The IT department does not die out – But it will have to change

Recently an article in the english Computerworld got the circuit in which the assumption was made, that by the end of this decade the IT department could disappear. T-Systems’ Ingo Notthoff subsequently debates on the question at Facebook, “If the IT departement to die out.” I’ve clearly answered that they will not die out, but transform into a service broker. This discussion Ingo again has written down in a (German) blog post. A this point I just would like to continue this topic to clarify my point of view.

Despite the consumerization of IT there is a lack of important knowledge

Even if I appreciate everything which promises to be disruptive in any form. There are things that are required despite the massive use of technologies und self-services. I am talking about humans.

I know and it is right that cloud services via self-service can be virtually used by anyone in the enterprise, to reach the own goals by the personal requirements without always waiting for the IT department. But is that reasonable? Can anyone decide which services are valuable and important for the company, just because he can use an iPhone or a SaaS application? In doubt, the knowledge is obtained 100% of external consultants, which is not necessarily beneficial. Saving costs for staff is fine and dandy, but need to stop at some point. Because where costs can be saved somehow, others have to work longer. The line of business managers will be thankful.

Moreover, just listen into the companies. Of course, most would want that IT works faster. But do they also want to take responsibility for it in addition to their main tasks? No! This certainly works for a few areas in the company, but most employees don’t have the knowledge, desire and time for it.

IT departments need to reinvent themselves

After I take up the cudgels for the IT departments, I also have to express criticism. Has not everyone already annoyed on the slow, hanging behind the time IT department? How can it be that you have to wait up to 3 months on the hardware for a test system(!). And at the end it turns out that it’s just a virtual machine. Of course, these experiences feed those who would mostly like to eliminate IT departments from one day to the other. In this case for a good reason.

Nevertheless, each good IT department is very valuable to any business. The extreme examples confirm fortunately not the rule. However, no IT department should go on this way, but need to concern about a structural change and ultimately implement this. Thanks to the cloud it has lost its central position for the purchase and operation of IT solutions. Shadow IT is here a so far proven means for the employees passing IT department to obtain IT services quickly and on demand.

This circumstance needs to be eliminated. Shadow IT is necessarily not something very bad. At least it helps to ensure that employees get things done quickly in their jobs and in their own way. For each decision maker and IT manager, however, it is comparable to a walk over hot coals. There is nothing worse in a company, if the left hand not know what the right does or when IT solutions degenerate into uncontrolled proliferation. This can be handled only by a central organization. On which the IT departments should not go back into their ivory tower, but pro-actively communicate with the employees of the departments to understand their needs and requirements. The IT department is the internal IT service provider for the employees and departments and should also classified like this into the company. In times of internal and external (cloud) services, broker platforms are the tools with which they are coordinating and steering it for the employees.

Coordination is hugely important

Where we finally come to the issue of IT responsibility within the company once again. Depending on which study you want to believe, the private cloud is currently the preferred cloud shape in the company. After all, 69 percent of the respondents say that. In addition, in 80 percent of all cases the decisions on purchasing IT solutions are made in the IT departments. At first this sounds like the preservation of the status quo. But due to the current political developments it is probably remain the reality for now. Nevertheless, real private cloud solutions enable enterprises a flexible allocation of resources through a self-service for their employees.

But who should build this private cloud infrastructures and who should coordinate them? This can only be done by the IT departments. All other employees have a lack of the necessary knowledge and time. IT departments need to learn from the providers in the public cloud, allowing the departments a fast and especially easy access to IT resources in a similar way. This only works if they establish themselves as a service broker for internal and external IT services and see themselves as a cooperative partner (service provider).

By Rene Buest

Rene Buest is Gartner Analyst covering Infrastructure Services & Digital Operations. Prior to that he was Director of Technology Research at Arago, Senior Analyst and Cloud Practice Lead at Crisp Research, Principal Analyst at New Age Disruption and member of the worldwide Gigaom Research Analyst Network. Rene is considered as top cloud computing analyst in Germany and one of the worldwide top analysts in this area. In addition, he is one of the world’s top cloud computing influencers and belongs to the top 100 cloud computing experts on Twitter and Google+. Since the mid-90s he is focused on the strategic use of information technology in businesses and the IT impact on our society as well as disruptive technologies.

Rene Buest is the author of numerous professional technology articles. He regularly writes for well-known IT publications like Computerwoche, CIO Magazin, LANline as well as and is cited in German and international media – including New York Times, Forbes Magazin, Handelsblatt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Computerwoche, CIO, Manager Magazin and Harvard Business Manager. Furthermore Rene Buest is speaker and participant of experts rounds. He is founder of and writes about cloud computing, IT infrastructure, technologies, management and strategies. He holds a diploma in computer engineering from the Hochschule Bremen (Dipl.-Informatiker (FH)) as well as a M.Sc. in IT-Management and Information Systems from the FHDW Paderborn.