Joe Byrne, Executive CTO at Cisco AppDynamics, explores the latest findings from the annual Agents of Transformation research, revealing the innovative technologists who are reimagining applications and digital services delivery.
In 2018, Cisco AppDynamics released research revealing the emergence of a select group of elite technologists who possessed the skills, vision and ambition to drive positive and sustainable transformation within their organisations. At the time, 9% of technologists were operating at this level - as Agents of Transformation - but that many more technologists would need to step up in order to deliver the innovation that their organisations needed to compete.
Four years later, new research presented in the 'Agents of Transformation 2022' report, shows that 10% of technologists are now operating at the highest level of their profession.
At first glance, this would appear to represent slow or minimal progress, but it's important to consider the context of the last four years and, in particular, the global pandemic, which dramatically altered the pressures and demands that technologists are facing.
Against a backdrop of seismic change - and relentless pressure to deliver innovation and meet soaring customer and employee expectations for seamless digital experiences - the journey to the summit of the IT profession has undoubtedly become more complex, demanding and dynamic. Indeed, the research finds that 66% of technologists feel that it is more difficult to be an Agent of Transformation now than it was in 2018.
Agents of Transformation have had to re-invent themselves, evolving at pace to adapt to new customer and business needs. The research shows that elite technologists have had to become more outcome-oriented, using real-time insights to optimise digital experience and link IT performance to business outcomes. They've had to improve their critical thinking, collaborate with a wider range of stakeholders, and proactively invest in their own learning and skills to prepare for future technology and business demands.
Nobody could dispute the impact and contribution that technologists have made over the last four years - in many cases, their skill and dedication was critical to their organisations managing to navigate through the pandemic. However, there is now a widespread acceptance that greater numbers of technologists need to step up over the coming months and years. Eight-eight per cent of technologists believe that the pandemic has accelerated the need for more technologists to become Agents of Transformation to deliver their organisations' goals for innovation and meet rapidly changing business and customer needs.
Encouragingly, however, the research shows that while the number of Agents of Transformation has barely changed, there are a growing number of technologists that are close to reaching this level. Thirty-eight per cent of global technologists are now operating as Digital Pioneers, meaning that they have many of the skills and qualities required to reach the summit of their profession. This represents an increase of more than 50% since 2018 and suggests that the numbers of Agents of Transformation could swell significantly in the not-too-distant future. It's now up to these technologists to take the final step, whether that be developing and expanding their skill sets, building their credibility and influence within the organisation or implementing the tools that will enable them to optimise technology performance and drive business impact.
Of course, the path to the top of the IT profession isn't easy, particularly when IT teams are juggling so many pressures and demands, but the research uncovers a number of focus areas for all technologists which will help to speed up their journey. These include investing in their own learning - developing skills and competencies around cloud-native technologies emerges as a key priority; facilitating collaboration across the business and becoming a champion for innovation.
There are also organisational factors that can help technologists to perform at their best. They need to operate in a culture that embraces the best technology talent and in an organisation that has a clear vision, with technology at its heart.
Most crucially, technologists need the right tools to generate the data and insight they need to make decisions based on business impact. Ninety-three per cent state that they need to be able to monitor and observe their entire IT stack and link technology performance to business outcomes in order to operate as an elite technologist. Across all sectors, full-stack observability is being seen as a core part of their efforts to deliver sustainable transformation in their organisation.
The overriding feeling within IT departments today is that it's time to get back on the front foot, to leave behind the firefighting of the last two years and to embrace a proactive and strategic approach to innovation. Organisations know that they need to innovate at speed and to re-imagine their applications in order to meet the changing needs of end users. And this shift will provide a perfect platform for technologists to accelerate their careers and reach the summit of their profession.
Technologists are looking to the future and feeling optimistic. Ninety-seven per cent say they feel excited about the prospect of becoming an Agent of Transformation. After the relentless hard work and pressure of the past two years, technologists are ready to grasp the opportunities that lie ahead and become Agents of Transformation. And that's good news for all of us.