The New IT
When I first started out in the technical field things were a lot more physical when it came to solutions. We spent time running cables, installing switches and hoping that machines would talk to each other. Being able to crimp a RJ45 jack was considered a must have skill. "E-Commerce" was a very new term, just like "The cloud" is today.
Today, network connectivity is simply assumed and the art of crimping connections is something only a rare few have. Try asking your IT staff if they know what colors Cat-5 strands are or what the difference between Cat-5 and Cat-3 is. It really is a useless skill today. This is because almost every building has physical infrastructure installed already. Even if you need a cable run, we outsource it to a firm. Mostly the IT staff focus on the software side of things. You no longer need to hire full time wiring personnel. Hurray for cost savings.
Because of this switch in focus from hardware to software we have a whole different set of skills in the office. Basic skills for back office staff today are more service orientated like Active Directory, Exchange, SQL and even 'The Cloud'. Even among your front office staff their skills are around VOIP and hypervisors.
The next major shift is from infrastructure as a commodity to infrastructure as a service (IaaS). This particular movement strikes fear into the hearts of IT departments everywhere. What happens to your exchange admin when you get Office 365? What happens to the custom developer team when you move from the local client database to a hosted Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution? The answer is most likely Reduction in Force (RIF). Sometimes the IT person is moved to a different role, but you as the owner need to decide what is best.
I see a technical world right around the corner where the desktop team is the largest IT group. System Admins and infrastructure support will be swapped in lieu of more efficient personnel such as business analysts and admin assistants who are better equipped to handle vendor management.
Yes, I said it, IT departments will shrink. You just like the old skills of crimping cables, the traditional system admin will have to find new work as all those servers, switches, and connections are outsourced to the cloud. The good news for them is there is plenty of work and some really clever areas to move into such as cyber security security.
Moving to the cloud has many perks but isn't for every shop. Many companies need custom solutions for their email servers or complicated solutions that don't fit the cloud mold. While these cases are rare, they do exist. It is far more common to find environments that are waiting for outsourced IT than not.
What is good about the shift is that the line between business and technical function is becoming more blurred. As the service model matures we are able to pick out business processes that we want to streamline rather than having to re-invent the wheel. We can ask questions about what service we want to provide our clients and go out to bid for it. No need to hire extra developers to build out that custom portal. You just need to ask your project manager to work on the bidding process and ensure they find a good match. This allows you to be much more dynamic in your company, if a product does not work out you can kill the offering and not be left with extra employees. This makes the fast fail model much more appealing so you can focus on successes.