Building the technologists of the future

We can only begin to imagine the ways that advancements in technology are set to transform the world around us. Businesses navigating this rapid change successfully are those investing in building exceptional digital experiences that meet the rising bar of consumer demand. But this brings to light the dichotomy of modern technology – while technology innovation allows us to build elegant, simple and intuitive customer experiences, it makes backend architectures far more distributed and complex, heightening the challenge for technologists to deliver reliable digital services. Overcoming this challenge requires a new breed of technologist, primed to drive innovation and enable companies to thrive in the face of rapid technological advancement

What should today’s IT leaders consider to better manage, retain and attract agents of transformation — the technologists who are primed to drive innovation and enable companies to thrive in the face of rapid technological advancement?

According to ‘The Agents of Transformation Report‘, only a small portion (17%) of UK technologists are very optimistic that their organisation is ready for the pace of change we currently experience.

Keeping up with the rate of technological advancement requires a particular breed of employee. One that not very many businesses are sure they have. Today only 6% of UK technologists currently meet this description, according to this survey of IT professionals. More and more businesses are investing in agile technology platforms to help them meet the increasing digital demands of both the consumer and employees within today’s digital business. But those that can envisage, advocate for and build those platforms need a diverse set of skills. These ‘Agents of Transformation’ must not only invest in their technical skills, but have the personal qualities and attributes to drive innovation and champion change.

In the face of this digital transformation challenge, business and IT leaders cannot forget the human element of their technology strategy. The best IT leaders, and those that aspire to be, will ensure they focus on these four areas to attract and cultivate the technologists that will build the future.

Why digital transformation? Challenge vs opportunity

Why digital transformation? There are challenges, but says Dr Joanne Phoenix, from Sensor City, those who fail to adapt and become digitally-driven will simply fall behind. Read here

1. Invest in people

Without the right people, effective transformation cannot happen. Enterprises need to retain and attract new talent with the ambitions, skills and appetite to bring about great change. If businesses are to remain competitive over the next ten years, the technologists working within those businesses say that they need at least 44% of their teams operating as Agents of Transformation. The consequences of not finding these key players can be huge. Companies that fail to successfully master digital transformation will lag behind their competitors by as much as five years.

Attracting, retaining and cultivating these agents of transformation is a powerful advantage for businesses. Their ability to drive innovation initiatives to completion, support business outcomes, champion customer experience and to act as a positive role model are some of the most tangible rewards. But currently, only 19% of UK IT directors and managers feel they are reaching their full potential.

Moving quickly to identify and nurture this talent base is critical. More technologists with both the technical and the softer business and communication skills to drive organisational and cultural change must be found and trained. These individuals must also have the hunger, passion, courage and vision to deliver that change positively and sustainably, bringing the rest of the business along with them.

Robotic Process Automation: let humans be human

James Dening, VP Europe at Automation Anywhere, discusses insights from their multi-market study into the impact of AI and automation in the workplace, conducted by Goldsmiths University. Read here

2. Break down barriers

IT teams expect their leaders to dismantle the barriers to experimentation and innovation. To foster Agents of Transformation, teams need to be empowered to bring new solutions to the table and take aim at old challenges in new and exciting ways. This means promoting a culture of curiosity and breaking the mentality of “we have always done it this way”. When we asked teams what they needed to become more effective at bringing about digital transformation, this is what they replied.

• Data: 73% said their organisations need to give them accurate and contextual data to allow them to think and act strategically, moving their focus above and beyond just ‘keeping the lights on’. Half of UK technologists say that they do not have access to the software and tools they need to turn data into real-time, context-specific insight. Just over half say they do not have access to the data they need to achieve innovation goals.
• Time: 62% of British technologists say they spend too much of their day keeping existing systems running. This inevitably leaves them with too little time to learn and innovate.
• Strategic leadership: 64% of UK IT professionals say that their work is to reactive. They want strategic leadership that will allow them to experiment and to exercise thought leadership.

3. Encourage ‘big picture’ thinking

Transformation requires a significant shift in thinking, an appetite for stepping outside of your comfort zone, and a whole host of new skills and approaches to drive transformation from within. Leaders must create cultures that engage, support, and inspire their teams to think big, while simultaneously providing career growth opportunities.

Most IT professionals care deeply about how technology is changing the world and want their career to leave a lasting and positive legacy. But today, 58% of British technologists say their organisation does not encourage them to embrace the future-looking, creative side of technology.

Tackling a meaningful problem, having a greater goal or aspiration, allows technologists to take a bigger picture view of their work. Being able to understand or quantify how their efforts are contributing towards that goal is critical. Inspiring technologists to embrace future technologies and giving them an opportunity to leave a legacy is a huge net plus for attracting and retaining the right talent.

Desktop-as-a-Service and the future of IT working for digital transformation

Embracing Desktop-as-a-Service, and other cloud-based services, will free up IT teams to focus on the digital transformation demands being placed on them. Read here

4. Get outside your comfort zone

Technology continues to advance at a staggering rate, and often this sees technologists pushed beyond their comfort zone to keep pace. Whether that’s leading teams into uncharted territories or encouraging those teams to develop their own abilities. The good news is that there is a strong appetite among IT professionals for this kind of growth.

The rise of AIOps, moving beyond a focus only on monitoring systems and applications, to predicting the right course of action to take, and eventually automating an intelligent response instantly, can provide agility for IT teams to go beyond only keeping existing services up and running. This is one example of how technology can be embraced to create a culture that centres on innovation. Almost three quarters of IT professionals say innovation is a priority and they are looking for ways to embrace creative and future-facing technology.

The challenges facing today’s IT professionals are also huge opportunities. Rising to the challenges posed by digital transformation can accelerate your career, that of your wider team and support the advancement of the organisation you work for.

Gartner on futurology and the year 2035: Technologists can be pragmatic about futurism, but there is a need for us all to speak up

Guessing what the future will be like is the stuff of science fiction and hasn’t got much to to with business, right? According to Gartner’s Frank Buytendijk, futurology is something we should all think about in order to become ready for change. And we all need to speak up if we want to mould a future we want. Read here

True progress happens outside of your comfort zone — whether that’s embracing new technologies and taking risks on new projects, or championing the continuous development of new skills amongst your team. With the increasing adoption of artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality and other emerging technologies, organisations’ use of IT faces disruption like never before. Taking risks and being willing to try new things is key to transforming the companies and the industries we work in.

For enterprises to thrive in 2019, they need to understand the role of IT and of technology professionals. There is a huge opportunity for technologists and the teams they build as technology continues to advance and develop. Agents of transformation require the will, the confidence and the motivation to make bold decisions and change the future of their companies, The success of those decisions will be their legacy. Are you ready?

Written by John Rakowski, senior director for technology strategy at AppDynamics
Written by John Rakowski, senior director for technology strategy at AppDynamics

Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice consists of the best articles written by third parties and selected by our editors. You can contact us at timothy.adler at

Related Topics

IT Professionals