The role of the CIO and IT are changing radically as a result of consumer technology and marked advances in IT systems.
A New Order of IT
Forrester Research predicts the IT organization of 2020 will only vaguely resemble what's in place today. Powerful and easy-to-acquire tools and technologies will usher in an era of business self-sufficiency. Tech-savvy managers will increasingly control and provision their own services and solutions. IT departments, as a result, will typically be smaller, leaner and more strategic. Deloitte's Briggs notes that as organizations turn to the cloud and adopt infrastructure-as-a-service and software-as-a-service models, project management and portfolio management will become necessary skills for senior IT executives. Ultimately, he says, "CIOs must lead the charge and become the visionary for exploiting all the disruption."
It's a concept that resonates at Cars.com, an online automobile shopping site that attracts upwards of 20 million unique visitors per month. Cars.com enterprise architect James Houska sees a new future of IT unfolding before his eyes. "End users are demanding new features and services faster," he says. This has resulted in Cars.com ramping up from approximately 30 releases and updates per year to more than 300. "There is an extreme acceleration in the business and how we leverage information technology,” says Houska. “There is a greater need for automation. We're being forced to become more agile and innovative in whatever we do."
This environment, Houska says, necessitates the use of "game-changing technology" such as the cloud and outside IT services. App development is now measured in days rather than in months. Application performance management and other tools that provide metrics have emerged as a necessity. For example, Cars.com has turned to service providers such as Compuware APM and Splunk to cull vast amounts of data and ensure that Web and mobile systems are performing at optimum levels. Houska believes the future of IT is rooted in the CIO and IT department serving as thought leaders for technology. The goal should be connect data and services from different departments and systems into a unified and seamless enterprise IT strategy.
To be sure, those that cling to the command and control model of the past are destined to face severe turbulence. Today, success hinges on a lean, agile, flexible and intrapreneurial IT model that's inextricably linked to business needs. It also requires lots of experimentation, says Bonnet of Capgemini Consulting. In this upside down post-PC world, risk must be viewed as a friend and change as a potential competitive advantage. "We have entered a new phase of enterprise IT that is less dependent on technical skills than on strategic vision,” says Nichols. “The IT department of the future must be equipped to function in a real-time, fast-changing environment that drives the business like never before."