Since nobody has a crystal ball, predicting the future is always an uncertain endeavor. The best we can do is use the past and the present as our guides while asking questions like, What did the world look like 10 years ago, and what kinds of predictions did we make back then? Which of those predictions came true, and which ones didn’t? Trying to answer these questions can help paint a picture of what the future might bring and prepare us for potential challenges.
In a panel discussion at last week’s Open Networking User Group (ONUG) Spring Conference, held virtually and in Secaucus, N.J., four technology experts tried to answer the question, “Will IT teams exist in the next 10 years?” The panelists covered a wide range of topics related to the future of IT jobs, such as talent recruiting, low-code/no-code development, and AI and machine learning (ML). They resisted making wild, pie-in-the-sky predictions and remained grounded, while, at the same time, avoided the kind of pessimism that can stifle innovation in any field.
Here are their top three predictions.
1. IT Teams Are Here To Stay
IT jobs aren’t going anywhere, but the shape of IT teams might change over time, the panelist said.
Tsvi Gal, head of enterprise technology services at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, joked that most things about being old are bad, but one benefit is that you’ve seen it all. He noted that since the early ‘90s, people have made all sorts of predictions about IT professionals getting replaced by various technologies, and none of those predictions have panned out. Gal said he doesn’t think the next 10 years will be any different.
Swamy Kocherlakota, CIO for S&P Global, agreed that IT teams are here to stay. However, he noted that recruiting and retaining IT talent is going to remain a challenge in the years ahead.
Kocherlakota proposed that for companies to ensure their talent is always at the top of their game, they must stay ahead of the curve. That means training employees not just in the skills they need today but in the skills they’ll need several years from now.
2. Low-code/No-code Platforms Will Expand
Platforms that enable nontechnical employees to perform programming operations without the use of coding (or with minimal coding) will continue to grow, panelists said. These low-code/no-code platforms will see a larger impact in the years to come.
However, the rise of low-code/no-code platforms won't diminish the need for skilled IT professionals. Yunchi Nam, managing director at Morgan Stanley, likened these platforms to home DIY projects: You can watch a YouTube video to learn how to do simple home repairs, but to take on more complex tasks, you’ll need to call an expert.
3. AI/ML Will Play Crucial Roles in IT but Won’t Replace Humans
Since AI first hit the scene, humans have dreamed of achieving levels of automation to the point where we can sit back, relax, and let machines do all the work. The panelists all agreed that this is an unrealistic aspiration.
Kocherlakota said AI and ML will play an increasingly large role in IT, to where in 10 years’ time it will be unimaginable that “any component of technology or business … is not empowered by AI and machine learning tools.” But high-level tasks will still need to be handled by IT professionals. As Gal put it, AI is best thought of as “an advisor to humans, not a replacement.”
AI and ML will benefit organizations not just by getting rid of grunt work, but by freeing up IT workers to do more complex and innovative projects, Nam added. That means that as AI and ML become more capable (e.g., by using smarter algorithms, performing better analysis of data and metadata, and improving self-recovery and self-healing abilities), IT will not be rendered obsolete but will advance into more sophisticated areas.