The impact of COVID on the workforce is making IT more challenging for infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders, but it\u2019s also a chance for them to drive some serious business changes and increase resiliency, according to jGartner.\n\u201cI&O leaders need to drive change, not simply absorb it,\u201d said Jeffrey Hewitt, research vice president at Gartner, to the virtual audience at Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Conference. I&O leaders are expected to deliver more adaptable and resilient service from anywhere\u2014and for an increasingly distributed workforce, Hewitt said.\n\nMORE GARTNER PREDICTIONS:\u00a0Top strategic technology trends for 2022\n\nOther changes are afoot as well.\u00a0\n\u201cWith over 40% of organizations\u2019 staff now acting as business technologists, we have a wider variety of users depending on IT departments today than ever before,\u201d said Douglas Toombs, research vice president at Gartner.\nBy building adaptive platforms that are loosely coupled, but tightly integrated, I&O can empower creators of all types of systems throughout the organization. \u201cAs hyperautomation is a critical path to achieve growth and operational excellence, I&O leaders must make automation a first-class discipline in everything they do,\u201d Toombs said.\nBy using hyperautomation, I&O can pave the way for intelligence systems, such as AIOps and incident response automation, that play a key role in the day-to-day operations of IT. Gartner estimates that by 2025, 60% of I&O teams will use AI-augmented automation across their organizations, up from 1% in 2020.\nHyperautomation is only one of the key developments Gartner said will influence I&O in the next 12-18 months.\nJust-in-time infrastructure\nHow quickly companies can deliver infrastructure components at the right place\u2014colocation, data center, at the edge\u2014and time is the driving theme behind this trend, Hewitt said.\u00a0\nThe idea is to reduce infrastructure deployment times as well as fuel enterprise responsiveness to business needs and anywhere operations, Hewitt said. On the plus side, the trend can offer customers a better negotiation position through the comparison of providers and options. But, it also can increase complexity and it requires a provider to be responsive to speed and costs if they are late with delivery or implementation, Hewitt said.\nDigital natives\nDigital-native companies are those that made public cloud and other digital capabilities part of their business model from the start\u2014companies such as Door Dash and Uber, Hewitt said.\u00a0\n\u201cThere is an opportunity for traditional I&O organizations to leverage their digital-native counterparts that thrived during the pandemic to also produce highly agile, innovative and competitive offerings themselves, or join those that can,\u201d said Hewitt. It\u2019s an opportunity for I&O to lead with innovation in traditional businesses, but it requires a cultural shift from the old ways of doing business, he said.\nBy 2025, 70% of I&O leaders who ignore innovation will be marginalized to legacy system support only, Hewitt added.\nManagement confluence\nThis trend reflects the need for the growing number of management and monitoring tools\u2014from IT service management (ITSM) to artificial intelligence operations (AIOps) and more\u2014to be brought together in a single, comprehensive tool. Such integration is indispensable in the adoption of composable technologies, one of the three domains of business composability, which allows components of systems and data to combine more quickly and easily.\n\u201cWhat we are seeing is a trend for IO to integrate results from the many infrastructure and operation management tools and the ability to bring that data into more of a single view so that organizations can get better results and act more quickly on the data,\u201d Hewitt said. "This is another area where the use of hyperautomation would help these management views come together quickly and efficiently."\nThe downside of this trend is that the integration of output from different tools is not easily enabled, and it requires greater collaboration among vendors and different parts of the organization, Hewitt said.\n\u201cI&O leaders can extend composability throughout the entire technology stack by inventorying their current management tool usage and identifying those that can be combined to form a more valuable, all-inclusive portfolio that improves I&O agility and drives optimal business results,\u201d Hewitt said.\nData proliferation\nAs businesses continue to expand their data collection and holding efforts, I&O will be instrumental in guiding the policies surrounding the processing, retention, and legal requirements of enterprise data.\nCloud and edge implementations will drive the proliferation, Hewitt said. Data management challenges will increase, and creating effective data retention policies will become paramount.\nThe key here is for organization to determine the right data to retain, Hewitt said.\u00a0\n\u201cI&O workforces need to work closely with their chief data officer to expand data literacy and effectively support data management across the enterprise,\u201d said Hewitt.\nBusiness acumen\nInteresting fact: Gartner expects that by 2025, CIOs will fill 65% of open I&O leader positions with people who have no I&O experience, Hewitt stated.\u00a0\n\u201cTechnical skills\u2019 shelf life is shortening,\u201d said Hewitt. \u201cAs the I&O function is asked to provide more business justification for what they do, organizations are looking for I&O new hires to have business backgrounds rather than strictly technical degrees.\u201d\nDriving this trend is the fact that the rapidly changing and distributed technology environment threatens the IT talent gap and requires new skills. According to a recent Gartner survey, 64% of I&O leaders point to insufficient skills and resources as one of their greatest challenges this past year.\nIt\u2019s a skills shift that aligns with more public cloud and edge usage and integrates effective business-based thinking, Hewitt said. The downside is that it \u00a0challenges traditional hiring approaches and requires cultural changes, he said.\nCareer ladders to career lattices\nAs the appeal of business acumen increases, I&O will move away from single domain career paths driven by workloads and legacy technical skills. In fact, 29% of the skills in an average I&O job posting in 2018 will not be needed by 2022, according to Gartner data.\nInstead, I&O teams are moving laterally across a competency-based lattice that takes into account softer skills and emphasizes both learning agility and cross-domain expertise, Hewitt said. So instead of a single ladder path to a technical career, organizations will have to offer a latticework of options in order to offer employees more options.\u00a0\n\u201cWhile this certainly requires a mindset adjustment for some of the more tenured I&O workers, there will be much more opportunity within I&O teams as they move away from territorial thinking and toward fostering a collaborative environment,\u201d Hewitt said.