Remember Nick Burns, the "company computer guy" played by Jimmy Fallon on "Saturday Night Live"?

IT people have long been fixtures in the office (though hopefully seldom as grumpy as Nick). However, their jobs have been radically changed by two trends -- the cloud and consumerization.

The cloud has amplified what a small business can do by moving the physical server and network infrastructure that staff or consultants used to be needed to manage, to off-premises locations.

Consumerization has made computers and mobile devices easier to set up and use. For example, instead of having to enter eight pieces of information to set up an email account, most devices just ask for an address and password. There's no wizardry (or IT person) required.

So what should the Nick Burnses of 2017 be working on? I have some ideas:

1. Integrating apps

We love apps because they're so simple and useful. But when it comes to business, someone usually needs to link them together to automate the exchange of data.

This helps keep organizations efficient and able to react to markets more quickly. This is a great role for today's IT pros.

2. Securing apps

It seems as if a major data breach makes headlines nearly every day. IT folks can, and should, turn more of their attention to security.

Much of good security work takes place in the weeds -- techniques like multi-factor authentication and policy-based data management that would put you to sleep if I explained them here -- but the more time IT pros can devote to these tasks, the safer our systems will be.

3. Educating coworkers

It's amazing how much good can come simply from more training and knowledge sharing.

Your IT staff can be an excellent resource for, say, training employees to spot a phishing email or how to get the most out of a business app.

4. Thinking about the business

Though we don't usually think of them this way, company technologists are often deeply knowledgeable about not just technology but about the company's business processes and people.

Company leaders and managers should think of IT people as experts beyond IT and include them in conversations about the organization's overall direction.

5. Thinking outside the business

Many of your customers today likely discovered your company through technology.

When it comes to considering the ways that your organization interacts with the world, who better than the technology experts in your organization to contribute to how that happens?

Who ever imagined that Nick Burns would become a bigger asset to a company beyond fixing someone's keyboard?

As technology evolves, companies need to re-think the IT staff's role and leverage their skills and smarts in new ways.

Published on: Jun 1, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.