There is no doubt that the function of a typical corporate IT department is changing, precipitated by an increasingly mobile workforce and the migration to service delivery from the cloud.
In addition to IT being delivered and consumed in increasingly different ways, particularly ‘as a service’ from the cloud, business units are making more technology decisions themselves, independent of any input or influence from their IT department.
The rise of mobility is also changing the IT dynamic. Businesses are increasingly integrating mobility into their operations to engage more closely with their workforce and with consumers. By doing so, companies can boost workplace productivity and foster closer relationships with their customers. Of course, with the benefits of mobility come the additional challenges of securing the corporate network when it is being accessed from multiple remote locations.
These trends driving change in the corporate IT function have prompted much discussion among business and technical managers in organisations across Australia. So how are these developments changing the IT department?
First of all, the ‘technology’ budget ceases to become the sole domain of the IT department, with business units being allocated their own IT budgets according to their needs, and bearing the responsibility of those budgets being used effectively. IT teams are, however, left with the task of having to integrate new systems – funded and driven by the business on an ad-hoc basis – with existing legacy technologies.
With the shift to outsourcing various elements of IT function to multiple companies according to who can provide the best service and value for each component, companies are now experiencing the frustration of dealing with a range of suppliers, pricing models, service levels and contractual arrangements.
As you would expect, cost, complexity, and the stress levels of your IT manager can all quickly spiral out of control if left unchecked. So how can the IT department restructure and adapt to manage cloud, mobility and other changes?
Managed services providers are playing an increasingly important role when it comes to managing the existing IT infrastructure and providing support for businesses. Businesses can benefit from eliciting the services of these providers to achieve economies of scale and reduce costs – provided that they are the right match with the business’ particular needs and IT environment.
However, this doesn’t mean that the IT department will become obsolete, as while many IT specialists will be employed by third parties, businesses will still need in-house people to set strategies and manage projects, delivery, contracts and governance.
These employees will work with the business, collaborate on new initiatives, understand how data from multiple systems affects integration and analysis, and map the impact on current business flows and processes. So while they’ll understand IT strategy and delivery, they’ll be embedded in the business.
IT managers need to work to understand the different skills and capabilities needed within their organisations. They need to work closely with them to develop a management and organisational structure that can support the new paradigm, and further reassert their value to the wider business by positioning themselves as strategic advisors.
What does the new IT department look like?
By restructuring into a business unit that embraces these new roles and functions, the IT department can inform, educate and position itself as the driver for implementing, managing, and setting best practice guidelines for the new technologies introduced by business units.
This allows these new systems to deliver the maximum value possible to the business.
So, in my view, the top five roles for the new IT department will be:
- Technology strategists to help other lines of business successfully plan and integrate technology into their initiatives
- Tech-savvy, business-focused analysts who can transform systems and other data into actionable insights for the wider business
- Project managers working for a business program management office
- Contract coordinators to oversee service delivery and compliance
- Audit and governance specialists
Businesses are increasingly required to manage the changing demands on IT in capabilities, skills and resources that come from the new digital revolution, but they should see this as an opportunity to streamline their functions, improve their productivity, and ideally reduce costs, rather than being overwhelmed by it or looking upon it negatively as an onerous undertaking.
From the perspective of the IT manager, the future should hold no fears, as while their role will continue to change and evolve, they will still retain a relevant and important function in corporate entities going forward.
Ian Smith is vice president, ICT solutions, at Optus