The IT-department in 2020

Photo at blog from webmaster - 30/09/2010 - 11:18

I was invited to the WCIT conference in Amsterdam last week. I attended a panel discussion with CIO's of public and private organizations. Although the theme for the congress was all about change and innovation, I got rather depressed with the poor comments most of the panel members made. The closing question was by far the most interesting: How will your It-department look in 10 years from now?

Only one of the CIO's gave in my opinion thee right answer: "It will not exist anymore because all resources will be integrated in the business". Probably not purely by coincidence this CIO was an old industry veteran like myself. All other CIO's spoke about having a "better, more agile and staffed with highly motivated people" version of today's IT-department.

Is it utopia to think that the IT-department as is exists today will completely disappear? Let's look at some obvious current changes.

  • Splitting IT-demand and supply resulted in moving (business) analysis roles to the user organization.
  • Things like outsourcing, SaaS and Cloud lead of course to smaller IT-shops since the work is done by others than your own staff.
  • IT-budgets have in some organizations changed from generic costs to business unit budgets.
  • Functional systems management and helpdesks have been either integrated in the business units or have evolved to shared services centers.
  • Ownership of IT-components is not the exclusive domain of IT anymore.

Just expanding the elements above will in itself lead to a steady decrease of the central IT-departments size but not automatically to a complete disappearance. For that a more fundamental choice is necessary.

I think the essence lies in the recognition that the business is the demand side and has to pay for the supply side and thus only needs guidance and help to find, match and monitor the best solutions. These information brokerage functions, as I would like to call them, can be performed by an internal staff group around the CIO or even by a hired external partner.

Innovation should ideally be handled within the business unit but of course the information broker could for instance be instrumental in outsourcing innovation elements to universities and partners.

You didn't hear me saying anything about standards thus far. Anarchy in technology, connectivity, security, etc. has always been the doom by which standardization was driven. But since now most of the operational IT-elements are (getting) commoditized by SOA-like initiatives, cloud offerings and the dominance of the market leaders, standardization is implicit.

So in my opinion the IT-department as it stands today will disappear and the CIO's of the future will have to change their name into CIB: Chief Information Broker.

As always, your comments are welcomed.

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