It must be human nature to attempt to be a prognosticator, since it seems we are constantly trying to predict the future. Sometimes it’s something simple and immediate, such as predicting tomorrow’s weather. Other times we look farther into the future, like trying to predict where our careers will take us. Regardless of what we are trying to predict, if we can do so accurately, then we will make good decisions and be successful in meeting our goals and objectives.
Along those lines, I often ponder: “What will the future of an IT organization look like?” As CEO of a CIO advisory firm, with clients across the Fortune 1,000, it’s important for me to predict where the industry is moving to be able to guide clients in that direction.
Usually, when looking for insight into industry trends, we defer to the big companies: firms with large IT organizations and more resources and finances to fund progressive initiatives. However, I have observed a few unique indicators within mid-sized organizations that have provided a glimpse into the future of the IT organization.
IT organizations are creating a more cost-effective, secure and responsive infrastructure that scales and adapts to business needs without the investment of an in-house infrastructure. Software as a service, outsourced IT operations, and cloud-based and third-party managed infrastructures are taking over the day-to-day operations, support and maintenance. With this shift to externally serviced IT, the IT organization is becoming more of a technology governance group than a technology implementer.
Smaller companies lead the shift to IT as a governance organization
The reason smaller companies are pioneering the shift of IT becoming more of a governance organization is three-fold. First, the IT environments are not as complex as those of very large firms. There are much fewer applications, and there is less diversity and complexity in the technologies. Second, there are fewer business groups to support. In the larger firms, the needs of the different business groups can vary significantly from each other and create challenges to find commonality and efficiency to support such a diverse user community. Third, as they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Smaller firms have fewer resources and need to build IT organizations that are more efficient and easier to manage.
Over time, as equipment in data centers reaches its end of life and as even more application capabilities become available within the cloud, an increasing number of larger companies will shift to leveraging external infrastructures and cloud-based services.
With this shift, IT’s role will transition to one more focused on governance and being a technology adviser to the business. This doesn’t mean IT will have less value, because it will still provide many services, such as:
- Providing guidance on where to best apply technology to solve business needs
- Helping the business identify cloud-based solutions
- Selecting cloud solution providers that best meet the requirements of the business
- Developing and managing application architectures
- Managing and overseeing IT suppliers
- Providing seamless support services
With this enhanced role of IT as a governance organization, the need for ITSM principles becomes more important. A well-run IT organization will have all of its functions, infrastructure and applications (including everything that is outsourced) packaged as well-defined IT Services.
Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) best practices provide the guidance and process framework to operate in this manner. Most organizations today leverage ITIL for processes related to their service desks, such as Incident Management and Problem Management, or to manage changes to the IT environment. However, with an organization that is mostly outsourced, other ITIL processes that are not as broadly adopted today will become even more important for an IT organization to establish and follow. Some of these processes include demand management, business relationship management, supplier management, catalog management and request fulfillment.
So, if you are part of an IT organization that is making this shift to becoming more efficient and improving your relationship with the business, you should focus on improving your IT governance and service management practices. Pay close attention to processes and capabilities that foster interaction with the business, and ensure that your IT services provide value, with clearly understood costs and service levels.