When one thinks about the typical IT professional, often certain stereotypes come to mind. No need to dwell on these, we’ve all seen The IT Crowd. While grossly unfair on the profession, this was largely based on the deep technical expertise that the IT worker would typically possess. But are such stereotypes any longer valid? If it isn’t already today, it certainly looks like the role of the IT worker will evolve come the year 2020. 

The IT worker of the future

According to a new report, a new generation of IT worker is emerging. And first and foremost, it points to less time spent in-house on technical issues. In fact, it seems with users increasingly solving their own technical support problems, IT will be spending more time communicating and less time getting technical.

The findings from the report show that communication will be the buzzword of 2020 in the corporate IT department. Eighty-nine per cent of IT professionals surveyed stated that effective communication will be one of the biggest on-going challenges they will face as they look to the future.

With the IT team more focused on management and communication, therefore, there will be inherently less time to spend on the technology itself. In fact over two-thirds (68 per cent) of the study believe that the IT function in 2020 will be more about policy enforcement than technology deployment. To this end, almost a third of those surveyed (31 per cent) think that by 2020 the average user will know more about the devices they use for work than their own IT department.

…But the techie isn’t dead

Only a fifth (22 per cent) of IT pros view technical deployment skills as being a main focus by the year 2020. Therefore, we could well see the IT Pro of 2020 being more of a business generalist, versus a deep specialist.

However, does this spell the end of the IT techie? Far from it. You only have to look at the recent developer conferences by Apple or Facebook to see how lauded the tech specialist remains in the industry, and how vital they remain to future innovation in business.

Rather, future IT teams will combine technical knowhow with the traditionally softer currencies of communications skills, business awareness, and management nous. You may not have to become a great orator, but you will need to brush up on skills not traditionally associated with IT professionals.

As for the specialist, 76 per cent of IT Pros state that this type of skill will be outsourced by 2020, with expertise sourced on an ‘on demand’ fashion. This extends to training programmes, with the majority of professionals in the study (42 per cent) claiming they will need to rely on technical certifications offered by vendors rather than develop the skills in-house.

The most valued skills of the future? Perhaps unsurprisingly, BYOD is still the way the industry is moving, both for today and for tomorrow. Our report shows that the top three ‘trends for the future of IT’ are BYOD (47 per cent), data security in the cloud (36 per cent), and virtualisation (36 per cent). Seventy-eight per cent of IT pros see user expectations being further consumerised by 2020, with users demanding technology that ‘just works’.

The need for system design, architecture, integration and implementation will therefore be vital to future success. It’s just that you may not need this expertise on a full-time basis.

CIO becomes CEO?

For some IT workers, the thought of not being able to tinker with machines all day may be unappetizing. But in lieu of this activity, they could see increased visibility in the boardroom. It is a distinct possibility that more business leaders will come from an IT background, such is the way that IT is becoming ever more integrated into daily life. In fact 19 per cent predicted a sharp uptake in the number of CEOs from the CIO position. The future of IT Pro of 2020 is certainly in flux, but in my opinion, will settle in a way that offers far greater possibilities than are currently on offer.