IT Trends bear a striking resemblance to London buses.
You can wait ages for one to come along and then find that, annoyingly, three arrive all at the same time. Think of it, as we came out of the dot com crash of the early 2000’s, things were relatively quiet in terms of major trends and then, seemingly from nowhere, we get hit with Cloud, Consumerization, Machine to Machine and Smart Grid to name but a few, all of which leave businesses looking at their IT departments with the same facial expression that a child has when confronting parents with their latest homework: knowledge and expectation.
Are those expectations fair and how should IT departments go about assessing and acting on those trends?
If you go back to my bus analogy, the trends have arrived, pretty much all at the same time,
What do you think?
At a basic observational level, these kind of major trends have the potential to divert attention from the normal feast of activities that IT departments need to apply muscle to and can lead to periods of navel gazing analysis potentially followed by investments in budget and time that can end up in both budget and potentially policy sprawl, neither of which are particularly conducive to success.
At a more abstract level, do these trends combined with the maturing of IT generally point to a more fundamental change in the role and responsibilities of IT departments?
Do we need to change the signs on the CIO’s office door to ‘Chief Industry Officer’ of the ‘Industry Trends’ department?
So, where am I going with all of this and what point am I trying to make?
Fundamentally, the role of the IT department will change, in reality it has to.
The tentacles of some of these major trends spread well beyond the traditional role of the IT department and touch and impact many other areas in the business. The goodness here is that the IT department is probably the best placed of all in terms of getting its arms around these trends and leading the charge in terms of determining their impact and application. The challenge is that in doing so, the role becomes much more of a ‘business consultancy’ role and less of a pure technology role: The future CIO will be measured more on ‘processes’ and less on ‘product’ – the ‘Why’ and the ‘How’ and less so on the ‘What’.
Many of these views and related commentary came out quite forcibly in the Silicon CIO 50 study of the future of the IT department http://www.silicon.com/management/cio-insights/201
So, where does that leave the ‘technology’?
If roles and responsibilities change in the way I think they will, the IT department of the future (and I will leave that to you as to whether you are now thinking ‘Information Technology’ or ‘Industry Trends’) will have to put in place a much more stringent set of partnership relationships with a few key selected vendors to help deliver on the ‘product’.
I know - I can almost hear the yawns when I say vendor partnerships, but I do believe that will be the only way that departments can upscale to the new set of deliverables expected of them without leaving behind the key delivery of systems and infrastructure so fundamental to supporting those trends as they develop.
As I mentioned right at the start, new trends and developments such as those outlined have the ability to divert attention, lead to policy and budget sprawl and fundamentally add foundational costs to a department if they lead to niche thinking and decision making. To fill the void in terms of technology partnerships, this would point to vendors who have a broader solution capability from client to cloud and maybe less so on niche or point product vendors.
There is no perfect science here. Approaches that point towards ‘solution what you can, niche what you must’ and ‘few versus many’ would appear to be prudent.
And size matters.
Back to my bus analogy again – a large vendor, whilst initially appealing based on a ‘strength in numbers’ philosophy, would fill the bus to overflow, which will effectively slow it right down and possibly lead to as many opinions as there are people on the bus in terms of directions.
A very small or niche vendor would put one person on the bus who would act as driver, ticket collector and consultant and by the way has other buses to do the same on as well – nowhere near focused or resourced enough to support the complete journey.
In this highly dynamic environment vendors who ‘disrupt’ the journey with out of the box thinking that pull on the levers of agility and innovation will be key allies – you may find that dropping the bus altogether and getting to the destination by car was the right decision all along.
In summary, Bob Dylan had it right, when he penned Times they are a’ changin’
I would really appreciate your thoughts and opinions on this post. How do you see roles changing in IT, if at all and who do you invite onto the ‘trend’ bus?