IT’s Role in the Future

By Samuel Greengard

The history of IT is littered with innovative and disruptive technologies. In the 1960s, mainframe computers revolutionized the way businesses managed information. By the 1980s, word processors and PCs automated office tasks, and spreadsheets yielded new insights into better business practices. Starting in the 1990s, the Internet and mobility unleashed a torrent of change that put the IT department at the center of the enterprise. Powerful and efficient enterprise systems were the order of the day.

But these developments pale in comparison to the tsunami of change washing over IT organizations today. The introduction of iPads and iPhones, social media, big data, and cloud computing have unleashed profound changes that far exceed the impact of each of these devices or systems alone. The combined impact of these technologies is redefining the way organizations and people interact. It’s also revolutionizing how businesses harness data, information and knowledge and put them into play. “The IT department is undergoing a remarkable transformation,” says David Nichols, Americas CIO Services Leader for consulting firm Ernst & Young.

Make no mistake, IT organizations must adapt and evolve like never before. Over the next few years, the role of IT will change further as the consumerization of IT marches forward and cloud computing provide more powerful ways to manage everything from infrastructure to enterprise applications. “The interrelationship between technologies is creating unprecedented waves of disruption,” observes Bill Briggs, global lead at Deloitte Consulting. “It’s forcing organizations to rethink everything and embrace a post-digital world filled with new risks and opportunities.”

What will the IT organization of the future look like? What can CIOs and other senior IT executives do to prepare for fundamentally different roles? And what is required to reach the promised land of a more strategic IT department? There are no easy answers, but one thing is perfectly clear: Feel-good slogans and talk about innovation, agility and flexibility won’t get the job done. CIOs must have a deeper and more intrinsic understanding of how to navigate this brave new world. It’s a place where information technology touches everything and everybody all the time.

Reinventing Roles

Over the last half-century, computers have become infinitely more powerful, software has advanced and mobile devices have put information in front of customers and employees and provided them with powerful tools. The enormous popularity of iPhones, iPads and other mobile hardware and software has yanked control of IT away from enterprises and put consumers firmly in charge. The consumerization of IT and the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movements have wrested control of IT decision-making away from CIOs and enterprises.

The ramifications are profound. “Today, non-IT people, including business executives and consumers, are either making decisions or involved in the decision-making process,” says Didier Bonnet, senior vice president for Capgemini Consulting. What’s more, “many of the IT systems of the past are too expensive and too cumbersome for today’s business environment. IT is being forced to adopt entirely different models and play a different role as the fundamental model for IT changes.”

Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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