In a recent article in the MIT Technology Review, author David Rotman quotes assertions by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee revealing that “impressive advances in computer technology—from improved industrial robotics to automated translation services—are largely behind the sluggish employment growth of the last 10 to 15 years.” My initial reaction was one of concern but, at the same time, if their assumptions are correct, I would not want to throttle technological advancement to keep the status quo. For me, it comes down to the fact that the information technology world is changing and jobs are changing. The questions that I ask myself are these: “Am I changing, and am I in a position to take advantage of this changing world?”
Information has traditionally been tangential to main business processes but has never been the process itself. It is either used as an input to a business process or becomes an output. Now, there are whole companies and whole industries built solely on the brokering, storage, and exchange of information. Information now is the business process. Information is the product. While it is true that technology, and, more specifically, information technology has replaced some traditional jobs and careers, it has also created brand new fields and opportunities.
I am just starting a new course today in Information Systems and Management; this new start always spurs my thinking about the changing landscape of information technology. I also think about the inevitability of change, especially in the IT field. We can either view change as an opportunity or a threat. We can either fear change or embrace it.
Fear of Change
As the information technology field changes, information professionals need to change also. This is a fast-paced field, and we need to keep abreast of the latest offerings, technologies, and breakthroughs. To be afraid of change is to be afraid of opportunities. A number of years ago, I had a colleague who was a computer operator (I go back a long ways). As the world transitioned away from central computing to personal computing, the computer room and the computer operator position disappeared. Unfortunately, my colleague did not keep up with the changes, mainly due to fear and apathy, and he eventually lost his job. It was unfortunate but inevitable.
The Next Chapter
The struggle today is how to deal with mobile devices and how to sort out and analyze increasing amounts of information. The challenge is to make sense of all of the data that we are generating and make intelligent decisions based on those findings. There are abundant opportunities out there if we are willing to stretch and learn and apply our skills. Are we learning all we can to meet the challenges? Do we have the right skill set to sort out the thorniest problems? What do we need to do to upgrade our skills and retool?
What are you doing today to prepare for the next chapter? What are your long-term plans? Are you ready? Let me know your thoughts.
About Kelly Brown
Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT topics that keep him up at night.