Cloud Computing, ERM, and (Not) the End of IT

As business users become more technology-savvy and self-sufficient—using their own devices and consumer cloud services for work—will IT as a distinct business function disappear, with technical expertise simply diffused into other business departments (HR, finance, operations, etc.)?

That’s the provocative question posed by Joe McKendrick in a recent Forbes article, Cloud Computing’s Paradox: More IT, But Less IT Management. McKendrick asks if BYOD, cloud computing (two of the four sharks of IT disruption), and increased technology budgets within business departments like marketing may lead to the dissolution of IT departments.

The role of IT in the enterprise is evolving, but won't disappearHe reports that in more than 60% of enterprises adopting cloud computing, ” business units are choosing, managing and funding their own cloud solutions…(while) only 37 percent of IT leaders estimate that they are delivering the bulk of cloud services sought by business users.”

But CIOs are adapting in response by shifting the focus of their departments from being technology developers to services brokers, ” in which they expertly identify and supply technology to internal customers… 43 percent of IT leaders say they are planning to develop cloud services brokerage ( a “mature” level of service delivery according to Forrester Research) models in their quest to get out in front if the cloud parade and deliver the majority of the cloud services their companies use within the next two years.”

McKendrick then answers his opening question as to whether IT departments will disappear with a firm “of course not.” As he notes, “CIOs and IT managers need to get out of the way, but be ready to support and advise the business as cloud issues spring up — and they will. And guess who users will be calling first for help?…(and) on a larger scale, businesses need IT expertise more than ever to advance in today’s crazy, hyper-competitive economy…(as) many companies have evolved into technology businesses overnight, and IT departments are needed more than ever.”

It’s interesting that most of the “threats” to IT as a distinct discipline end up reinforcing its importance:

  • BYOD? Yes, users can bring their own devices to work—but who will set up the required device registration, remote software installation services, and ensure data security and compliance?
  • Cloud computing? Absolutely, but who can guide business users to choose the most effective services at the lowest costs, and resolve related service issues?
  • Mobility? It’s awesome that mobile devices work anywhere—but not without access to enterprise applications and data set up by IT.

But while IT groups aren’t going away anytime soon, their role is changing. With the consumerization of IT, users and functional business managers want more control—and they should have it! A key responsibility if IT is to give employees this control, while still actively managing and communicating the importance of factors like data access and security.

Enterprise request management (ERM) plays a key role in this transition. Service catalogs enable IT groups to provide users and managers with a comprehensive but defined set of options for cloud services, BYOD device registration, and other service items, in an intuitive web portal interface. ERM extends these capabilities across the enterprise—enabling departmental managers to define and present their own service items and underlying delivery processes, integrating their existing software systems, with minimal technical assistance.

Users get a simple “Amazon.com-like” interface to peruse, order, and check on the status of services from any department, any time from anywhere. Department managers get control of service delivery, while leveraging familiar tools and applications. IT gets to empower business users and managers, rather than limit them. And the enterprise reduces costs through back-end automation, which improves first-time fulfillment and faster service delivery.

An increasing number—though still a minority—of CIOs understand these shifts. As McKendrick writes in closing, “one quarter of 722 CIOs surveyed report that the IT group is perceived by colleagues as a true business peer—or even a game-changer—that can create and launch new products and open new markets.” An ERM strategy can play a key role in helping those IT leaders continue to be successful, and helping to move more of the other three-quarters of CIOs into the “true business peer” group.

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