IT managers at SMEs will be made redundant in the next five years and replaced by a financial director or CIO, according to the MD of data centre provider City Lifeline, Roger Keenan.
Keenan told Computing that in-house data centres are "dying a slow lingering death", and suggested that at the same time the role of in-house IT managers and IT technicians will disappear.
"If I was the IT manager of an SME that had a communications room with three racks of servers and a telecoms rack, and two technicians working for me, and we were the team that ran the IT needs of the business - which is typical of a company of 200 or 300 employees - then I would be uncomfortable as I can see the situation where all of those guys over the next five years are going to gradually get made redundant," he said.
"Because once the business has two bits of fibre coming into the building, and it has got all of its communications running down those and all of its IT operations virtualised in a remote environment, then the IT room becomes half a rack with two or three routers in it and you don't need the IT manager or the technicians any more," he added.
Keenan claimed that in these circumstances only one person will be required to check over the equipment every now and again, plus a 24/7 contact in case something goes wrong, a job that could be subcontracted to another firm.
The role of the IT manager will then be replaced, he said, by a single person working at a higher level.
"[The person replacing the IT manager] whose job it is to organise information, negotiate the contracts with the various suppliers, will be the person who fixes it all when it goes wrong, but that's more of an accounting and financial management job rather than an IT management job," Keenan suggested.
He believes that in some instances hands-on IT management will be replaced by a CIO, reporting to the financial director, and that in others the financial director will take on the role. In either case, few SMEs will require technicians who know how to configure an operating system.
"Somebody still has to manage [the IT]; in a small company it would probably fall to the financial director to become the CIO, in a large company, you'll end up with a CIO because even if it has all been outsourced, somebody has got to manage it and fix things if something goes wrong. So there is a job that needs to be done, but it's not the job that exists at the moment," he said.