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What will the IT department of the future look like? And how will intelligent systems impact the way we all work? Read on to learn how to future-proof your business’ IT function in the age of AI.

With the large strides currently being made in the realm of artificial intelligence, there’s understandably some fear within the IT industry about how it will impact our roles and relevance in the workplace. Some believe we’re on the cusp of a digital revolution that will ultimately lead to loss of control and sound a warning about our future. Others are just worried about keeping their jobs.

But, in fact, far from sounding the death knell for IT departments everywhere, the advent of AI and machine learning has the potential to open up a whole new world of opportunities for tech professionals.

Three ways IT roles will improve thanks to AI

It will free up staff to take on bigger, more interesting challenges.

By eliminating the need for human involvement in simple or even complex repetitive tasks, we’ll be able to drive efficiencies and put our valuable human resources to better use elsewhere. Hours once spent at a desk tapping in data will instead be directed into analysing and innovating new ways to enhance business performance, transforming us from caretakers into decision-makers.

By encouraging us to upskill and retrain, AI will ultimately make IT professionals more employable, not less.

You know what they say: your comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing much grows there. The same could be said of the workplace – unless you’re willing to take on new challenges and expand your skill set, you’re not going to get very far. The changes in our industry right now are happening at a phenomenal pace – those who embrace rather than run from them will find themselves in high demand in the future.

AI will ultimately make us better at our jobs.

Machine learning is already greatly improving our understanding of trends. With data acquisition from monitoring systems built into the fabric of a solution, the ability to understand trends in the behaviour of systems will keep getting easier and with those trends comes the ability to predict outcomes. This valuable intel will enable us to make better, more informed decisions that will improve our business’ bottom lines.

The IT professional of the future

So, taking all of this into consideration, what might IT roles look like in the future? For IT Managers, who are typically responsible for the IT landscape of an enterprise, supervising anything from hardware in data centres to applications on the desktop, their role will inevitably require some recalibration.

Of course, these individuals are no strangers to change, having had to master the introduction of cloud computing and the shift away from traditional infrastructure to hardware and software solutions built in the cloud. But with solutions built around AI, many of the systems over which IT managers have historically presided will be able to self-heal, removing the need for operational staff and oversight. In this scenario, the IT Manager will see the needs of his or her staff change and will need to take a new approach to keep the lights on for important systems.

The IT department of the near future will look very different to now as the roles undertaken by staff change. The role of the IT Manager in keeping this new paradigm moving along will involve learning these new roles and the part they play in the larger machine of the enterprise, all ultimately enabled through sensors and data acquisition.

Project Managers will also see their responsibilities evolve and become focused on the delivery of new systems into the enterprise. PMs will remain important, but the delivery of projects built from systems (some of which will be intelligent machines) means the supervisory and reporting roles will change as non-human actors will report in different ways. What’s more, delivery processes will become increasingly automated, a trend that is already happening due to the move to DevOps within the last few years.

Project Managers will need to change their approach as some staff on the team will not be human. Interaction with these entities will require a different type of skill and the more traditional project delivery methodologies will need to evolve in order to take this in to account. This, in turn, will open up a need for new skills that we won’t see delivered by traditional education systems such as universities any time soon.

Both IT Managers and Project Managers have a responsibility to ensure they have the skilled resources they need to deliver on their promises to the business. In a world built around data flowing through systems from sensors or instrumentation, some roles will remain but there are new roles emerging that will need to be resourced on many IT projects. Roles such as supervising AIs through the use of data or new interfaces, training AIs to perform a specific role in a project, and roles that ensure AIs are compliant and following the rules are all skills that will soon be recognised as essential in a world where data is driving machine intelligence.

Retraining for a brave new world

They say the best defence is a good offence – and this is true here also. Proactively upskilling both yourself and your team is vital. The challenge we face is that traditional education cycles tend to be slow – curricula take a long time to change and demand for new roles in technology usually outstrips the availability of resources. This is where guided learning can play a major part, filling the gaps in skills by cross-training or retraining people who are already skilled in other areas.

But we shouldn’t be too worried by all this change. After all, history teaches us that we’ve been here before. The first industrial revolution introduced us to steam, the second to electricity, the third to the digital age and now the fourth is bringing humans into the realm of artificial intelligence, machine-to-machine automation and human-to-machine interfaces.

In the past, we’ve responded to each evolution in our workplace with investment and new roles, and the changes brought on by AI will be no different. There will be new opportunities to train into new roles with new responsibilities that may not be to a person, but instead to a machine.

Will there be casualties? Inevitably. But only from those factions who are resistant to change and choose not to evolve along with the rest of the industry. And frankly, if you’re afraid of change, then you’re probably in the wrong business.

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