Three Key Takeaways from the 2016 State of IT Report

As 2015 winds down, IT leaders and their teams are looking at internal needs and external conditions in formulating plans and setting budget priorities for the coming year.

The recently released 2016 State of IT Report from Spiceworks provides a wealth of information about how IT teams are formulating plans for the year ahead.

The report covers IT budgets, spending and staffing plans; the trends and concerns keeping IT pros up at night; and a look forward at technology adoption trends.

Among the abundance of facts and stats presented, here are three noteworthy findings, along with additional observations.

IT pros will “need to keep doing more… with less.” (Here’s one strategy to help.)

One of the key top-level conclusions reported by Spiceworks is: “IT pros don’t expect their IT staff to increase in 2016, which means they’ll need to keep doing more… with less.”

How IT can do more with less

At the same time, more than half of IT organizations say “end-user need” is a key purchase driver.

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Five Keys to Successful Collaboration in the Future of Work

Despite panic-inducing, high-shock-value headlines like Will machines eventually take every job?, there’s little to worry about for most workers. Robots are more likely to supplement human labor than to replace it.

But while automation technologies broadly speaking (robots, “smart” machines, and software) may not destroy many jobs (if any) on net, they will certainly change the nature of the future of work.

Future of work is more collaboration than robotsThe work of the future will be technology-assisted, data-driven, and collaborative. Simple, autonomous tasks (e.g., scanning a barcode) are easy to automate. Complex tasks requiring a mix of expertise (e.g., designing and developing a business software application) are far more difficult, and not candidates for automation any time soon.

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How the Role of IT is Changing in the Enterprise: Research

While a great deal has been written about how the role of IT is being transformed in response to disruptive technology change, recent research from Avanade and InformationWeek puts some hard numbers behind the words.

Reporting on those study results, Shelly Kramer notes that the traditional enterprise IT model is under pressure as rapidly evolving business needs and increasing tech-savvy employees demand faster, more flexible technology approaches.

changing role of IT in the enterpriseAs she observes, “it’s not unusual for the IT function to be viewed as something of an obstruction to be worked around rather than an asset to the business. This leads to the rise of alternative, external cloud solutions being adopted directly by other business unit leaders and a hodgepodge of unconnected ‘solutions’ being used by various factions within the company.”  Working around IT rather than with it leads to risks enterprises need to acknowledge and address.

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Mobility Forecast 2016: Three Ways to Address BYOD and Workforce Evolution

On the long list of transformational changes—the digital enterprise, big data, the Internet of Things—keeping life interesting for CIOs and IT groups, a key area of focus is the ongoing developments in BYOD and workforce mobility. Tech leaders are challenged to make wise investments within a nascent and rapidly evolving tools environment.

BYOD and mobility forecast 2016That’s the central point made by Dell’s Tom Kendra in his article, Mobility Forecast: BYOD and EMM in 2016 on CIO.com. He writes that “for IT to be prepared to manage change efficiently, securely and cost-effectively, it is essential to understand the key drivers of change.”

Here are the three categories of change identified by Kendra, along with observations from this blog. Continue reading “Mobility Forecast 2016: Three Ways to Address BYOD and Workforce Evolution”

Six Vital BYOD Stats – And The Bigger Productivity Picture

Most organizations have now adopted BYOD policies, permitting or encouraging employees to use their personal computing and communications devices at work. Though the embrace of BYOD varies—small companies are more likely to adopt BYOD than large enterprises, tech companies more than government, U.S. firms more than those in Europe—a clear majority of respondents in a recent survey by Tech Pro Research “say that their organization is using or planning to use BYOD.”

BYOD stats and impact on productivityIt is easy to see why employees want to use their own devices, with reasons ranging from familiarity to freedom. Meanwhile, employers often see the shift (despite additional security measures required) as a way to save money. And research compiled by BMC Software indicates BYOD users work longer hours. But do BYOD policies ultimately improve productivity?

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The Benefits of Focusing on Technology ROI (Return on Incrementalism)

Bombarded by rapidly changing business requirements and frustrated by the constraints of legacy management and control systems, the natural reaction of technology decision makers may be to rip out the big, old platform and replace it with a big, new one. But that isn’t always the best answer.

As Sanjay Srivastava and Gianni Giacomelli write in IndustryWeek (Separating Impact from Hype: How CFOs Achieve Technology ROI), ” A huge, multi-year implementation is no longer the only option available to leverage better technology. In fact, massive implementations can sometimes undermine actual business goals.”

Benefits of an incremental approach to technologyThe two authors ask why “so many companies reach the end of a multi-year deployment only to discover they are not materially better off than before, and that the world has moved on to the next big thing,” and contend this is because, in many instances, enterprises “implement a vast array of process and technology improvements rather than surgically target the actual drivers of desired business outcomes.” In other words, firms take a revolutionary “rip and replace” approach to large systems rather than implementing flexible, incremental answers to specific business needs.

