countdown5When I launched this blog on September 21, 2007, my opening post declared:

I’ve named this blog “IT Organization Circa 2017″ in an attempt to position the domain of interest – what will the IT Organization inside businesses, governments and other organized entities look like in 10 years (2017) and how did they get there?”

I went on to explain that I’d picked 2017 as it was 10 years from my first post – a time-frame that seemed to allow a high degree of change, but that I would (statistically, and hopefully) be around to see.

So, with 5 years to go, here are some musings on IT Organization Circa 2017, with thanks to my co-founders at Business Relationship Management Institute, Aaron Barnes and Dr. Aleksandr Zhuk with whom I’ve been noodling on the subject.

To set this up, we need to consider the major disruptive forces acting on the IT organization today:

Let’s take each of these disruptive forces and delve into them.

IT Organizational Disappointment

There’s a general (though not universal) sense of disappointment with IT! We used to hear, “It costs too much and delivers too little value!” Nowadays, we are more likely to hear, “It takes too long!” When the competitive landscape can change almost overnight and when technology creates opportunities to reinvent products, services and business models just as quickly, it usually seems to be the IT organization that’s the bottleneck. Typically,

  1. It takes the IT organization time to examine a need or opportunity.
  2. It often feels to the business executive that the examination of a given need or opportunity is an exercise in bureaucracy – too many hoops and hurdles to go through with few of them, if any, adding value.
  3. If the request does make it through the hurdles before the need has gone away, there’s often a lengthy ‘waiting period’ while resources are freed up – the dreaded so-called ‘backlog’.
  4. Sometimes the original simple request somehow morphs into a major deal, as other business needs are piled on, and legacy issues rear their ugly heads.

To get beyond these clichéd perceptions, some IT organizations are now on their 3rd or 4th ‘transformation’ comprising activities such as retooling, re-skilling, reorganizing, leaning out processes, and adopting standards frameworks such as ITIL and COBIT. While these efforts may well be necessary, many are not cleanly executed, taking 2-3 years to bring benefits, and in the meantime creating more disruption for the business customer.

So, it hurts me to say it, and many of my readers may resent it, but the truth is that more often than not, IT organizations are seen as barriers to business progress with information and IT, rather than the enablers they would like to see.

Cloud Computing

Despite some well-publicized snafus, Cloud Computing is making significant inroads just about everywhere. Sometimes, the shift to the cloud is around very small services – document sharing, or storage of large files such as videos, and so on. Other times, the shift is broad based and significant – moving supply chain or customer relationship management processes to the cloud, for example. Either way, the cloud offers an easy way to try something without a significant capital investment or running through the corporate maze of product and vendor certifications and contracting. And, at least in theory, if not in practice, cloud solutions feel to non-IT people as something they understand and can procure and deploy without IT assistance. In fact, it’s often something they are already using at home with great success. This represents a huge ‘bypass’ to the traditional IT organization.

Many companies today are catching on to “big data” and the power of analytics applied to vast sources of data, such as sentiment analysis of social media or identification of consumer purchasing patterns based upon correlations that had not been previously recognized. Big data often requires massively parallel software running on tens, hundreds, or even thousands of servers – something that is beyond the limits of most corporate data centers, but achievable through Cloud Computing – creating yet another entry point that can bypass the IT organization.

Add the attractiveness of the Cloud Computing value proposition and perceived ease of doing business to the sense of IT organizational disappointment mentioned about, and you have an interesting recipe for a revolution!

Consumerization of IT

This, with its sister movement towards mobile everything is a powerful disruptive force! People are increasingly able to chose their own devices – smart phones, laptop computers, tablet computers, and so on. These devices come with a vast available library of ‘Apps’ to do just about anything you might need. And if you need something for your business that does not yet exist, there’s a universe of willing, inexpensive developers out there who’d be delighted to develop the App for you and your business!

This trend is not going away – to the contrary is is the beginning of a new sense of empowerment – everyone is their own IT department. It’s probably wrong to call this a “slippery slope” which implies a falling down at some point, but it certainly marks a shift in the relationship between business people and their technology – a shift in which the IT professional may have moved from a faceless body in the corporate IT department to a slick, service-oriented professional in the local phone store. (Reality note here – my daughter’s phone stopped working last week and she revealed to me her loathing of having to visit the phone store! She said, “The phone store has become the modern day equivalent of the automobile dealership!”)

Global Sourcing

While not a panacea, and while many companies experience a painful transition to various flavors of outsourcing, most companies have tried it at some level, and plan to do more of it! For all its challenges, a well-executed global sourcing arrangement (or set of arrangements) can help an IT organization flex with changing business demand – both in terms of capacity (the ability to handle more or fewer projects as demand dictates) and capability – the ability to take on work for which the inhouse resources may not have the necessary skills or experience.

Who Is Engaging these Alternate Sources?

Increasingly, these alternate sources (namely, Cloud Computing, Global Sourcing, Consumer IT, Apps) are being engaged directly by the business with minimal to no reference to the IT organization.

So, What’s Does the IT Organization Look Like Circa 2017

I’ll leave you all to ponder on these disruptive forces for a week or so, and then I’ll provide my take on the future of the IT organization. Meanwhile, comments appreciated and encouraged!

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