Building on the Four Pillars of IT

Building on the Four Pillars of IT

A functional IT framework can help drive growth into new areas

The field of IT has so many wonderful new toys to play with. Cloud computing may be a little 2008-ish, but it’s still a major force in the industry. IoT is hot today, with a lot of companies ready to move past the hype and start implementing. And on-the-horizon trends like VR or AI promise even more disruption in the near future. But how much do all of these things really disrupt the IT function?

Over the past six months, CompTIA has been conducting a series of interviews that look into the way IT functions are organized. These IT functions could be large departments inside a major enterprise or different pieces that come together to form the technical operations for a smaller firm. The research led to a foundational description of IT, a functional framework that defines the critical components and suggests the proper approach for new trends. The full framework will soon be available on the CompTIA website, but for now here’s a sneak peek.

The framework begins by classifying the major domains that IT must cover: Infrastructure, Development, Security, and Data. These four areas consistently appear as the primary ingredients used to build business systems, whether they are standalone groups within an IT department or simply major focus areas within the technology strategy.

Infrastructure is the founding member of this group. This function, which includes things like server administration, network architecture, and help desk, has a major focus on hardware with a small concentration on software (e.g. installing and managing applications). Regardless of the architecture and strategy that an organization may choose, Infrastructure is responsible for assembling the components and supporting daily tech needs.

Development has quickly become nearly as critical as Infrastructure. Even relatively small businesses will have development efforts as they customize applications, build an online presence, or reach the new mobile audience. Many companies today have their IT split right down the middle—Infrastructure on one side, Development on the other.

The other two disciplines are growing in importance. Security has traditionally been part of the Infrastructure function, but the need to focus on process and education along with the significance of cybersecurity to digital organizations is broadening the effort, in many cases leading to teams that focus solely on this space. Data, on the other hand, can typically be found in the Development group, as software employees specialize in database administration, analysis, and visualization.

What does this mean for IT pros? With these four pillars as a starting point, there are three big takeaways for technical workers who are trying to build their skills and add value to their companies:

  1. New trends do not make new pillars. The temptation with new trends is to view them in a vacuum, to consider a topic like cloud or IoT as a separate discipline with unique characteristics. In practice, the real impact of new trends is seen within the existing structure. Rather than approach a new topic as a self-contained subject, consider how the topic drives evolution of the framework.
  2. Specialized skills drive valued services. One of the factors that makes new trends seem distinctive is the new job roles that have popped up. Titles like Cloud Architect or Data Scientist ultimately fit inside the existing pillars, but they still represent a need for specialization. If hiring is not a viable option, training can still go a long way towards filling the gaps needed to create strategic offerings.
  3. Overlaps require cross-pollination. As technical projects grow in scope and business units drive a higher volume of requests, there is a greater need for coordination between the pillars and alignment with business goals. Senior technical members must have some knowledge of all areas in order to work with project management on coordination and discuss tradeoffs with the executive level.

IT complexity is exploding. IT pros a lot of ground to cover, and they have a growing variety of tools to help them cover that ground. CompTIA’s framework provides a simplified baseline for technical operations, and technicians or programmers can build out new capabilities on top of that baseline.

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