it has less strict labor laws.
"Organizations based in countries with complex labor laws and strong union representation, such as France, Germany, and Italy, will have to work hard to maintain a competitive edge as they strive to make the transition to the new models," said Da Rold.
Gartner has recommended that individuals and IT organizations brace for the impact of these changes.
According to Gartner, CIOs should start developing a clear vision for evolving their IT and business processes and prepare a long-term course of action for evolving IT
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