What Does the Future Hold for IT?

Nobody knows how technology will be managed or consumed in 5, 10, or 15 years, but we do know that change is coming.

A recent report from the Corporate Executive Board provided a bold and provocative view of the future of IT based on the premise that "technology will be consumed as part of the business." Here are some of the highlights:

  • What got us here isn't going to get us there. In spite of valiant and tireless efforts on the part of everyone involved, the current IT organizational model falls short in delivering the capability required by the business ("less than 25% of business leaders rated their organization's IT function effective" and this hasn't changed in the last five years.)
  • The source of IT-enabled value is shifting. "More than half the opportunities for IT enablement are at the customer interface or involve business intelligence or collaboration" (versus process automation.) These activities are unstructured and dynamic where players make decisions and redefine processes based on the situations at-hand, experience, and available information. Business intelligence, collaboration, and advanced implementations of business process management aren't applications as much as they are toolsets.
  • The authority and responsibility for IT-enabled business outcomes needs to be aligned. The CIO's dilemma, as illustrated by Abbie Lundberg in this slideshow, is the challenge of promoting innovation while increasing efficiency. IT is in the untenable position of being held responsible for this even though their business partners control the decisions that impact their ability to do so. In addition, tech-friendly professionals are entering the workforce with increased expectations for what technology can do and the speed in which it should be delivered. Unlike their predecessors, this generation will not stand quietly, waiting in governance lines for their share of the IT pie. They need to be tooled-up and smartened-up in what makes IT matter within the enterprise. And they need to be held responsible for following the rules and realizing value as they make IT-enabled change.
  • IT governance is really business governance. In many organizations, IT has led the way in implementing governance over critical decisions related to strategy, business architecture, investments, change, programs, risk and sourcing. Over time, organizations have realized that decisions in these areas need to be coordinated across the enterprise and have elevated and consolidated these activities outside and above IT.
  • This isn't your grandmother's technology. "Technologies for collaboration, business intelligence, and customer interface all require experimentation and iteration" and a hands-on relationship between workers and their technology. Increasingly, the technology necessary to assemble, deploy and operate technology will be provisioned by external providers freeing up internal IT resources to focus on the meaty issues of coaching users on how to exploit the technology and ensure horizontal integration, security, continuity, and performance across the extended enterprise.

I wrote my views on the future of IT a couple of years ago and this is the first report that I have seen that has made me pause and think deeper about the subject. This should be mandatory reading for any leader — with one caveat.

The report portrays a relatively marginal role for the organization currently known as IT ("fewer than 25% of the employees currently within IT will remain," "internal roles will shift from being technology providers to technology brokers" and "roles remaining in the IT function will organize around build and run.") Absent from discussion is the exciting role that exists for forward-thinking IT leaders who can help bring this future forward. The business services function envisioned in this report will have a much larger, and more influential remit than IT holds today. In addition, IT leaders who are business-smart will be in high demand to help the rest of the business prepare and navigate through this transition and lead the increasingly IT-enabled business.

What are your views of the future of corporate IT?

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