The PC didn't kill the IT department. And cloud won't signify the end of this invaluable resource, either.
The IT department will continue to thrive and be valuable if it evolves and adapts to the new landscape. As Roger Karr, president of KAR Consulting, said on a recent LinkedIn discussion:
The only way an IT department will become extinct, is if they cannot meet the demands of new technologies and who insist on "That's not the way we do it here, we are old school and if it ain't broken, don't fix it"... to those departments, I say "see ya later, hope you had a good run!" Those who embrace and champion these new technologies in IT departments win
Of course, cloud isn't the first technology to cause consternation over the IT department's longevity, said Mike Boros, an Austin, Texas-based marketing and services consultant:
My belief is that this is the most visceral change to IT since the introduction of the PC. Right now, there are future IT pros graduating school that will never: buy a server, open a server box, place labels on cables, assemble a rack, or even spend hours in a noisy data center. They won't fight for Cap-Ex budget, and they'll never worry about environmental systems or real estate. They won't be able to hide in the basement of their company, hiding behind racks of blinking lights.
It could be argued, that they'll essentially be doing the same thing. But they'll be doing it in a dramatically different way. Much like the period when office workers got their green screens replaced with those shiny PC's, this is a visceral change. This time, however, its impact is more profound for the IT professionals than the internal consumers that they support.
Some IT departments' hiring may have slowed due to the changing shape of this career, several studies suggest. Line-of-business employees increasingly are doing their own big-data tasks, for example, meaning IT departments can redeploy those workers to different jobs without hiring new personnel. Cloud allows companies to outsource many server- and network-based tasks to their service providers. Hiring in some specialties, including big-data, cloud, networking, mobile, app development, and security, outpaces supply.
Automation eliminates the need for time-consuming, error-prone chores. Software-as-a-service means no more weekly hardware updates. The list of technologies that IT uses to empower its staff is endless -- and consistently growing. And so, some argue, what is the point of an IT staff and a CIO? As Dr. Larry Tiernan -- who has held executive IT positions for 20 years, including one at FedEx -- wrote earlier this year in InformationWeek:
In most businesses, the CEO or CFO will start asking why, if cloud computing is so cost beneficial, their companies aren't doing it. And if someone else starts managing your company's infrastructure and its key software is now provided and managed as a service by someone else, those execs will ask why the company needs a CIO and that expensive IT organization.
It makes sense to have your answer ready in advance of that conversation.
Let's think what might happen without IT. Can you imagine the chaos post-disaster when the marketing department's cloud, managed by one company, works after a storm, but the inventory system, managed by another company in a different part of the state, doesn't recover for a week? Or your branch office in Hoboken, N.J., can't communicate with headquarters in London? Or none of your home-based workers can access the new marketing materials? Would you like to be the executive waiting for the corporate legal department to review three competing cloud providers' service level agreements as your contract clock ticks down? And who would oversee the integration of the new collaboration solution your CEO decided should now be a top priority?
Consider, too, that wonderful big-data access available now to all your employees within specific departments. That information is growing daily (actually, more likely, by the minute), both in terms of volume and type. Who will decide on which types of solutions, providers, and vendors? Even more critical in many ways, who will take charge of overseeing and resolving governance and risk-management concerns, security for stored and moving data, and resolving integration issues with legacy systems?
Peter Church, infrastructure analyst at The Admiralty in the United Kingdom, agreed:
Early adoption comes when other departments figure out that they can just go and buy services for peanuts without involving the guys in the IT department. These projects tend to stay under the radar and move startlingly fast. Later on, the company gets to a point when they have half a dozen black ops projects all live with various amounts of data and no proper backup schedules or DR processes in place... Then IT start to be made aware of what's happening and the next phases of maturity can be reached and the various nefarious projects can be bought back under control. As others have said: It's not that IT departments are heading out the door, it's that they need to catch up to understand the benefits of service orchestration and rapid provisioning over slow design phases followed by dedicated server purchases...
The complexities created could actually expand IT's role, suggested Thomas Higgins, who is involved with enterprise resource planning software at a manufacturer. In his opinion, "if anything, [cloud] will grow IT as a department. Moreover it will bring IT more in-line with business as the focus more on the need than how to keep what we have running."
The important takeaway, I think, is to know how your department supports your company, how IT delivers value throughout the organization, and how centralization is key to savings, productivity, governance, risk-management, security, and all the other factors that keep your business safely operating and competing. When you connect all those dots, any cloud of uncertainty should quickly dissipate.
— Alison Diana , ThinkerNet Editor, Internet Evolution