Is a growth a problem?
Much has been written in recent times about the changes that are taking place in the Information Technology and Communications environments and, in particular, about new technologies and work methodologies that have come up lately, whose main objective is to meet the needs of increasingly demanding business for any company that requires technology to produce its services. From SATEC we have exposed on numerous occasions our point of view and experience regarding different technological fields (be it Cloud environments, new trends in software-based networks (SDN), Cybersecurity, industrial environments (IoT) or Machine Learning ), but this time we are going to focus on analyzing, from our position as observer and actor involved in these changes, the impact that this technological evolution is having on the professional teams dedicated to the implementation, administration and operation of the infrastructures that support these services..
If we try to have contextual information that allows us understand the adaptation that I&O professionals (“Infrastructure and Operations”) must approach, never the least we have to focus, as the main points of this change, on the growth that is taking place in this sector:
- As it is mentioned in the report “Cisco Annual Internet Report (2018-2023)”, the growth in the number of computers connected to Internet during this period, will have a sustainable annual growth rate of around 10%, although this increase is asymmetric depending on the type of device connected, the growth rate of M2M connections (19%) or Smartphone devices (7%) is especially significant. Thereby, the mentioned report estimates that in 2023 the number of devices connected to IP networks will be more than 3 times the world population, standing at around 29.3 billion devices. It is reasonable, therefore, to establish a direct relationship between this increase and the need for a greater number of professionals dedicated to the management of these infrastructures.
- Along the same lines, the mentioned report points to a continuous increase in security breaches and Cyberattacks. Cybersecurity threats suffer a more than significant increase year after year, so any company or user with a network connection needs to invest in their protection. We found the report “2020 Roundup of Cybersecurity Forecasts and Market Estimates” by Forbes especially interesting, the American publication specialized in the world of business and finance, makes a detailed analysis of the investments that companies should make in Cybersecurity in the next years. As interesting points, the study observes the need to increase spending both on new infrastructure (“in-house”) and on cloud services. Forbes expects an annual increase in spending on internal cybersecurity services of around 7.2% while the increase in external services and products will be even higher (8.4%). In such way, the global cybersecurity market will grow by 86% until 2026 (up to 270,000 million dollars), with 77% of spending focused on security services managed by third parties.
- On a final note on the growth of the ICT market, the almost obsessive search of the market in what has been called Digital Transformation in companies is well known. In today’s market, regardless of the sector in which it operates, any company that seeks improvements in its production systems, in the way of offering its services or in the efficiency of its employees (especially in these times of confinement) must have addressed an investment in technology, placing special focus on the constant search for the improvement of services, new ways of producing them (Agile methodologies, DevOps …) and greater efficiency in the way of offering and managing them (Cloud environments, SDN networks, automation …) . But this transformation involves a series of important challenges that those responsible for Infrastructure and Operations must face. According to the Gartner report “2019 Strategic Roadmap for Networking”, the main concerns for these leaders are to manage adequately the technological changes they are facing in an environment where there is a shortage of professional profiles with the correct training in these new technologies.
If we analyze any of the previous points in isolation, everything leads us to think that in the next five years there will be a significant demand for ICT professionals, however, if we analyze these points all together, we will realize that those responsible for I&O must stop thinking in a traditional way and start preparing for a new way of managing and operating their infrastructures mainly marked by the lack of professionals to perform these tasks. This assertion becomes much more evident if we pay attention to the perspectives that companies like Randstad have put forward for a long time (“Digitization: does it create or destroy jobs?”) In which they clearly bet because, in the coming years, there will be a clear imbalance between supply and demand in respect to the number of STEM engineers (the acronym in English for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), the gap in Spain during the next decade will be especially remarkable.
Change as a solution
With the current picture described so far, a change in mentality regarding the management of its infrastructures and the production of its services that allows it to “do more with less” becomes a critical factor for the success of any company. As in other times in the history of mankind, a sociological or business change involves an exponential growth in the demand for certain services that must be accompanied by an adequate supply of such. At this moment we can say that we are living, beyond the so hackneyed term of the “fourth industrial revolution”, a process that entails the industrialization of the production of ICT services and, as a basic piece of that development, the industrialization of the administration and operation of the infrastructures on which these services are based.
