The evolving role of IT

Cloud, Social, Mobility and BigData are mega trends that are driving radical transformations of businesses. Much has been written on the these trends and how these trends are helping businesses be more productive and competitive.

In this post, I share my thoughts and experiences on how these mega trends  are impacting the relationship between line of businesses and IT organizations.

As we all know, in an enterprise, IT is a service organization providing IT services to businesses. These services enable the businesses to run efficiently. Unfortunately, in most cases, the perception of IT has always been that of a slow, antiquated, “blocking the way” organization.

Several reasons for this perception but here are the two major ones –

  • IT is a cost center and as a result IT organizations are severely budget constrained. They are always under pressure to do more with less.
  • They are seldom setup organizationally to respond to business needs dynamically. Planning/budgeting happens at the beginning of the year. During the course of the year, if business need changes, it becomes difficult for IT to respond to the changing needs of the business.

As a result, IT orgs have always lagged and often been slow to respond to business and employee needs. More energy gets spent on keeping the lights on and less on innovation.

When innovation is stifled inside, it happens outside.  Creative market forces figure out a way to deliver innovative IT services without being part of an IT organization. Splunk, Evernote, Dropbox, Yammer are some of the companies who target enterprise users with “freemium” model. When the services become popular among the users, enterprises take notice and are forced to make them a corporate standard. These services in their “free” form are a big nuisance to IT and cybersecurity teams, posing serious security and compliance challenges.

The fact is users today are no longer dependent on IT to meet their needs. It is easier and faster to get IT services from cloud vendors who are offering infrastructure, platform and software as services. Users these days are no longer dependent on tools and machines provided by IT. They bring their own devices (BYOD) and use cloud services (such as Dropbox, Yammer, Google apps) to get their job done.

On the core business side, SaaS services such as SalesForce, WorkDay are replacing on-prem business applications. Even for developing/testing custom apps, businesses are finding easier and faster to spin up a machine on a public cloud such as Azure or AWS than requesting capacity from IT.

So where is this trend leading us to ? How are IT organizations likely to adopt to this change and what role would they play in the new “Post PC” world of devices and cloud services ?

I think we are moving towards a world where IT’s role would be more of a  facilitator/broker of cloud services  than a provider of IT services to businesses.  The megatrends are breaking the dependency of businesses on IT and giving them choices so businesses can adopt to the fast changing world without IT being a drag on their success.  IT can succeed the best in partnering with the businesses in advising them, guiding them and brokering relationships with service providers. This would require IT investments to shift towards security, governance, compliance, vendor contracts because enterprises would be likely dealing with more vendors, utilizing more hosted services than ever before.

The sooner IT orgs embrace this new reality, focus on where they add value (such as security, compliance, vendor contracts etc), and get out of running traditional IT services , the better off the enterprises would be.

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2 Responses to The evolving role of IT

  1. Pradeep says:

    Sanjay – Well said. The future of IT Org can be in question, if business appoint IT advisors in each of their BUs to faciliate the discussion with vendors/app providers. In such a situation, IT will take the same seat as 10 years back, providing the layer to business to support with internal IT stuff. I can vision IT orgs as more supporting internal layers, where business will navigate across to fulfil their business needs (with appointed IT advisors within their BUs). what u think?

    • Thanks for your comments, Pradeep. You are correct – the trend is towards IT advisors in each BU who will work with vendors/app providers. The key question is whether these advisors would be reporting to the businesses or a central IT org. One can argue on pros/cons of each approach but one thing is clear – businesses now have choices and it is upto IT on how they want to drive their relevance in the new cloud driven world.

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