Corporate IT Is Not Dead

Last week the New York Times Bits blog published an article with some recent Forrester data we published entitled "IT Departments Lose Their Clout Over Phone Choices" here. The article got all the data facts right about people provisioning their own technology, but I was kinda surprised by some of the virulent comments people posted about the article. The first commenter claimed: "This is the beginning of the end of the corporate IT department."

Really? I'm not sure why people jump to this conclusion when they hear the word "IT consumerization," but I've seen it more than once before. I think it's really naive. People typically support this "death of IT" viewpoint with assertions like: 1.) technology is getting easier to use; 2.) people are getting smarter about how to use tech; and 3.) IT people just get in the way. The first and second points are accurate: technology *is* getting easier to use and provision, and generally speaking, our data indicates every generation is getting more tech savvy. That's a good thing we should all celebrate because it likely means lower costs for low value stuff that IT people must do today (e.g. resetting passwords, installing software, distributing software patches, fixing machines, etc.). But to assume this is the only role of IT people shows profound ignorance. And considering consumerization (read the influence of Google, Apple, etc.) has been with us for at least five years and the corporate IT job market has fared better than most occupations, there seems to be no basis in fact that IT is growing less necessary as consumerization rises.

I for one would much prefer to see IT people working on stuff that adds net new value to the business. I just came off Forrester's Content & Collaboration Forum, during which we saw some of the great examples of high value stuff IT people can and should be doing more of -- like Dan Ranta of ConocoPhilips who fosters internal networks for operational effectiveness at the oil and gas giant; or Jason Lamon of Fishbowl Solutions who built an amazing iPad app for salespeople at Medtronic; or Roberta Cadieux of Kraft who has transformed just about every piece of technology employees use to improve the workplace experience over the last few years.

If consumerization helps free up these people and others' time to do more of what they're doing, I'm all for it. 

Consumerization may just bring about the rebirth of corporate IT.

Comments

Consumerization is nothing new

Good post Matthew. I agree that consumerization and "bring your own device" can represent opportunities for IT given the right mindset. These developments don't mean the end of IT, but they do mean change for IT, and that is scary for some. For IT organizations willing to step up, their role will become more central and strategic, from "building and operating" to "sourcing and orchestrating". Which of those sound more interesting?

The other thing to note is that consumerization is nothing new to IT. As new technologies are adopted by consumers, they will inevitably find their way into the enterprise, assuming they have business value. We've seen before that IT must continuously perform a balancing act between enabling users to take advantage of these new technologies, while at the same time enforcing standards, manageability and compliance.

I recently wrote a blog that explores some of these past examples of consumerization. If interested, check it out here:
http://blog.matrix42.com/content/consumerization-it-nothing-new

In my experience, many people

In my experience, many people within an organisation outside of the IT department do not understand a great deal about the functions that an IT department performs. And you could argue, they shouldn't need to.

Which is something consumerization doesn't make any easier. For example, people still ask why getting extra storage space is such an issue. After all, they can go to PC World and buy a 1Tb disk for a few hundred pounds, so why is adding more space to our servers such an issue?

Without a transparent, informative approach, those who work in IT departments will often appear to be obstructive and reluctant when it comes to introducing new technologies people have got used to at home. Education and openness is surely a good way forward.

I agree Adam that more IT

I agree Adam that more IT folks need to put on a marketing/communication hat when faced with those sorts of questions. It also helps if your shop is open to exploring more cost effective and agile solutions for things like storage.

Like many "death of..." stories there always more grey than black and white.

IT is far from dead

We (chess media group) actually just released our state of e2.0 report and one of the things we found that by far, the greatest number of deployment happen when IT and business unit leaders work together. However when emergent collaboration deployment are led by either business units or IT departments, then business units far eclipse IT departments.

In fact, every company I have worked with, interviewed, or researched has always had IT involved with emergent collaboration deployment. Granted ITs role might change a bit to work closer with business units it's far from dead and never will be.