As companies transform into digital organizations, the role of the IT department is being redefined. If business units are taking a larger role in technology decisions and employees are using their own devices, where exactly does IT fit in?
The good news is that the IT department isn’t going away anytime soon. Rogue IT and BYOD have hinted at the possibility of reducing or outsourcing many IT functions, but most businesses are not going down that path. CompTIA’s research finds companies showing a preference for retaining technical talent, often looking for new ways to use those workers in the shifting environment. In addition, business units have started to recognize that security and integration can quickly torpedo solutions, so they have a clear interest in partnering with IT when making decisions.
This leads to a range of new challenges for IT professionals. Most of these challenges involve balancing acts, as tech workers keep one foot in the familiar foundation that systems are built on and one foot in the new era of collaboration around new tools and trends. There are three areas in particular where finding equilibrium will be a major task in the near future:
Speed vs. Stability: This is the major tension behind the trend of rogue IT. Business units have developed enough technical savvy to procure their own technology, and can often do so quickly using their own budget without having the IT team involved. However, the technical knowledge in lines of business typically only extends to devices or applications, not overall architecture.
The traditional role of IT has been to build enterprise-grade systems that support operations. “Enterprise-grade” is the key variable there, and meeting that requirement is often the reason for the perceived red tape. IT pros must learn how to communicate these requirements in terms of business analysis, and they must also move towards bi-modal IT, where speed and stability are managed separately while driving towards common objectives.
Infrastructure vs. Innovation: Five years ago, infrastructure was the main focus for IT professionals, with 73% of these workers citing this as a top 2 priority in that time period. Today, IT must also consider integration, intelligence, and especially innovation as part of their job duties.
Just 31% of IT pros felt that innovation was a top 2 priority five years ago, but that number has jumped to 43% today. When pursuing cloud computing, companies are twice as likely to restructure IT departments than they are to reduce the number of workers, with a large part of that restructuring being the movement away from routine tasks in favor of more innovation. Fields like Big Data or Internet of Things may be heavily hyped, but they also represent areas with strong potential that should be explored.
Equipment vs. Experience: For decades, technology decisions revolved around specs. The primary benefit of IT was increased productivity, and faster clock speed or larger memory were the best ways to improve the situation.
Hardware still plays an important part—perhaps more important than some might realize—but the true value of technology is now found in the user experience. This combines hardware with software and a deep understanding of behavior and workflow. IT pros may not have to learn all of these disciplines for a specific job, but they at least have to be aware of how the ingredients come together to create the experience and make the most out of the technology on hand.
Finding balance in these areas requires not only new skills, but also a new mindset. In order to provide the highest value to the business, IT pros need to understand the new environment and search for the best application of technology. The technologists who are the most successful at broadening their horizons will find that they fit easily into the new direction that IT is taking.