Can traditional IT survive consumerization?
The short answer is “no”. Of course that begs a closer look at the question. Nothing traditional lasts forever. In business, as in every other environment, an organism must change or die. IT departments are no different. In fact, since telecommunications and computing technologies were first introduced into the modern workplace, IT has done nothing but change. An easy way to confirm that this is true is by considering the fact that there is no “typical” IT department structure. From one company to the next, IT is a department that tends to develop organically. That’s a nice way of saying that it expands, contracts, and transforms reactively rather than strategically.
So much advance notice, so little time
In the days when enterprise was the driving force behind the development of technology, organizations actively shaped the future of computing and communications. That gave the business world a little more say over how such initiatives would affect the structure of IT. Today, when enterprise is typically a late adopter, IT has more advance notice of how things will change. The industry has the crystal ball of consumerization to peer into and predict what the future will look like once new tech trickles “up” to the enterprise level. However, IT has even less time to actually adapt since the evolution of technology has sped up so much.
This means there is no time to waste in considering the impact of consumerization on internal IT. You can rest assured that other business decision makers are doing the same. Those that correctly identify the upcoming shifts will be in the best position to acquire or develop the personnel needed for IT to operate effectively in the consumerized workplace. Here’s one perspective on how the roles in traditional IT might need to shift for optimal results.
Chief Information Officer
Will the CIO become a figurehead once consumerization via the cloud reaches down into the guts of IT and rips out all the infrastructure? Will rogue SaaS and the BYOD trends combine to make this executive role irrelevant? Hardly. In fact, the true role of the CIO will simply become more evident as the job of selecting, integrating, and delivering IT resources becomes infinitely more complex. The CIO has never really been just “the executive in charge of keeping the servers running”. We will start to finally see why the word “INFORMATION” is right there in the title. It’s never been about any specific technology. It’s always been about managing and leveraging mission critical information with security, accessibility, business analytics, and competitive advantage in mind.
Operations will naturally follow the role of the CIO in the transformation created by consumerization. Rather than being focused on day-to-day infrastructure management, this area of IT will be spending more time defining, managing, developing and integrating the various internal and outsourced aspects of the total IT stack for optimal performance. You need people in this position with experience developing best practices and standards for IT processes, policies, and procedures. It’s not just what you do that defines Operations – it’s how you do it.
Obviously, when it comes to the development of business apps, mobile is the emerging area where expertise is needed. This doesn’t mean kicking out existing Java developers and replacing them. Instead, it makes more sense to invest in further training of current human resources. Any new enterprise software will need to be mobile enabled from the start. But existing apps will need to be re-engineered as well. Having the original architects involved (if possible) is one way to keep from having to reinvent the wheel – no matter how good the initial project documentation was.
Network (Infrastructure) and Information Management (Data)
The acquisition and management of infrastructure as well as the warehousing of data are increasingly outsourced in the consumerized IT model. However, this does not entail the demise of these aspects of internal IT. Instead, the focus will continue to shift toward creating value (through optimization) and mitigating risk (through ensuring compliance). It would be wise to start seeking a candidate to step into the role of Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) or Information Technology Security Officer (ITSO) to oversee everything that goes on in the network and data management world. Information management will also encompass business intelligence, so analysts are going to be in steep demand as well.
Help Desk (End User Services)
The BYOD trend will affect this area most visibly over the next few years. Can’t get an application to work on your new smartphone? Call IT. The security measures installed on your device by IT are blocking some other app you want to use for personal purposes? Call IT. Need help updating your tablet with the latest whatchamadoodad so you can work more effectively? Call IT. Some aspects of the helpdesk can and will be outsourced. However, ensuring smooth information integration and interface requirements across the entire network of new devices (so they can all “talk” to each other) may still be an inside job for some time to come. Here again, more education and training is essential for IT to step up to face these challenges.
That’s the long answer. IT will adapt and continue to be a critical part of the enterprise-class organization. No matter how much cloud computing, as-a-service industrialization and BYOD changes the landscape, you still need smart people working behind the scenes to deliver value for your organization.