Therefore, those responsible for Technology of any company that needs to improve its production (or reduce the delivery time of its services), in order to jump on the industrialization and technology bandwagon, must accept, sooner rather than later, the movement that is taking place “beneath its feet” and adapt its professional environment according to the changes that are taking place in different areas that we analyze here below.
To be able to face the increase in the demand for services in an efficient way, it has been necessary to adapt part of the existing technology. Otherwise it would have been impossible to combine the notable increase in new types of ICT accesses and services with the reduction of professionals well trained and experienced in these environments. This change includes the incorporation into technology of new techniques for orchestrating and automating tasks related to infrastructures. Some clear examples are the self-provision of services in Cloud environments (IaaS, PaaS,…), the new SDN technologies, which allow administration and management in an orchestrated way the network elements that make up a Data Center, a WAN or Campus network; o the new characteristics of the network elements related to the programmability and, therefore, the automation of tasks of the infrastructure administrators, such as the services provision, the execution of verification tasks for regulatory compliance or the realization of preventive maintenance.
Changes in production models
At the same time, there has been a clear evolution of Software production thanks to new, much more agile methods that entail continuous integration and deployment of new products and services. This has meant greater involvement in this task by those responsible for the infrastructure. Traditionally, Systems Engineers, but also Networks and Security have been integrated into the work teams together with the application developers with the aim of supporting them and reducing integration and deployment times as much as possible (agile methodologies, DevOps enviroments …).
Professional profile changes
It seems clear that technology and production models are prepared to address these changes, but companies need professionals to accompany them in this transformation, which should mean the adaptation and growth of the professional profiles traditionally involved in the administration of ICT infrastructures. The lines of separation among different technological groups are increasingly thinner so that new technologies (Cloud, SDN, AOLs …) and new models of service production require professionals with a more transversal knowledge and with greater capacity for interaction with his partners. This may not suppose a challenge for new professionals, recently incorporated into the labor market and with ease of learning and adaptation to the “unknown”, but it can be a difficult barrier to overcome for senior professionals, who may have focused on their methodology for years. and scope of work and in the improvement of its matrix knowledge (networks, security, the Data Center …). However, the new ICT environment has come to stay, so that those of us who have been in this sector for a long time have no choice but to adapt, acquire new knowledge and contribute our experience to this change.
Talent management as a solution
Therefore, the heads of I&O departments must focus their efforts, more than ever, on a transformation of their work teams to be able to accompany the intended digital transformation of their companies. It is essential that they dedicate a significant part of their time, and that of their teams, to training and adapting their professional skills, managing and focusing talent in order to handle the changes detailed above. From this point of view, some of the areas that should be considered are those that we identify here below.
Cross (tranversal) Knowledge
Few years ago, some of the technological disciplines related to infrastructures (for example, data networks, systems or Cybersecurity) were independent of the sector in which they were applied (energy, transport, telecommunications, etc.), which allowed professionals in these disciplines to carry out their work, regardless of the sector for which they worked. The “democratization” of Internet access, the explosion of technologies such as M2M or the IoT and the implementation of new cloud services, which “forces” certain sectors to rethink their communications and leave their private environments, has created new environments relationship between ICT and each of the productive sectors, “forcing” professionals in environments such as communications, security or, of course, application development, to need a greater knowledge of the main business of companies for the that work with the aim of adapting the architecture and design of their infrastructures to the needs of the business. For this reason, ICT professionals must have a cross (transversal) knowledge that combines not only technological knowledge, but also that allows us to understand the needs of the business we serve (Telecommunications, Health, Transportation, Distribution …). In this sense, Universities have been reacting for years, offering new degrees and masters, new mixed careers that allow dual training for new ICT professionals (Computer Engineering and Business Administration and Management, Telecommunications and Aeronautics, Data Engineering and Telecommunication Engineering, Physics and Industrial Engineering…). Senior professionals, for their side, have eased these training gaps through practical training and their experience of years of work, opening their minds to understand the needs of the company and the technical solution that can cover them.
According to the human resources services company Randstad (“The most demanded professional technology profiles from today to 2020”), in any selection process, in addition to training, specialization or experience, companies increasingly value candidates other non-technical skills such as flexibility, commitment, communication skills or teamwork. In the case of ICT environments, which are sometimes abstract and difficult to understand for company executives who need to make decisions regarding the incorporation of new technologies into their production chains, their sales cycle or their customer services, these types of skills they are increasingly important in the technological professional. Getting to understand the goals of those production or business managers, adapt to their needs, work side by side with them and empathize with their concerns, putting ourselves in their place and trying to convey information adapted to their technological knowledge, is a vital part of the ICT professional. These skills, personal and innate in some, must be worked out in any case with the experience and the day to day of our work.
