Once upon a time, IT professionals were the technology experts. They were the ones with access to the best equipment, the fastest connections, the latest information. They meted out technology goodies on their own schedule for their own needs. Along with running the backend infrastructure that supported those services, that was pretty much the extent of IT's responsibilities.
Let's share a moment of silence to commemorate the demise of that sweet, innocent world. Because today, technology has been fully democratized. Everyone has access to the latest and greatest technology, and you don't have to be a tech professional to live and breathe this stuff.
Everyone is online
In fact, according to a new Pew Research Center survey, 73% of American adults go online every day. And it only gets more intense from there. Some 21% say they go online "almost constantly," with some 245 million adults in America as of 2014, that works out to more than 51 million people. Yikes! Another 42% (almost 103 million people) go online several times a day.
Not surprisingly, those numbers are primed to keep rising. According to the survey, more than a third (36%) of 18- to 29-year-olds go online almost constantly, while half (50%) go online multiple times per day. The comparable figures for seniors 65 and are just 6% and 24%.
All those people are now IT's competitors for influence and expertise, which leads to phenomena like shadow IT and BYOD and a general feeling that the inmates are now running the asylum.
A stark choice for IT professionals
That perception is pretty much true, but there's more to the story. All those internet-savvy Americans are also your customers. While IT used to serve internal users, more and more companies now interact with their customers via websites and apps and software. In companies from banks to retailers and everything in between, IT's extended role increasingly encompasses products and services that directly touch customers and affect revenue in significant ways.
Technology professionals who want to make a real difference in their companies' performance—and their careers—should be encouraged to look to these areas for inspiration. That's where the growth, the profits, and the promotions lie.
The alternative is to be seen as a bottleneck and a cost center. Not usually a good career move.