New IT Departments

I had a friend that used to run an Exchange system. Actually, he was part of a team of four that managed a 50,000+ mailbox system for a very large company. In 2000 or 2001, he told me that his job would be done by computers in a few years and he had decided to leave the industry. Over the last 15 years, he’s worked in another field.

I have no idea if those Exchange systems are still around, and I would concede that mail is better purchased as a service for most organizations than managed in-house. However, I think my friend made a mistake. There are still plenty of people working in technology infrastructure in companies, making a good salary in good working conditions. I’ve spent my career in IT in one way or another, either as a developer, Operations staff, or manager. I see no sign of this going away quickly, though certainly many menial, simple tasks like checking logs and backups are being increasingly handled by automated systems.

When I see articles like this one (Why IT as you know it is dead), I’m not sure what to think. One one hand, I do think IT is changing, especially in larger organizations, where there is pressure to reduce costs (often labor) as well as increase the speed of output. DevOps is one way that we try to improve our systems, though the cultural change is very hard. Often this means that developers produce work in smaller chunks, and may release more often, but don’t get more work done. This is because the cultural change is hard, and most of us don’t want to change our habits.

On the other hand, I also think that in many ways IT is the same. We can’t respond as quickly as business analysts or customers come up with ideas. I know most of those ideas probably aren’t great, and IT doesn’t want to waste resources on something that will not prove to be valuable. Just as happened 30 years ago, departments will create their own POC applications. This used to happen in Lotus 1-2-3, then Access and Excel, now it may happen with low-code development tools, whatever those are.

I don’t really worry about this, as I’ll find ways to make things better. If someone wants an Access or Power BI application, let them build it. If it’s really useful, and others need access, we can upgrade and invest in a better system. I’ll go along and get along, working to build the things that the organization finds useful. I just realize that my time is limited, and if someone else can prove a concept is valid, perhaps that means I should spend time ensuring that works or gets rebuilt in a better way. I also know many of those ideas and concepts won’t prove themselves, so it’s fine if there’s some sort of citizen development (or shadow IT) in an organization.

To me, the key is that we enforce security for our data. If anyone wants to build software, that’s fine. They just need to ensure that they use the same security and authentication mechanisms that other systems use. We need to protect the data, no matter what application is going to be used to view, analyze, or manipulate it.

Steve Jones

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