Managing the complexities of IT convergence: Exploring the future

Managing the complexities of IT convergence: Exploring the future Sascha Giese is head geek at SolarWinds

Today, IT pros find themselves in a new reality, where IT roles have converged in response to the interconnected nature of modern environments. While a focus on cloud and hybrid IT architectures has been crucial in breaking down silos, it’s not without complexities. Ensuring uptime, availability, and performance of systems and applications, and greater collaboration with leadership to drive business success, is paramount. The global Covid-19 pandemic has amplified this, as organisations need to support a more distributed workforce.

This convergence of roles has created a universal language of IT, where the requirement for greater communication and improved understanding between the IT pro and leadership team has become integral to success. This increased complexity has only been exacerbated by flat-to-shrinking budgets, accompanied by a lack of qualified personnel. IT pros are working to combat these new challenges by setting their sights on skills development across both technical and non-technical areas to remain successful in today’s IT-centric business environments.

Enterprises now see building digital businesses as a competitive necessity. The greater emphasis on cloud-based and hybrid IT architectures, converging systems to drive transformation, will inevitably see the IT pro become a key player and influencer in plotting the strategy and direction of the business. However, navigating this change is where the challenge lies, and understanding how to overcome the new hurdles faced will be essential.

The evolving IT pro

The role of the IT pro is continuously evolving. In the seventh annual study of the trends impacting the industry—SolarWinds® IT Trends Report 2020: The Universal Language of IT—IT pros cited the top three ways their roles have changed over the past three to five years as: Increased work-week hours (42%), increased responsibilities outside the firewall (33%), and the need to retrain existing staff (32%).

At the same time, IT pros experience barriers to successfully supporting their organisations, including lack of budget/resources (41%), unclear of shifting priorities (17%), and existing IT management solutions lack features and/or functionality to meet needs (15%). What’s more, over one-third (39%) of respondents believe IT pros entering the workforce today don’t have the necessary skills to manage modern, distributed environments.

Ultimately, IT convergence should streamline efficiencies and enhance technology’s capabilities to support the enterprise, but it’s brought significant challenges and uncertainty to the professional community with it. It’s crucial IT pros have access to the necessary resources to invest in upskilling for both themselves and existing staff. It’s also important resources are available to procure the appropriate tools and solutions needed to help manage the new demands and requirements of growing areas, such as application performance management, security, and compliance.

There is also some onus on the IT pro community to initiate the conversations resulting in them developing a better understanding of how and where resources should be appropriately allocated. IT pros should routinely ask management to define the core competencies of the business as they relate to technology—and then monitor for gaps between priorities and training. Is the organisation prioritising digital transformation and its related investments? If so, what are the key performance metrics for evaluating true impact in a time when operational stability and security are paramount? It’s their job to provide clarity and guidance around the functional details of the technologies themselves.

Communication is key

The convergence of IT roles, and heightened role of technology within the day-to-day core business function has created this universal language of IT. There’s now a greater need for the IT pro to upskill in non-technical skills and develop business acumen, to act as a voice of authority on the enterprise’s strategy, particularly where technology and its digital transformation ambitions are concerned. Organisations are currently reassessing priorities in the shadow of an oncoming recession, and if IT pros are to ensure the enterprise’s requirements aren’t neglected, they must learn to communicate at a business level.

It was revealed in this year’s survey one skill set has become key to develop: interpersonal skills. Under this umbrella, the skills cited as most critical for the management of today’s modern IT environments were project management (61%), interpersonal communication (57%), and people management (54%).

Interpersonal skills are commonly referred to as “soft skills,” which is a misleading term, considering their overall importance in enterprise leadership and management. Soft skills aren’t optional. They’re human skills—everyone needs to relate to other people and speak in a way they can relate to and understand. Being involved in projects and initiatives with the capability to drive the business forward and make a difference across the organisation, makes effective communication critical.

Where core competencies lie

The convergence of IT roles also sees to some extent, a change to the core competencies of the IT pro particularly around growing areas such as security and application performance management. Where the challenge lies with security is in maintaining an effective security posture in parallel with greater IT complexity. This has been further complicated by the increased attack surface created as the global workforce moves into their homes.

Throughout this long-term period of remote working, security must enter the core competency of the IT pro, whether as a self-managed skillset or outsourced to an MSP or MSSP. Developing a complete understanding of the environment they support is essential, as is identifying potential threats and being able to explain the potential severity of them to business leaders in a way they’ll understand. Communication skills become important here, as security is a company-wide responsibility, with basic hygiene factors being some of the best ways to mitigate threats.

With hybrid IT as the reality in most environments, IT pros recognise the need for a comprehensive application performance management strategy. The current reliance on application availability to a remote workforce has elevated the importance of monitoring application performance to ensure employees always have access to critical business applications, from any device, to maintain productivity.

To counteract any potential operational pain points, industry professionals should evaluate which application performance management solution best fits the needs and requirements of the organisation.

Thankfully, they can leverage many of their existing skills: the nouns may have changed, but the verbs remain the same. Where we used to have “server” or “virtual machine,” now we have “containers.” But the verbs? They’re still focused on optimising performance, ensuring availability, and planning capacity.

IT convergence is just another point of change in the continuously evolving landscape. While it brings with it some complexity in the short term, it’ll also provide the means for the enterprise and the IT pro to grow in the long term. With their role under a bigger spotlight than ever before, they must learn to evaluate and assess their role in relation to the current business objectives. Then, and only then, can they communicate with business leaders to ensure the IT department’s needs are met. It’s at this point the enterprise will see IT play an instrumental role in the transformation of the business from the top down.

Read more: It’s time for the CIO to take their opportunity to secure business continuity

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech ExpoBlockchain ExpoAI & Big Data ExpoCyber Security & Cloud Expo and 5G Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

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