Is IT's Influence Expanding or Eroding?
Some contend that BYOD has taken off because employees want experiences that IT can't deliver, and the BYOD success is a sign that IT's influence is eroding. Poppycock, say others. Critical new technologies are constantly emerging and the role of technology in business success has never been greater. If anything, they say, IT's influence is expanding.
A host of new technologies – everything from cloud to BYOD – make IT less expensive, more powerful and easier to deploy than ever, leading some people to speculate that the enterprise IT department will soon become a thing of the past. But while the future of IT might be shifting, our 24/7 reliance on technology to run the business has solidified the role of IT more than ever.
Don’t get me wrong. The IT department has to keep up, just like the rest of the business. When social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook emerged to better connect companies with their customers, marketing departments everywhere scrambled to figure out how to integrate social media into their campaigns. The IT department is facing the same kind of shift. Instead of its old role as the centralized decider of which department uses which technology, the IT department is evolving to become the gatekeeper.
As more business units – and individual employees – make their own decisions about which technology to use, the IT department’s role has evolved to ensure each technology is deployed properly, stays up and running, is protected against threats, stays up to date and works well with the plethora of other tools across the business.
As the gatekeeper, vendor management becomes an even more important role for the evolving IT department. Whether it is ensuring the vendor selected can actually deliver the technology and service expected, or finding and managing a vendor or outsourced IT solutions provider who can deliver on the outcomes expected by the business unit.
To be clear, there is no way the IT department is going to disappear. As new technologies appear, IT is uniquely positioned to help drive a company’s innovation and growth. Continuing to use IT as a shared service across the business delivers cost advantages, consistency and interoperability, and offers a level of unmatched technical expertise.
Ultimately, IT can enable access to the core metrics and trends associated with the technologies that companies deploy. That insight is a powerful tool for analyzing past performance and making better, fact-based decisions about the business. And IT alone is in the position to deliver that insight.
Since the expectations of technology have changed, the way IT’s success is measured has changed, too. Today, if the technology doesn’t produce the results you need, you replace it (the key word here is “results”). It is no longer about the technology, but about the results that the technology delivers. For example, it’s not about deploying a new SaaS-based CRM, but about shortening the sales cycle. It’s not about investing in social monitoring tools, but about better understanding your prospects and customers. Those are the new measures of success, and those are the metrics that are going to be used to evaluate IT’s contribution in the future.
So as we get deeper into the technology-driven business, expect IT departments to become more integrated into the rest of the organization and more knowledgeable about the business. We’ll achieve that by spending more time understanding the evolving needs and wants of the various business units.
According to IDC, “By 2016, 80% of new IT investments will directly involve line-of-business (LOB) executives, with LOBs the lead decision makers in half or more of those investments.” In this new paradigm, IT will have a seat at the table and will bring its unique expertise to help speed selection and deployment.
Expect to see IT become more efficient by automating repetitive processes, streamlining workflows and outsourcing functions that consume energy but don’t directly contribute to producing the needed outcomes.
The next time the debate about IT’s future comes up, remember: Technology is a critical and strategic resource for businesses today, and the IT department is uniquely positioned to help drive the innovation and growth that produce business results.
Today’s reality is one of empowered employees – and not an expanding IT department. Three trends are driving this change: Consumerization, the hyper transformation of technology (i.e., hyper speed of change) and big data. Let’s review them one by one.
Trend #1: Consumerization
By now, everyone is familiar with the BYOD movement, and the many debates it has spurred among IT and business. Who is responsible for securing personally-owned individual devices? What applications should be allowed? Where is the line between work and personal usage?
The debates aside, the fact that employees are bringing their own technology into the workplace is the first thing pushing IT out the door.
What happens when an employee brings her own device to the workplace? She brings her own software. And with that, she no longer relies on IT to provide software they have vetted and can control. Second, employees decide how they are going to work. Organizations now have assemblies of employees trying to better the way they work. This means they create a whole new way to work with technology, competing with the previously established IT-driven process. This all leads to empowered employees who can choose to work the way they want to.
Bottom line: Employees are driving the technology ship that was once the responsibility of the IT department.
Trend #2: Hyper-transformation of technology
We are living in a world where technology keeps changing faster and faster – and that doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. With this new technology available to consumers (i.e., employees) directly, they are leading the charge in finding their own technology solutions. This new reality adds more complexity than IT departments are used to handling. It is trying to find ways to protect the company’s data and deliver enabling technology – but that delivery is coming unglued.
Bottom line: IT is no longer able to help individuals because employees are helping themselves.
A perfect example is the help desk, which will soon be a casualty of BYOD. As employees bring their own devices to work, they are also bringing support tools that IT doesn’t even know exist. Consumers are now the ones who know best, and are fixing problems IT doesn’t know anything about.
Trend #3: Big data
While most people don’t typically think of big data as one of the things impacting the role of IT, in practice, it is significantly changing its landscape. What’s starting to happen is that business units are beginning to own their data for their systems, not the organization. This will force a major change within IT; expect to see some contentions here. Organizations will have to identify how they want to manage the data. Some will have IT own it with a centralized view, while others will keep it segregated within the individual units across the business. If it remains segregated (which is likely), IT’s only role will be to own the network that the data goes across.
Bottom line: Big data is forcing ownership, and will be a big driver of change for the IT department of tomorrow.
Tomorrow’s Reality: The New Role of IT
Ultimately, the role of IT is eroding. It is becoming the barrier to adopting new technologies with a delayed velocity of change – especially when compared to the employees they are supposed to be supporting. In order to have a fighting chance, IT departments must get away from being the obstacle and start playing the role of oversight.
IT enables businesses by acting like an agency that provides consulting. Moving forward, it won’t be working with people directly. With today’s technology – and the way businesses are using it – systems are easier to add and integrate, with little help from IT. IT’s new role will become more about ensuring employees use the existing systems and don’t abuse them.
As we move forward, and the pace of change continues at a dizzying pace, expect to see (or, rather, not see) the IT department go virtual. Gone are the days the IT department will be in an office down the hall servicing tickets and requests. Instead, they will be virtual, watching behind the scenes and protecting the data. And for the employees? Expect to see the Geek Squad and Apple Store solving the issues traditionally only IT (even if only perceived) could resolve.
April 8, 2019