The industrialisation of the IT department and the services it provides creates real business value, says Simon Stapleton.

It is valuable because business people can get on and focus on business stuff without the impediments often caused by unreliable technology, and more importantly in the processes and people established to provide it - the IT department. Industrialisation is bringing in a 'Golden Age' of IT robustness, dependability and professionalism.

Are there other implications for business, society and the economy?

As far back as the 1960s, the management guru Pete F. Drucker began to shape leadership practices by describing the quintessential differences between blue-collar factory workers and white-collar executives. These were:

Factory workers have their worked proscribed for them. Their inputs and outputs are well defined and measurable and they are not generally required to make decisions within a procedure. Any exceptions to procedure are escalated to managers. Their work is heavily supervised by a lower management tier of supervisors. They tend to work to rule and according to their paid hours of work. Factory workers can be good corporate citizens, but will not generally go above and beyond the call of duty.

Executives are knowledge workers who have a vague brief, defining and creating their own work according to loosely defined inputs and outputs. They are required to process the knowledge of others, generate ideas or produce knowledge for others to work with. Their work is not generally supervised, but managed to objectives. They are often required to work outside of a conventional work pattern. Executives receive much less feedback about their performance than factory workers.

Factory workers and IT ops professionals share many similarities in an industrialised operation. So it goes that the industrialisation of IT will create a sub-class of blue-collar IT workers. The reason for this is that industrialisation will bring in highly repeatable, mature processes that demand rigour in their application and there will be a very low tolerance for deviation. Deviation is expensive and disruptive.

In the workforce, this will require total compliance to procedure and work patterns. It will require a worker's productivity to be measurable. But it won't require workers to make decisions.

What's more, IT ops workers (like their factory counterparts) will work to rule: 9 to 5 (or whatever their shift is). This won't be because they are lazy, although those managers used to the pre-industrial age may think so. There is a psychological reason for this: workers who cannot differentiate themselves from their peers do not go above and beyond the call of duty except under extreme circumstances, because in this organisation design, there is no meritocracy. Actually, this organisational design depends on the lack of a meritocracy - workers must take the same amount of input, and produce the same output at the same quality for industrialisation to take effect. There won't be heroes, but there won't be villains (for long).

The current workforce

What about the current workforce? Will the existing highly-skilled, highly-educated, diversely applied IT ops professionals move on or out of these roles? I think the answer is yes.

This will be for two reasons: 1) They are expensive, so their current packages will be too steep for IT managers encouraged to run low-cost, highly efficient operations as a cost-centre. 2) They will become very frustrated and impatient because their skills and intelligence create the need for self-fulfilment through decision-making and calculated risk-taking - they are executives. So they will move, over time into management positions or analyst roles that will add in many ways more value than they do today.

Those professionals will be the 'process architects' or 'process owners' of IT operations, who will design and control how work gets done. Their experience in understanding the responsibilities of IT operations will result in more efficient and more effective operations built at scale.

There will be significant global opportunities for work in IT jobs. Outsource vendors, of course, will take advantage. Their ability to create economies of scale will further entice organisations to take IT operations outside of their organisational boundary and supporting capabilities. These vendors will consider their recruitment capabilities of qualified, low-cost bodies equally as core as their IT operations capabilities.

Vendor consolidation is likely in order to exploit the synergies.

It's important for me to stress though that the quality and cost of IT services provided by IT ops functions will improve. I'm not suggesting that organisations will employ a rabble - but they will employ the right kind of person for the right job.

You don't need bright stars capable of many great things working in a rigidly defined job. They will be the new managers and the people who design how the work should get done. Organisations will still need top notch IT professionals working out how best to solve common issues and opportunities and make the solutions scalable, repeatable and commercial.