The city blacksmith, block ice haulers, typewriter repairmen, coin-operated pay phone collection guys, milk deliverymen and rapidly approaching, bookshelf makers. All of these outdated service jobs were once seemingly indispensable in their day, but are now almost comical to think about in retrospect. Re-purposed…was that even a word used 50 years ago? As technology advanced and professions evolved, or in some cases, dissolved, these workforces melded into new areas of employment.
In each of these cases the process was relatively slow and matched the speed of technology innovation. In today’s technology environment, this is certainly not the case. Technology lifecycles can sometimes last just a few short years leaving their respected service professionals in a vulnerable situation. Often times, these people are so close to their respected technologies that they don’t even see the change coming. So what are today’s technologies and professions that are in the cross hairs of change?
I work for Managed Service Provider (MSP) specializing in infrastructure management, and have seen the rapid shift to cloud infrastructures occur in just the past year or two. There are several reasons for this, but the prevalence of secure, cost-effective public cloud offerings are a leading contributor. For this, we can thank AWS and most recently, Microsoft Azure. Prior to this, we saw most companies employ one or more IT support technicians whose primary responsibility was to manage their infrastructure…or as we like to say, plumbing. Managing and supporting the plumbing has always been problematic for small to medium size businesses. There is the cost and hassle of keeping up with HW purchases and refreshes which many times are needed in off-budget scenarios. The people who support the plumbing, IT plumbers for simplicities sake, require expertise and ongoing training to keep pace with the technology curve. The challenge arises for businesses, is spending the money required to keep the technology and people current, in an section of the business that most business leaders to not believe to be strategic. Let’s face it, pluming in your house is an absolute requirement, but not viewed on par with a hi-fi system, swimming pool, or new back deck. For your family…those are strategic!
Fortunately, AWS and MSFT are changing the landscape by rolling out low-cost consumption models that enable businesses to rent only as much infrastructure as they need while providing leading edge technologies – something most companies can ill-afford to do. Costly capital outlays for HW are rapidly becoming a thing of the past as cloud-based infrastructures can be spun up quickly and paid for out of operational budgets with predictably in mind. This is good news for all with the exception of the HW vendors!
In support of this shift, we are seeing the rise of MSP’s. MSP’s are now taking on the role of managing and supporting these infrastructures that are hosted in the cloud, often times at a reduced cost and with superior IT expertise. Many business leaders are now re-thinking how they view IT- strategic vs. plumbing. Honestly, most plumbers I interact with would rather be implementing a new BI solution or helping the business generates revenue rather than wrench turning. IT managers used to be the gatekeepers / anti-sponsors against companies like mine, but I am seeing an ever willingness for them to partner. Who knows, maybe this may be just the kind of change that many are looking for in their roles…strategic. If that is the case, and with the rise of public cloud offerings and MSP’s, maybe we are witnessing the beginning of the end of IT plumbers.
Companies will always need in-house IT expertise, but in the not-to distant future, we will be asking ourselves…”what happened to all of our IT guys?” Will today’s IT plumbers be remembered in history alongside of those who rode the Pony Express?