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The IT Skills Enterprises Need Next

As the focus of IT departments shifts from providing information and infrastructure to improving business processes, the mix of skills they require is evolving as well.

Writing on ZDNet, Brian Sommer contends in As IT’s industrial age ends, the humanist era begins that:
Which IT skills will be vital in 2015?

“Systems of Record are giving way to Systems of Engagement. User Interfaces are being updated to permit a better User Experience. Cloud solutions are displacing on-premises applications. Lighter, leaner IT groups are using utility computing (e.g., public) cloud solutions. Developers are building mobile and e-commerce apps. The list just goes on and on.”

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Practical Ways to Bridge the Gap Between IT and The Business

Every successful enterprise, obviously, relies on a range of skillsets within the organization: strategic, financial, promotional, technical, managerial, inspirational, and interpersonal. But why is the “technical” component–IT groups in particular–so often criticized for being disconnected or out of sync with “the business”? In contrast, no one ever complains that their company’s accounting department is holding back the organization’s forward progress.

Mark Thiele, in the InformationWeek article Sync IT And Business Like A School Of Fish, writes:

How to bridge the gap between IT and the business“Keeping IT and business in sync is not a new goal — it’s been discussed for years…Even when the business removes political and functional barriers, there are serious limitations in how quickly and effectively IT can respond. The limitations of legacy IT relate to the difficulty of effecting change…The fact is, businesses have historically always acted faster than IT, and new digitally driven business models will only widen the chasm.”

His recommendation is an approach he terms “composable IT”–essentially, basing the delivery of operational capabilities “on services outside the enterprise datacenter” in order to more deftly adapt to  “mobility, cloud, SaaS, wearable tech, the Internet of Things,” and other emerging trends in this era of disruptive IT change.

The recommendations in this article are, for the most part, thoughtful and productive; particularly in terms of how training and incentive systems will need to change in order to accelerate adoption. But discussions of the “chasm” between IT and the business too often paint IT professionals as resistant to change, or even opposed to new business technologies.

That’s nonsense, of course. Everybody in business (that includes IT professionals) wants to be the hero: to exceed expectations, improve the bottom line, bring new capabilities to the enterprise, enhance productivity, reduce costs, and still be home in time for dinner.

Given the wave of new cloud-based and mobile capabilities washing over the business world, IT groups undeniably need to evolve practices to be more nimble and agile. But business leaders and users in other functional areas also need to understand that sometimes there are extremely valid reasons to wait, or at least proceed with caution, that are indeed in the best interests of “the business.”

Here are three practical ways to productively bridge the perceived gap between IT and other business functions, and move forward in ways that embrace change without discarding prudence.

Recognize the importance—to the business—of system and data security. As noted here previously, the attitude of IT groups in general toward the BYOD trend changed dramatically in just 24 months; in some companies, from forbidding the use of employees’ own devices for work to demanding it.

IT leaders weren’t wrong to be cautious of employees using their personal devices to access business systems back in 2011 when data security, anti-theft, data backup, and device management tools were weak or lacking, any more than they’ve been wrong to shift to a more embracing approach as those tools have matured (though somesecurity concerns remain).

Data security is a business concern, not just an IT worry. The average cost of a data breach is $3.5 million, and includes not just direct loss but also loss of customers (and customer confidence) and, in many cases, negative media coverage.

The challenge for IT leaders is to communicate the risks of poor data security in business terms. It’s not that the latest mobile business intelligence app isn’t really cool and useful, it’s that CIOs don’t want to risk millions of dollars and the company’s reputation on an untested and insecure connection to corporate data.

Don’t “throw out the baby with the bathwater.” Without delving into the origins of that idiom, in this context it means: don’t presume it’s best to throw out those dusty old legacy applications and replace them all with cloud-based apps. In many mature enterprises, core legacy applications remain vital in storing customer and financial data and running fundamental business processes.

That said, applying intuitive, web-based, mobile-friendly systems of engagement to legacy management and control systems of record increases enterprise agility and flexibility, as well as the speed with which IT can respond to changes in the business, without the difficulty and risk of modifying core legacy application code.

Empower business users to create their own solutions (using approved tools). One example of this is in enterprise request management (ERM) rollouts; graphical mapping tools enable business process owners in any department (e.g., HR for PTO requests, facilities for conference room reservations) to design, test, optimize, and deploy their own workflow processes–with minimal IT assistance.

ERM represents, in many ways, the ideal approach to the new IT paradigm; give users information about the options, capabilities, and costs of different approaches to solving business problems, then enable them to choose from a (tested and approved) set of alternatives.

To respond to rapid change, in both business practices and technology, IT groups need to adopt approaches and processes that support speed and flexibility. As Thiele and other authors point out, some old beliefs and practices will need to be discarded. But prudence, maintaining a clear-eyed view of data security, and leveraging existing investments wherever possible will never become obsolete.

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