Future of IT Departments Reflects a new Role of IT

Crystal BallThe role of IT was never static. Technology changes alone bring about major changes in the role of IT and influence the future of IT.  This really should not be debateable since we see everyday how technology changes redefine various professions or business functions through automation and simplification. Yet, when you describe a future of IT that is less strategic people get upset and accuse you of being a contrarian just for the sake of it.

In my last post The Future of IT Looks More Like Human Resources and Facilities I apparently did not lay enough of a foundation for my position or perhaps many people are just not ready to accept the trends affecting the role of IT. So let me give it another pass here this morning.

  1. Technology maturity is such that we are in an era of true plug-and-play, one-click installs, and drag-and-drop integration of very sophisticated software.
  2. The democratization of technology has arrived as a result of technology maturity and the emergence of solutions designed for functional managers without IT dependencies.
  3. Traditional IT functions are being self-performed by non-IT departments at record levels.
  4. The number of IT staff required in an IT organization to support a given technology portfolio will continue to go down.
  5. Pressures for a decentralized or federated organizational structure are not going away.
  6. The business case for on-premise in-house IT services is weakening every day.
  7. Non-IT functional managers are making more of the technology purchasing decisions.

Bottom line

  • The future of IT is more likely than not to see more of the IT systems and services shift off-premise to third party providers including cloud service providers.
  • The future of IT is more likely than not to see more IT functions eliminated through new sourcing models, technology changes or simply transferred to functional areas.
  • The future of IT is more likely than not to reflect a role of IT based on servicing the remaining on-premise infrastructure and coordinating the procurement of services.

The importance of this discussion and yesterday’s post could not be overstated. CIO’s cannot allow their desire to be more strategic, which is an important aspiration, to prevent them from seeing and planning for the likely eventuality of the role of IT.

I realize a few CIO’s won’t consider making any changes until they hear it from a Gartner or Forrester. For these CIO’s they should consider that while Gartner is telling them to be a more agile and strategic IT organization, they are still focused on pushing a technology focus which is how their bread is buttered.

Fortunately, most CIO’s do see these trends and understand the implications. They do understand new organizational structures will be required and the role of IT along with the role of the CIO have changed. For them the only questions relate to just how fast the rate of change be and what is the stopping point.

CIO’s should be planning for the changes in the role of IT brought about by technology changes and considering what organizational structure makes the most sense going forward. What CIO’s really need to consider is what is the upside and downside of inaction versus action. Either way, do you really want your CEO to get to that place before you do?

Photo Credit: Copyright(c)123RF Stock Photos
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6 Responses to Future of IT Departments Reflects a new Role of IT

  1. Richard James Sullivan says:

    While I agree with a lot of what is written in this follow up, there are a few items that need to occur or the technology and applications being used at an institution could get out of control and be even more costly than it is today. For example, I had the privilege of working as the CIO at a private institution in mid-state New York.

    I quickly discovered that there were no purchasing guidelines and that each “college” at the university had their own technology budget and spent it in the manner they thought best. What was interesting is that each college, even with the same manufacturer, were negotiating their own contracts instead of centralizing their purchases based on the ‘best’ contract. I discovered that on one application, there were 4 different purchasing contracts and two of the 4 contracts were outrageously high. The sad thing is that this policy had been in place for many years and a lot of money was wasted. It took about 3 months, but we finally pulled all the contracts together and began standardizing on the best purchasing contract from about 20 vendors. The savings in the first year alone was incredible.

    The point being that without some centralized oversight, standards, and controls (call it governance if you want), you run the risk of overspending without ever knowing as you have ‘your budget’ and will spend it as you see fit. It amazes me how much money can be saved IF institutions will properly identify, monitor and report on IT related expenditures.

    What I totally agree on, if fiscally possible, is the decentralization of specific services. I can see desktop, AV, and application support easily pushed out to the various colleges or schools within a university or college. In this way, support staff can become very familiar with the school or college they support, the applications that are being used, and the equipment that delivers that application to the constituents. What MUST be in place, is a centralized standard delivery mechanism (switches, routers, cabling, fiber, wireless access points, etc.) and standards for common peripheral equipment (desktops, laptops, printers) used in each school or college’s lab or open use environments. The same equipment used in the business center, most likely, cannot be used in a medical center or graphic arts center. However, the equipment being used in each of these ‘centers’ can and should be consistent based on standards developed by that center.

    One comment – “The number of IT staff required in an IT organization to support a given technology portfolio will continue to go down” – I am not convinced is accurate. I would say that the number of IT staff located specifically within the IT department will continue to go down, however, the total number of support staff, if properly identified as “technology support staff” may, in fact, increase in a decentralized or federated model. I also contend that in a federated model, with the increase in staff, that response/repair times will go down as staff will be more strategically and geographically located on the campus.

    Centralized services would include network and systems/server support. In a private cloud environment, all servers would be centrally located in a secured level 4 data center either on campus or off campus. With so much of today’s applications being browser accessible, it no longer matters where the physical devices reside. Also, with so many level 4 data centers continually being built to support “cloud” technology, there is no reason for a college or university to spend the money to continue to build out or upgrade these environments. The requirements for BC/DR and all the new rules for compliance and security, I am amazed that an institution would spend the millions of dollars on a certified environment instead of ‘renting’ space at a dedicated data center.

    It is time for the CIO to be a champion of information management and delivery regardless of what technology is being used.

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  5. Jim Wiedman says:

    I’m not clear on what you mean by “a future of IT that is less strategic.” The trends that you cite in your articles would seem to require more strategic thinking, not less. What am I missing?

    I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Sullivan’s earlier comment to your post.

  6. The Higher Ed CIO says:

    That’s in reference to the IT department becoming less strategic, not the systems or technology. This is the result of the decision making becoming more mainstream to other professions and the technology becoming more commoditized.

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