People in the tech world love to speculate on the future structure of the corporate IT department. While we cannot know precisely how this change will manifest, there are undeniable trends towards a more engaged and decentralized IT presence in organizations. This may very likely end in the elimination of the IT department as we know it.
IT departments may disappear completely
For the most part, IT departments do two things: 1) They build new systems and 2) they keep systems running. But, look at recent trends:
The rise of the cloud: Everyday we hear about organizations that are building new systems or moving existing ones onto Amazon’s AWS or Microsoft’s Azure. Ten years ago, IT departments were literally plugging cables into machines and replacing hard drives by hand. Now, Amazon and Microsoft, not your IT department, do these jobs.
The rise of packaged applications: Almost everything a business needs now comes as a packaged application. Companies don’t build CRM, ERP, sales, timekeeping, or virtually any other kind of system anymore – they buy them. Of course, these generic packages aren’t perfect and they need to be configured. However, configuration is frequently a less technically intensive process than writing code and can often be handled by fairly technical users.
The rise of data skill distribution: When a manager has a pressing question, it is more efficient to get answers from the people in his department who really understand the problem. This explains, the rise of what has been called the citizen data scientist. In the coming years, business employees across the organization will be expected to know how to manipulate data and the population of citizen data scientists will increase sharply. This is a trend we at Dataspace recognized a few years ago; we now see evidence emerging firsthand. For example, one of our clients, a Fortune 100 company, has started to pare back their IT department while simultaneously requiring that their business users actively develop their personal technology skills.
Given these trends, one has to ask, “Is there really a future for the IT department?”
Regardless of whether or not IT departments disappear from the face of the Earth, we can be sure that a decentralization of technology expertise will occur. The line between business operations and IT will keep getting blurrier.
How should IT and business people plan for the future?
How do you build and protect your career given the coming shift of technology responsibilities from IT to the business? The answers are, actually, pretty straightforward. In both cases, however, the future is one of skill diversification. It won’t, for example, be enough to be a great claims analyst. You’ll need to be a claims analyst who also knows how to find, manipulate, and analyze data.
If you’re in IT, You need to develop an understanding of your company’s business, what it does, and where it’s heading. In the future, business managers won’t toss technical problems over the wall to IT and wait for answers. They’ll toss those problems to technically savvy people in their own departments. To really understand the need, you need to really understand the business. Also, you need to strengthen your grasp of cloud technologies and how to manage them.
If you’re in a business department, Perhaps start by learning basic data science concepts. There are a ton of resources on the web, many of which are free.
Want Help Planning for Your Company’s Future?
If you’d like to discuss what the future holds for your company and department, drop us a line. We’d love to talk!