When James McPartland took on the CIO role at Torchmark Corporation in 2014, he had a big task before him: Show the rest of the business that IT could help drive growth.
DevOps, Security, Hybrid IT: Priorities of successful IT pros
Consider how much the role of the IT professional has changed during the last 10 years. As traditional, siloed IT roles — such as network administrators, storage administrators, systems administrators, and database administrators — continue to include new responsibilities, IT professionals can no longer get by as specialists.
These days, they're are expected to be implementing new technologies and trends, inlcuding containers, serverless architecture, and IoT, while working with cloud service providers. They're acting as liaisons to business leaders. On top of all that, they must still manage traditional technologies and infrastructure, such as on-premises servers, networks, databases, and virtualization, which, for all the new technologies and trends, still have their place.
At the same time, today's IT professionals must be hyper-aware of an ever-evolving security landscape with the constant threat of attacks and data breaches.
Because of this, modern IT pros must have an understanding of all their networks and systems, both on-premises and in the cloud, and have a holistic understanding of the application stack, to make quick, informed decisions to ensure optimal performance.
To that end, a successful modern IT professional values these key priorities:
As DevOps has taken root in the enterprise, bringing with it a change in cultures, skills, and the flow of work, it’s up to IT professionals to swim with the tide. Collaboration is at the heart of a successful DevOps mentality and culture. Given the ultimate objective of providing end-users with peak application performance, silos do not work. There is only the entire IT team, and, at the end of the day, everyone is responsible for the performance of their applications. This requires transparency, visibility, a consistent set of tools, and teamwork.
On top of the continued adoption of a DevOps culture, the introduction of new machine learning technologies will require IT pros to develop new skill sets and certifications to operate and manage next-generation data centers.
The modern IT professional must focus on the technologies that can truly enhance the business and acquire the proper skill sets as those technologies reach the right level of maturity.
Security, security, security
Cyber security threats and their typical outcome, data breaches, must always be top-of-mind for the modern IT professional. This may seem like well-worn advice, but every year, the threat of corporate breaches rises, evidenced by the shocking headlines of massive data loss by companies one would think would take every precaution and enact every security measure available.
Security must truly become everyone’s responsibility. This isn’t to say that an organization shouldn’t staff security-specific experts, but every modern IT professional must accept the responsibility to help ensure the security of their organization’s infrastructure and data, and make doing so a top priority.
Accept hybrid IT as the new reality
Hybrid IT – maintaining some applications and infrastructure on-premises while leveraging cloud-based services for others – is an evolving norm. In fact, according to SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2016, 92 percent of IT professionals said adopting cloud technologies is important to their company’s success, but 60 percent noted it’s unlikely their total IT infrastructure will ever be migrated to the cloud.
Modern IT professionals must accept this reality and properly prepare themselves to be successful in this brave new world. This starts by establishing an end-user focus and service orientation. To that end, minimizing friction across departmental functions (because silos are bad, right?) will speed updates, changes, deployments, and time-to-resolution for problems, all of which deliver a better end-user experience.
Next is optimizing visibility and having a single point of truth across an entire IT environment, including those elements on-premises and those in the cloud. The normalization of metrics, alerts, and other collected data from applications and workloads, regardless of their location, will enable a more efficient approach to remediation, troubleshooting, and optimization.
Third, apply monitoring as a discipline. In a hybrid IT world rife with new complexities, monitoring can no longer be an afterthought. By establishing monitoring as a core IT function (a.k.a. monitoring as a discipline), organizations can benefit from a much more proactive IT management strategy, while also streamlining infrastructure performance, cost, and security.
Finally, focus on developing or improving key technical skills and knowledge. The most important skills and knowledge IT professionals need to develop or improve to successfully manage hybrid IT environments are service-oriented architectures, automation, vendor management, application migration, distributed architectures, API and hybrid IT monitoring, and management tools and metrics.
IT professionals have never been more integral to business success than they are today. But to truly embrace this evolved role, the modern IT professional must understand the things that will help make them successful now and into the future: the ability to evolve, as typified by the DevOps movement; an acceptance of security as a key element of every IT role; and an expanding hybrid IT skill set.