Given an outlook on the work overload that may lie ahead, those responsible for Infrastructure and Operations of companies with a high ICT load are working intensely not only on the acquisition of new methodologies or technological environments, but also on the training of their ICT staff teams with the aim of getting professionals better technologically trained and prepared to tackle the new challenges that arise. Until a few years ago, experience and specialization were the key to having teams prepared to implement, administer and manage existing infrastructures. At present, beyond these two values, there is a need for cross (transversal) technological training that allows the technician or engineer to face their day to day with a new approach, seeking not only the execution of their daily work but the optimization of it, reducing delivery times and minimizing possible human errors. Regardless their area of specialty, any professional related to Infrastructure and Operation must have a prior knowledge base that enhances their performance and allows them to be prepared to address designs and problems in a more transversal way. For this, from the point of view of SATEC, a good professional in the sector must adapt his skills by training in different technological fields such as the following:
- Extensive base knowledge: Up to now, many of the I&O professionals focused their training on a technological area, achieving vertical (or specialized) training in a short period of time, which can be a problem when dealing with cross-cutting projects, more of the real world, where there is hardly an absolutely isolated environment. From our point of view, the new Infrastructure Engineer must have a basic knowledge in multiple technological disciplines that allows him to have the skills to face the new solutions that are appearing on the market (SDx, Cloud, Security …). That way, at least, a junior engineer must have training in the communications environment (routing, LAN switching and WIFI), IP services (TCP / IP protocol, DNS name service, DHCP, SNMP, etc.), security (bastion of elements of network and systems, integration of security elements in a network architecture and systems, etc.) and, finally, an important knowledge of systems (mainly in Linux operating systems and storage architectures as a basis to be able to face the optimization of your work through programmability and automation).
- Advantaced base knowledge: With the years and experience participating in projects, the new Infrastructure and Operation engineer must consolidate his knowledge, not only in the area of specialization he chooses, but also look into those cross (transversal) knowledge that will be fundamental to approach complex issues and adapt to current technologies. Among those we must emphasize the knowledge in communications solutions that have just arrived on the market (such as software-based networks, virtualization of network environments and, mainly, infrastructure orchestration solutions). In the same way, it is advisable to acquire experience in security and balancing infrastructures that will be useful for approaching designs of new security architectures. Finally, as basis for programmability and automation, a fundamental purpose in the acquisition of new technological skills that allow optimizing the performance of the I&O professional’s work, at SATEC we are betting on training in virtualization technologies systems, Docker architectures and solutions in cloud.
- Optimization Area: As in any job, the I&O professional must perform, throughout his professional life, a series of tasks that can be relatively repetitive or, in some cases, easy to automate using small scripts or tools that allow us the optimization of our work. With this purpose, any Network, Security, Systems or OSS engineer must have training and ability to execute more or less complex scripts in simple programming languages and feel comfortable working with automation tools that reduce their task execution time and as a complement, possible human errors typical of the execution of repetitive tasks. In this sense, at SATEC we have been training our Technology teams for some time in these tools (mainly Ansible, due to its “agent-less” capacity, but also in others such as Puppet or Chef) and in Python as a programming language.
- Specialty Area: With well-consolidated prior knowledge, any I&O engineer will have the capacity to develop his professional career in our sector, allowing him to face new challenges and grow professionally based on the area of specialty that, or their choice. or the possibilities of his job: Cybersecurity, Data Center, Telco Networking, Enterprise Networking, BSS / OSS …
Consequently, as Director of the SATEC Technology Department, I see these new needs that our clients demand of us every day, which leads me to the conviction that the only way to approach the new challenges that the evolution of ICT environments are demanding of us, happens because the managers of professionals related to Infrastructure and Operation, invest, not only in the training of our teams, something obvious, but in our own professional development, first internalizing the new methodologies and technologies applied to our work environments to design and facilitate the execution of training plans for our teams, leading the implementation of new work methodologies and the aforementioned programmability and automation tools in their daily tasks.
Jose Julián Quirós. Director de Tecnología
This article was published on 7th July by the newspaper “RRHH DIGITAL”. You can access through this link .