A look at your IT department's future (or lack of it)

Summary:Do you need a traditional information technology department? That question was at the heart of a Gartner debate on the future of the IT departments.

Do you need a traditional information technology department? That question was at the heart of a Gartner debate on the future of the IT departments.

At issue at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo: Is IT about keeping the lights or enabling a business? Do IT departments need to break up to better focus on innovating, processes and running infrastructure? My take: Blow up the IT department.

All of this business alignment--something IT hasn't achieved for 20 years despite talking about it nonstop--isn't fun. CIOs are often out of their league and would much rather be scouting new technologies. CIOs have become process jockeys when they should be cooking up new ideas. 

Bottom line: The all-encompassing IT department could be nuked by 2012 and no one would know the difference. Here's what Gartner analysts Bill Rossner and Tina Nunno say the IT department will devolve to:

  • A business process office: This office would do end to end modeling of business changes and outcomes. This was dubbed "business visualization." These folks would also define data and how it would be used. A Chief Process Officer would run the show.
  • An IT engine room: These folks would focus on infrastructure, application building, operations and support. This group would take orders from the business process office and be headed by a chief resource officer.
  • Transformational/Change Management office: This group would essentially have all the fun and find new capabilities and technologies, select the best investments and manage change. Better yet: This group would have no day to day operational duties and be run by a big-idea chief transformational officer.

There were arguments against such a revamp--an IT department shouldn't be treated like Lego blocks and you can't restructure to fix bad management. Overall, the arguments weren't so hot.

The structure above, which would all report to the CEO, could alleviate a lot of ills of current IT departments. The process jockeys could go off and lunch with the bean counters. The light-switch-legacy-loving types could be in the engine room. And the think tank types could have their day too. The budget (or lack of one) would be determined later of course.

And as a final note my take was in the minority. At the end of my talk technology execs responded to the following statement: Most traditional IT organizations will be closed down by 2012.

  • 37 percent agreed
    57 percent disagreed
    5 percent were undecided

Topics: CXO

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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