A recurring theme in software product development over the last five years or so is the ability for business users to access functionality and make changes that could previously only have been accomplished with the cooperation of or the intervention by their IT departments.
Technology vendors have made no secret of their desire to sell products that don’t require a lot of IT involvement. In part, this is due to the age old struggle between the business and IT sectors over who does what and how they should do it. Business users don’t fully understand technology at the code level, so if you give them something that works without them having to understand, they are as happy as pigs in a mud pit. IT folks, on the other hand, have traditionally felt imposed upon by business users who asked what they felt were ridiculous questions and followed that up with impossible demands. So if their business colleagues have software that they can play with on their own, it’s good riddance from the IT worker’s point of view.
During an interview I did for an article this morning, my source pointed out that one reason business software users are happy with today’s business-friendly applications is that when a problem arises, they are saved from having to wait in line with others who want IT projects done. That’s great from the business user’s point of view, but I wonder if this trend isn’t also leaving IT departments with less to do. And if IT departments–which are cost centers–have less to do, maybe we don’t need them as much as we thought we did.
The continuing recession (yes, it’s not over yet) has claimed many victims from among the IT ranks. When the recovery comes, however, some of these folks are likely to find that the workload in their former IT jobs has lessened at least in part because user-friendly applications have obviated the need for IT involvement. And in an age where saving money is still a primary goal for most, less work needed means fewer human workers needed.
To answer my own question, I don’t believe that business-friendly software will destroy IT as a profession. On the other hand, I do believe it will force IT professionals to demonstrate their value in new ways. That, my friends, will be quite a challenge in this economic and technological time period.