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5 ways IT will change in the next 5 years

EducationThe death of the IT department has been greatly exaggerated. I remember seeing predictions back in 2007 that the cloud would eliminate IT departments by 2012. Over the last several years, I can’t even count how many similar predictions I’ve seen.

The fact is, much has been written regarding the effect of mobile usage and cloud computing on the IT department. Many say the IT department will disappear. Others say it will shrink.

Will any of that happen? I doubt it. We’re living in an era where technology plays a larger role in business than ever before, and it’s only growing. Is this the time to scale back on the department that best understands technology? Not for businesses that hope to succeed.

photo credit: Phillie Casablanca via photopin cc
photo credit: Phillie Casablanca via photopin cc

However, while I don’t see the IT department disappearing, I do see it evolving. As consumer-owned mobile devices and third-party cloud applications work their way into the business, the IT department’s role is changing.

Today, let’s focus on that evolution. How is the IT department changing? What will it look like in 5 years? We’ve queried some experts in the area and have compiled their advice, along with some of my own below. Here are 5 ways the IT department will change in the next 5 years:

1. IT shifts from technology gatekeeper to technology enabler

The IT department of the past controlled technology because technology was scarce, and difficult for end users to obtain and use. Those days are gone. Now, consumers can access technology that’s just as powerful, if not more so, than business technology.

IT no longer controls technology, and this requires a fundamental mindset shift. No longer the technology “gatekeeper”, IT must shift into the role of technology “enabler.”

“The days of the swaggering IT guy blithely saying “Is the power on?” will be replaced with a true service-oriented “How can I help you?” mentality,” says Josh Caid, Director of product management at Cherwell. “Employees will be able to schedule service-oriented visits from an IT expert who will arrive at their desk and solve their issues and/or teach them how to use the technology to do their day-to-day job more effectively.”

Making the shift from “gatekeeper” to “enabler” may not be simple. It not only requires a mindset shift, it also requires an organizational shift, which leads into the next point…

2. IT becomes an integrated part of the business

The divide between the business and the IT department has been well-documented. There’s a never-ending push to align the IT department with the business. The sad truth is, they’re both on the same team, but there’s often a disconnect.

In the future, this will have to change. It goes beyond simple “IT/Business alignment.” It’s more than IT and the business working together. In a technology-driven world, IT must become an integrated part of the business.

photo credit: lumaxart via photopin cc
photo credit: lumaxart via photopin cc

“Because end-user employees can get their service from anywhere-even external vendors or crowdsourced social streams-successful IT organizations will embrace the business and become a true strategic partner and facilitator to the business as a whole,” says Caid. “This business partnership is derived from a strong understanding of business goals and creation of a truly collaborative environment where the technologies and services address both employees and business goals. This will be a stark contrast to the all-too-common current model where employees finds themselves slaves to various, silo-based IT-mandated technologies and processes that obstruct rather than enable strategy.”

3. Self service will become the norm

In the transformation from “gatekeeper” to “enabler,” IT departments must eliminate the bottlenecks commonly found between IT and the business. One such bottleneck lies in application delivery. Forced to request new applications (like reports) from the IT department, users often wait days before their request gets fulfilled. As mentioned in this article, this bottleneck is one major reason end users bypass the IT department–a growing trend known as “Shadow IT.”

To eliminate this bottleneck and curb the growth of Shadow IT, IT departments will provide users with more self-service options. In the future, rather than go to the IT department for simple reports and applications, much of that will fall on the end users. IT will implement development platforms which let them manage the data and user access, and let end users address their own application needs.

“If IT were able to meet the application demands of its business in a timely manner, users would not look to third party solutions–which they’re doing with greater frequency,” says Tyler Wassell, Software Development Manager at mrc. “To combat this problem, more IT departments will deploy self-service development platforms in-house. Development platforms deployed in-house allow users to continue their own basic development and report-writing while allowing IT to maintain security over data and user access. It’s a win-win for IT and the business.”

4. IT transforms into a service-based department

One of the misconceptions surrounding cloud computing is the idea that it’s an “all-or-nothing” deal. It’s not. Sure, we’ll see more companies move select parts of their infrastructure and applications to the cloud, or even switch to certain SaaS solutions within the next five years. But, most companies won’t go 100% cloud.

The future isn’t the cloud OR in-house. It’s the cloud AND in-house.

As businesses move more applications and infrastructure to the cloud, and companies allocate more resources towards third-party SaaS services, IT departments will face a tricky balancing act. Still relied upon to maintain the company’s internal technology, they’re now stuck managing multiple software products hosted in different locations.

“As companies continue to find ways to cut costs, many companies may outsource various aspects of their IT budget which will leave IT with the responsibility of delivering a unified service even if they do not directly manage the IT portfolio in house,” says JJ DiGeronimo, a Technology Executive, Author, Entrepreneur & STEM Advocate. “Companies Lines of Business (LOBs) will rate their IT team on how well they can deliver a unified service with a specific time frame (Service Level Agreements) even though they do not control all of the pieces of the service. This is going to require the IT team to have a more service based mentality combined with the ability to manage different expectations and relationships to meet their management based objectives (MBOs).”

5. IT stops fighting BYOD

I questioned whether or not to include this point because employee-owned devices are already working their way into many businesses right now. However, the difference between present day and future BYOD lies in the IT department’s acceptance of employee-owned devices.

While some IT departments currently try to fight this trend, that won’t be an option in 5 years. Employee-owned devices in the workplace will be commonplace. IT departments will come to accept–or even embrace–this trend.

photo credit: miniyo73 via photopin cc
photo credit: miniyo73 via photopin cc

“The shift to BYOD (Bring your own device) is much more widespread (as far as IT departments are concerned) and we are seeing it’s effects everywhere even today: people reading corporate e-mails on their iPhones, accessing documents, sharing each other’s calendars etc…,” says Michael Fimin, CEO of Netwrix Corporation. “ IT departments have no other option but embrace BYOD or otherwise run into bigger challenges of non-compliant device configurations, data leaks and other unexpected and undesired effects. Auditing and policy-based management of the use of such devices will become essential for future IT departments, no matter how their IT infrastructure will operate (cloud-based or on-premises).”

One more thing: I also believe we’ll see a shift in how IT departments control the rise of employee-owned devices in the workplace. Currently, I see many BYOD discussions revolving around device control. They’re trying to secure each and every employee-owned device.

I believe this will change. Attempting to control BYOD at the device level is a losing battle. Rather than try to control BYOD on the device-level, I believe focus will shift to the data level. Businesses will focus their efforts on securing their data, and then provide users with secure methods to access that data using any device. This article explains the concept in more detail, and links to a great example of data-level BYOD approach taken at Dell Computers.

So, what do you think? Would you add anything else to this list? If so, I’d love to hear in the comments.