Sometime back in early 2008, a year or so into what eventually became our shift from a large and relatively disorganized enterprise to the accidental build out of a private cloud, a Smart Guy that worked in my team asked me a very simple question that I answered, quick as a flash, but with tongue firmly planted in cheek. It went something like this:
Smart Guy – “how will we know when we are done with this ?”
Me – “when you and I have engineered ourselves out of a job”
Smart Guy never followed up, never asked me what I meant – in fact – he never questioned it at all. He had involved with the project closely enough to understand the strategy and the key goals (which I won’t bore you with, but they focused largely on “global accessibility and speed to market” of LoB applications) but more importantly, he had been around the organization and the industry long enough to know that the only constant we have is change.
To give some context, my comment back to him was intended to reinforce the goals of the project. It was not to insinuate that if we were successful, that we would both be looking for our next challenge outside the four walls of the organization. I know he knew that, because he was a rare and precious commodity – Smart Guy was a change agent. A true change agent must continually articulate a vision for change – and motivate themselves, and the people around them, to collectively achieve that vision – irrespective of what it may mean for their current responsibility or scope of work.
There are, of course, many examples of how change affects and betters productivity and efficiency – only 100 years ago, Ford was making cars with huge swathes of manual employees and very little automation. I think it’s fair to say it’s pretty much the reverse today. Another example, much closer to home in enterprise IT shops, we have seen the death knell sounding for TDM-based PBX systems as the move towards IP telephony makes communications systems more agile, cost effective, more compatible and arguably less complex. But what about the guys who have spent a lifetime programming the CLI of the TDM system ? Where is their skill required now ? Truth is, like Latin, it’s only kinda useful going forward. The bigger question is how do they re-tool and remain relevant in the even-faster-paced world of next generation IT ?
If enterprise IT is truly going to benefit from the today’s embryonic but tomorrow’s immense value proposition of all forms of cloud, then I believe we are going to need an army of change agents, at many levels of a change-able organization to influence and drive toward the desired result.
I am under no illusion that in the coming months (or years) that automation, in the guise of the much heralded public and private cloud services, will render large parts of my current role and responsibility defunct. I am under no illusion that futile attempts to keep hold of areas of scope, sets of repeatable tasks or, for that matter, the knowledge I’ve collected over the years will render me irreplaceable.
Will I shed tears ? Yes. But they will be tears of joy.
As a not-so-Smart Guy who comes from a very deep technical infrastructure background, I already see the assembly line robots beating a path to my door in the shape of orchestrators and directors….I welcome them with open arms.
Why ? Because I’ve not only recognized, but I have accepted that philosophy that the only constant is change and I’m already out there, sniffing around things that I never thought I would have to get involved with – well, not SO deeply anyway. I’m busily and studiously working out strategies for identity, security, mobility, APIs, the list goes on and on…above all, I’m focusing on how to become the change agent for the next big thing – delivering information – and I can tell you, it really doesn’t have wires and flashing lights.