Will IT Fall Beneath The Shadows?

A funny thing happened while we in IT were focused on ITIL, data center consolidation and standardization. The business went shopping for better technology solutions. We’ve been their go-to department for technology since the mainframe days and have been doing what they asked. When they wanted higher SLAs we invested in high availability solutions. When they asked for greater flexibility we empowered them with client-server, application servers and now virtual machines. All the while they have relentlessly badgered us for lower costs and greater efficiencies. And we’ve given it to them. And until recently, they seemed satisfied. Or so we thought.

Sure, we’ve tolerated the occasional SaaS application here and there. We’ve let them bring in Macs (just not too many of them) and we’ve even supported their pesky smart phones. But each time they came running to us for assistance when the technical support need grew too great.

But that isn’t always happening anymore. Now, thanks to a wide variety of self-service technologies (iPads, cloud computing and consumer web services) and a much more tech savvy workforce (Generation Y thinks its home technology trumps what you can offer), new unauthorized technologies are showing up everywhere. The mantra from the business is changing from, “manage it and do so ever-cheaper,” to “deliver it faster” or, increasingly, “get out of the way.” The more IT raises concerns about the security, availability and supportability of these technologies the more it is seen as the department of “no.” That’s assuming IT knows it’s happening. Often these new technology uses are happening outside the visibility of IT. These shadow IT efforts happen in the business units and may go undetected for months or even years.  

As this trend continues to rise it begs the question: what does this mean for the future of IT? This question is at the heart of the IT to BT trend that Forrester has been advocating for years, but times have changed, and simply shifting to a Business Technology focus may not be enough. A further shift may be required, which Forrester analysts Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler address in the new book, Empowered. In the future, we expect business to take more advantage of these tech capabilities because business pressures will mandate it. Bottom line: the IT to business relationship that works today will not work 5-10 years from now.

So what is the right model for IT for the next decade? This is the central question Alex Cullen, VP & Research Director for the enterprise architect role, and I will explore in our keynote during next week’s Forrester CIO Forum in Washington, DC. Another turn of the IT organizational crank is needed, but what does this turn entail for your team’s structure and role in the business? And what skills sets will you need to be successful? Come join the debate at this year’s event and in the Forrester client community. Forward-thinking CIOs are empowering their developers and rank and file employees and you can too. But are you ready to do so?