Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Three Trends Changing the way IT is Done Forever

Recently, in a discussion on a local social network, Robby Slaughter, an Indianapolis business process consultant asked why SAAS (software as a service) is not sold to the Information Technology department.  The discussion revealed that IT needs it's role reevaluated in many organizations. Why? Because business has changed.  The workforce has changed.  The law has changed.  And very little of the change favors the strong IT department model that has dominated American business since the early 1990s. Here are a few of the changes going on:

1. Better Tech Skills.  The average knowledge worker is much more computer adept than ten years ago for a number of reasons.  First, there have been no big paradigm shifts (like networking, graphical user interfaces or multimedia) in the past decade.  Second, as the least technically adept workers retire, younger and highly adept workers replace them.  And finally, people deal with real IT problems every day at home.  In case you haven't noticed a lot of the technologies that used to be business IT problems are now routine household chores - setting up a NAS, changing firewall rules, dealing with security breaches, setting up a bridged NAT and backing up huge multiple terrabytes of data are all things that people deal with at home now.

2. Webification. Applications are being made to run in browsers, from a small number of servers, reducing the need for layers and layers of complexity on the network.  Making applications web ready also makes it easier to support new platforms like smartphones.  Complexity needed to distribute desktop software applications, access distributed database apps and manage thousands of desktops with local data stores.  In other words, IT's focus is becoming providing the enterprise a safe, consistent and compatible network that allows users to access applications from inside and outside the network.

3. The law has changed.  New regulations may make handling your company's own data an open invitation to a lawsuit.  Why not shift the risk to a third party?

4. Relevance.  IT is a pure cost to a company.  Sure, like everything in business you spend money on, it has an ROI.  But what happens when you can get the same ROI anywhere, for less?  This story is playing itself out daily as people consider replacing in house applications with SAAS, or look at moving servers to internet service providers that usually offer far better service, security and bandwidth then can the internal IT department.  The issue isn't that the IT department can or can't do it - the issue is that others are so much better that the internal network, software architecture and data centers may be as obsolete as a floppy disk - and simply not relevant to your company's future planning, aside being a case for change. 

So what does all of this mean? It's time to take a look at new structures.  Should IT dominate the discussion on software? Limit access to SAAS? Nix use of third part hosting providers? Or should IT look for ways to provide a platform that lets other business unit managers leverage emerging new models for software and service delivery?

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1 comment:

  1. IT needs more inter-disciplinary types (Business Intelligence, your Statistics-heavy analysts, your hard-core data crunchers). I follow a blog about 'Computational Legal Studies'. Lawyers historically have not been too big on getting their hands dirty like that.

    As you mention, increasingly a lot of the 'basic' functions can be farmed out. Increasingly, being able to use technology toward some end is more important than technology for tech's sake.