Beyond Computing: The Future of IT Infrastructure

Putting all these information technology pieces together -- virtualization and clouds, mobility, unified communications, social media and other tools -- creates a sum that's greater than the individual parts, Capgemini's Mulholland says. In this new and emerging world, CIOs must think differently than they have in the past. "The technology is creating entirely new data models that organizations must learn to manage and control," says Mulholland. "This requires new ways to approach work, processes, talent and security. It creates different connection points and relationships."

Today and in the future, CIOs must focus on leading the business rather than simply aligning with it, according to Mulholland. He predicts that over the next few years, outside developers, service providers and others will increasingly fill gaps and provide technical acumen that fuels accelerated development schedules. Managed-service providers will become even more ubiquitous and transparent. "It's clear that there are a lot of things that that don't make sense for an internal IT department to specialize in," Mulholland says. "It's not an argument to outsource or offload skills, it's an acknowledgment that there are different, and often more productive, ways to do things."

Accenture's Nunn sees a move away from monolithic outsourcing, as organizations establish an ecosystem of business partners -- including individuals and smaller firms. And while every enterprise must define its unique course, the need for internal expertise won't disappear. IT must better understand that the technology framework for business success consists of hiring talent that understands the dynamics of this new era and what's required. This includes internal tablet and smartphone apps to tap into the full potential of mobility, social media, the cloud and other tools.

Finally, there's the nettlesome issue of security. Ernst & Young's Nichols believes that security challenges will increase, as smaller and more diverse chunks of data -- some originated from other companies' servers connected through a cloud -- pass through enterprise networks. "Organizations must pay attention to transforming infrastructure and policies over time to accommodate mobility, social media and interconnected servers in the cloud," says Nichols. In the end, he notes, there's a growing need to focus on protecting data rather than obsessing over constantly changing devices and systems.

To be sure, this emerging IT environment offers both promise and pitfalls. Building an IT organization--or perhaps, more aptly, a BT organization -- that's agile and flexible enough to address this future translates into IT revamping systems but, more importantly, rethinking ways of doing things. In this largely unexplored universe, IT must understand that its role isn't to control systems and assets, it's to unleash new capabilities -- while teaching and guiding employees to use technology resources to maximum advantage.

This article was originally published on 10-27-2011
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