This editorial was originally published on June 13, 2013. It is being re-run today as Steve is traveling.
IT departments won’t exist in five years. A bold prediction from the CITE conference last week. It’s not so much a prediction of an increase in cloud services, but more the idea that the centralized IT department is struggling with the consumerization of technology, the increasing demands of the business for faster turnaround on projects and prototypes, and the flexibility being demanded by an increasingly technology savvy workforce.
Like most predictions, I take this one with a grain of salt. I don’t think five years is enough time to change the face of the enterprise IT groups. Five years ago the first iPhone had been out for a year and was being demanded by users to replace their Blackberries. These days many corporations support iPhones, along with other smartphones, and Blackberries have disappeared from many organizations. However IT has adapted, released some of their control, and even integrated some of their policies into new technologies. When I enabled corporate mail on my smartphone recently, I had to allow some remote management features to get mail, which was fine with me.
I do agree that we will start to see some of our IT functions, especially small projects and POC (proof of concepts) increasingly being driven in departments. There are too many projects, too many different technologies, and too little time to work on them for central IT departments to tackle all these projects. Departmental management won’t wait for IT that is stretched too thin, especially if they have existing staff that have some technology skills. That latter factor is something becoming more and more common all the time.
However I can’t see central IT disappearing. There are often quite a few systems that are complex, that are too large, too important to let someone manage part time. There are projects that cross departments, or even the entire company, and coordinating tasks and resources between departments is complex. Add to all of this the problems and hassles of hiring good technology people, and I can see projects rising in departments, but being turned over at times to IT to manage.
I do think that central IT groups need to be more flexible, and reduce some of their rules, or adapt them to new technologies and platforms. I expect people working in central staff to be “lent” to departments for projects, perhaps even multiple departments at the same time to help get projects completed, while also gaining some training on the various systems in order to provide support when other staff isn’t available. Such as weekends.