IT Professionals: We Are on Our Own!

Gone are the days that large enterprise IT organizations would rely upon large vertically integrated IT vendors to sell us full stack solutions. Yes, many legacy application workloads rely upon proprietary stacks supplied from a single vendor and their ecosystem partners, but in today’s digital transformation era, IT organizations are more and more becoming solution integrators. That is, IT organizations are stitching together solutions made up of home-grown software, open source software and commercial products/modules to get the desired outcome needed for their digital business. This approach is systemic from security, monitoring, analytics, connectivity, hybrid cloud, multi cloud, containers, etc. When we embarked upon an open IT future, we didn’t factor in this integration work. So, the future is here, we are it, and we are on our own. 

So, how do you survive when you’re on your own? When large enterprise applications are a product of a bygone era? When there is no large vendor to send an army of engineers to fix a disruption? When public cloud providers offer little to no visibility of a workload’s infrastructure dependency map or customer support for that matter? When there are no frameworks or building blocks to guide solution integration?

Well, it’s not as bad as Bob Dylan put it when he sang “how does it feel, to be on your own, with no direction home.” There is great gain in solution integration in that it allows every enterprise to customize solutions to address its unique market. These IT organizations that engineer and design unique solutions gain the gestalt effect, meaning that the sum of the parts are much greater than the individual components.  At ONUG, many IT business leaders share how they not only survive but thrive when doing IT on their own. Here are the top five “must dos”:

Software Building Blocks:  There is a growing number of software building blocks that IT organization should master. These include Blockchain, Cloud Technologies, Kubernetes/containers, SD-WAN, Microservices, 5G, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Analytics, Automation, Risk & Trust Monitoring and Quantum Computing, plus a whole host of open source code. These are all growing in importance as the next generation building blocks for the digital enterprise. Knowing which building blocks are ready, well suited to your corporation’s initiatives and gaining staff experience are fundamental to success.

Framework Collaboration: One of the biggest missing pieces to IT solution integration is the lack of well-understood frameworks that guide how software building blocks are connected to drive successful outcomes. That is, many IT organizations develop their own frameworks in isolation. At ONUG, one of the best benefits is the collaboration between community members to share their frameworks’ successes and challenges. This happens in the ONUG Working Groups, conference sessions, fireside chats, proof of concept demonstrations and hallways discussions. In fact, ONUG Community leaders are now requiring their operational staff to attend ONUG primarily for this reason: hear and learn software building block frameworks from others.

Operational Staff On-Boarding Is Key: Operational staff are fundamental to the success of any IT solution integration program as they keep the lights on and are on the front lines when things go wrong. Enterprise architects, engineers and designers who don’t engage operational staff in solution integration projects to make them part of the solution are doomed to fail. IT delivery used to be in three distinct phases: 1) design, 2) build and 3) run. Design and build is being collapsed into one phase then handed off to operations to run, making their involvement so much more critical to successful outcomes.

Address the Skill Shortage: The largest impediment for solution integration project deployment is the lack of skilled infrastructure engineering professionals. As Chris Drumgoole, ONUG Board member and CTO of GE, says, “Technology transformation is led by talent transformation.” There is a shortage of people with infrastructure programming skills to facilitate their firms’ digital transformation strategies. Within the ONUG Community alone, there are tens of thousands of high-paying infrastructure developer jobs available, paying as much as $300,000 per year and up, thus, making professionals who are trained to code infrastructure one of the highest priority and paid in the IT work pool. So, what’s the problem? Time and money.  Training via traditional methods are prohibitive to even the largest of enterprise firms. Also, nearly one-third of IT staff don’t have interest in learning new skills as they are toward the end of their career, and there are not enough engineers entering IT but rather work for tech companies. A new model is needed and is being found in ONUG Academy.

Sharing Culture: Successful IT organizations are pushing the reset button of their culture and lead from the top down. No longer are isolated, siloed organizational structures the preferred organizing model, but multi-skilled, team player groups are preferred. Many IT organizations are instituting mentor-developer cultures; that is, a senior IT professional with significant accomplishment in solution integration takes on the mentorship role of newly hired software engineer recruits. Out are professionals who solely possess vendor-specific certifications that institutionalize silo thinking and culture. In are technical/engineering recruits with fresh views and thinking toward IT solution integration delivery.

IT’s new role is that of a solution integrator. This role will only accelerate and for good reason. Every enterprise offers a unique value proposition, thus requires unique IT solutions. Solution integration delivers that digital transformation uniqueness and in the process, puts IT in control of its future. It’s not controlled by large IT suppliers, but by their ability to innovate and put the new software building blocks to work for their digital business benefit. 

At ONUG, we believe that over next few years IT organization skills, culture and process will change significantly. Here are a few points that peek into the future.

  • 95% of IT skills will be non-vendor specific, coders that understand multiple APIs, open source code and standards
  • 95% of alarms will be mitigated by automation, templates, machine learning and artificial learning code
  • 90% of operations task will be consumed and automated by DevOps teams

One last point, many senior IT business leaders and executives view legacy applications and their proprietary dependency map, just like the banking industry viewed subprime mortgages, as toxic assets. That is, assets are to be packaged up and sold off all in an effort to free up much-needed cash to go all in on solution integration.

We are on our own, and that means there are transition pains, but it also means we’re in control of our future.

Author's Bio

Nick Lippis

Co-Founder and Co-Chairman at ONUG

Nick Lippis is an authority on corporate computer networking. He has designed some for the largest computer networks in the world. He has advised many Global 2000 firms on network strategy, architecture, equipment, services and implementation including Hughes Aerospace, Barclays Bank, Kaiser Permanente, Eastman Kodak Company, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Liberty Mutual, Schering-Plough, Sprint, WorldCom, Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks and a wide range of other equipment suppliers and service providers.

Mr. Lippis is uniquely positioned to comment, analyze and observe computer networking industry trends and developments. At Lippis Enterprises, Inc., Nick works with entrepreneurs evaluating new business opportunities in enterprise networking and serves as an independent investor and advisor.