Modern Technology Dramatically Transforming Future for IT Teams

The roles and activities performed by IT professionals have evolved dramatically over the past 10 years due to the convergence of modern development technologies, cloud platforms and as-a-service offerings. Today, many of these professionals find themselves in hybrid roles that combine traditional development activities with activities that formerly were associated with operations professionals who historically had few or no development-oriented responsibilities. A new International Data Corporation report provided a census and forecast with detail for both traditional IT operations roles and these new hybrid roles.

“The census data shows that a dramatic, once-in-a-generation shift in the composition of the IT workforce is underway. This shift is akin to what took place during the years from 1997 to 2002 when the emergence of the commercial internet and the dot-com era turned priorities upside down for much of corporate IT and led to the hiring of vast numbers of web developers and networking experts,” Al Gillen, group vice president of software development and open source at IDC, said. “The increased adoption of cloud computing is driving similar transitions today in IT teams supporting this modern deployment model.”

In developing this data set, IDC used the following definitions to describe the roles broken out in the study:

  • DataOps professionals use a combination of technologies and methods with a focus on quality for consistent and continuous delivery of data value, combining integrated and process-oriented perspectives on data with automation and methods analogous to agile software engineering.
  • DevOps professionals use collaborative, agile approaches paired with automation development pipelines, testing, infrastructure configuration, provisioning, security controls and life-cycle continuous integration (CI) for continuous development and continuous delivery (CD).
  • DevSecOps professionals use a methodology that asserts that security needs to be prioritized at the beginning of the DevOps delivery pipeline. It enables DevOps teams, collaborating with security, to act as key stakeholders in defining and implementing security policies.
  • ITOps professionals use technology to provide routine scheduled tasks and unscheduled support activities related to IT systems. ITOps professionals may spend as much as 50% of their time engaged with business users in support, the elicitation of requirements and the performance of contingent or secondary business tasks.
  • MLOps professionals use technology and processes to streamline and automate the entire machine learning (ML) life cycle. Key capabilities include managing and automating ML data and pipelines, ML code and ML models from data ingestion to model deployment, tracking and monitoring. MLOps professionals use similar principles to DevOps practices but applied to machine learning processes.
  • Platform engineering is a discipline of designing and building toolchains and workflows that enable self-service capabilities focused on managing and optimizing the software delivery process to deploy applications and services to cloud platforms.
  • Site reliability engineering (SRE) professionals include software engineers who build scripts to automate IT operations tasks, such as maintenance and support. To enable efficiency and reliability, SRE teams fix operational bugs and remove manual work in rote tasks.
  • Systems administrators configure, maintain and support computer systems and systems of systems using a variety of tools and methods appropriate to the system or systems of systems in use. They may spend as much as 50% of their time engaged with business users in defining key requirements, business goals and adaptations needed to maintain fit for use and fit for purpose.

At a macro level, the study showed that a substantial shift in the responsibilities of IT professionals will occur over the next five years. The data indicates that IT professionals in the most purely operational roles are facing a transition to more technical or focused roles that very often may involve some level of software development work. Accordingly, the roles of IT operations and system administrators, respectively, are projected to decline at compound annual growth rates (CAGR) of 8.2% and 7.8%, respectively, between 2022 and 2027. By comparison, the recently emerging roles of DataOps and MLOps are projected to have CAGRs of 17.9% and 20.1%, respectively, although the growth is starting from comparatively small numbers.

DevOps and DevSecOps roles are also forecast to continue growing, with DevSecOps roles showing a double-digit CAGR over the forecast period. DevSecOps roles will benefit from the growing application threat landscape and the dependence that organizations have on their software capabilities to be competitive, combined with the recognition that incorporating security as early as possible in the software development life cycle reduces costs and increases quality. DevOps growth will be muted somewhat by the growth in platform engineering roles, which will absorb some of these same functions.

“This census and forecast data was developed as a companion product to IDC’s developer census and forecast, rounding out our count of IT professionals involved in today’s modern datacenter and overseeing cloud-based deployments,” Arnal Dayaratna, research vice president of software development at IDC, said. “This collaborative effort involved analysts covering artificial intelligence, data management, development, DevOps, DevSecOps, and IT operations and platform services, bringing many key IDC thought leaders together. This data set opens the door for IDC to produce deeper cross tabs of this data in the future.”

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