The future of work: How technology leaders can reimagine technology work, the workforce, and the workplace

The future of work in technology, encompassing work, workforce, and workplace, is undergoing a transformation. How can technology and business leaders strategize, design, and collaborate to succeed in this journey?

Evolving strategic business imperatives, trends, and disrupters are driving a seismic shift in the way IT organizations operate. This report—part of a series exploring the merger of business and technology strategies and the reimagination of technology’s role in the business—aims to address fundamental questions about the future of work in technology:

  • How can organizations leverage technology to redesign current work outcomes to focus on exponential increases in productivity and cost efficiencies and redefine new work outcomes that extend beyond productivity and cost to value, meaning, and impact?
  • How will tomorrow’s technology workforce be different than today’s? How will jobs and roles change? What skills and capabilities will be needed?
  • Does the current workplace support the evolving work of technology and the workforce required to complete it? How will it need to be redesigned to sustain the evolution of technology work?
  • Reimagining the role of technology

    Savvy business and technology executives are working together to reimagine how technology delivers business value and competitive advantage. “Because of technological advances, technology’s role within the organization is itself shifting,” says Satish Alapati, CIO of Media & Entertainment Customer Experience at AT&T. “The role of technology has evolved from automating the business to actually being the business.”

    Business innovation and disruption are rapidly changing the scope, pace, and scale of technology work. “Disruptions come in different forms—from competitors using technology at scale to the industrial Internet of Things,” says another technology leader. “As a result, it’s becoming more important than ever to enable everything we do with cutting-edge technology.”3

    Yet despite the convergence of technology and business strategies, data from Deloitte’s 2018 Global CIO Survey suggests that CIOs and other technology leaders still struggle with a lingering perception of IT as order-taker rather than business-driver. Only 29 percent of business leaders participating in the survey agree that the technology organization and its leaders should be deeply involved in developing enterprise business strategy.

    Four major shifts in the role of technology

    Deloitte’s ongoing research on reimagining the role of technology has identified four significant shifts that are changing the role of technology in organizations.

    From trusted operator to business cocreator. Technology teams should continue to maintain operational excellence—in the past, their primary function—but because business and technology strategies are now entwined, technology work should evolve to focus on hand-in-hand collaboration with business functions to cocreate value.

    In addition, because of the growing demand for rapid and efficient delivery of low-friction experiences and capabilities—on par with best-in-class consumer-grade online experiences—many technology teams are shifting from traditional project- and process-focused operating models to those that are more product- and outcome-centric, which prioritize cross-functional collaboration, acceleration of time-to-customer value and other user/customer needs, and business outcomes.

    From service delivery to value delivery. Automation, cloud, and as-a-service technology models are taking root, streamlining and speeding IT delivery, and changing the way technology teams and business functions work, collaborate, and create value. And they’re helping eliminate some tactical and operational work and move the rest to machines and service providers.

    As technology teams shift from trusted operators to business cocreators, their worth likely will lie in the value they deliver to the business rather than in the services they deliver.

    From cost center to revenue engine. In the service delivery world, IT is typically viewed as a cost center, with CIOs charged to deliver services at the lowest possible cost. The average IT department invests more than half (56 percent) of its technology budget on maintaining business operations and spends only 18 percent on building new business capabilities.

    Data suggests that if technology teams are to drive innovation and be change agents, reducing costs should take a back seat to strategically investing to increase revenue, growth, stock price, or other measurements of business and shareholder value. CIOs in “digital vanguard” organizations—those with well-defined digital strategies and highly regarded IT departments—already allocate less than half of their budgets (47 percent) to business operations and 26 percent to innovation. In the next three to five years, they plan to further reduce the operations allocation to a third of their annual budget while increasing innovation funding to 38 percent. For CIOs, being savvy about financial returns and articulating the value of technology investments can help drive forward their new agenda.

    When technology and business strategies merge, the technology function is a codriver of innovation and cocreator of revenue driven by technology investments. “IT needs to demonstrate an innovation agenda,” says Jo-ann Olsovsky, Salesforce CIO. “A company has to feel that IT is a change agent that’s positioning the business for the future.”

  • From cybersecurity to risk and resilience. When it comes to risk, technology leaders’ primary focus has been cybersecurity. While cybersecurity will always be critical, leaders also should focus on business resilience and risks and disruptions inherent to having a combined business-technology strategy—risks whose reach extends beyond traditional IT environments into factories and other workspaces, products, and even customer locations. Because digitally connected customers will now have access to data through a voluminous set of channels that all need to be secure and resilient, this should include integrating security into product design and development.
  • Forces shaping the future of work in technology

    Technology’s transition to a new role in the organization requires the work of technology to change. Three forces are converging to reshape the future of work in technology:

    1. The proliferation of disruptive technologies is continually reshaping businesses, industries, and markets.
    2. Technology’s role is shifting to that of a catalyst for business strategy and transformation, changing the expectations and delivery of technology and blurring the lines between business and technology functions.
    3. Global demographic and workforce trends such as gig and contingent workers, a multigenerational workforce, more diverse talent, and global talent markets are transforming the labor market in general—and the technology workforce in particular.

    In the face of these drastic shifts, many savvy CIOs and other technology leaders are aiming to shape the future of work in technology. To do so, they can harness these forces and balance their competing demands while continuing to maintain operational excellence, meet business and customer expectations, and drive innovation, disruption, and digital transformation.

    Traditional IT disciplines evolve to new technology disciplines

    Many technology leaders recognize these shifts are happening but may fail to understand their fundamental implications on technology work and the workforce and workplaces required to deliver it. As a result, some leaders have approached the evolution to the future of work with disjointed, ad hoc efforts.

    These changes have rendered the traditional scope of IT work unsustainable. Business leaders should redefine technology work beyond IT and refresh traditional IT disciplines to create technology disciplines focusing on value creation (figure 1). In this report, we deliberately replaced the acronym “IT” with “technology” because the scope of responsibility is very different for each. IT refers to the historic technology organization and its inward-focused IT disciplines. In the future, technology work will spread throughout the enterprise and may not be directly controlled by the CIO. Business and technology leaders alike can benefit from becoming comfortable with the idea of looking at technology holistically across the organization.