IT managers have an opportunity to cement their positions within the management hierarchy and establish a new, leading role for IT, according to Gartner.
By embracing business process management (BPM) and taking a lead role, they can change the view of the IT department from a group of engineers to a team of strategists.
Speaking at Gartner's BPM Summit in London on Monday, Gartner analyst Mark Raskino said it was time for IT managers to "take control of process management". But one of the biggest roadblocks in the way, he argued, was the traditional friction between management and IT. The lack of understanding between IT and the rest of the business is well known, he said. "IT managers have the design skills and can place things in an architectural context, while business leaders often lack the rigour and the motivation to understand the processes," Raskino said.
It is "an old problem", he argued, and organisations did not "legitimise and value the crossover skills needed". Managers who can understand how the systems work and translate that into business processes would be highly valued, Raskino said.
This is a market that is set to grow rapidly: Gartner calculates that the worldwide market for BPM software will exceed $1bn (£510m) in 2007 in total software revenues and will reach $2.6bn by 2011. The key issues are globalisation, the increasing importance of the consumer and the change in the dynamics of business as the internet rises in importance.
Businesses will be looking to use software to better deal with these factors, which will in turn lead to a renewed interest in BPM, Gartner said.
For IT managers looking to progress in their careers, this is the time to act, Raskino said, but to do so they must be prepared to move quickly. "Business processes will be forced to change, and to change repeatedly and rapidly," he said. "You need to be aware that whatever your company, you now work in a global economy and change happens quickly and spans continents."
Businesses of all sizes need to adapt to the climate of regulation, the analyst said: "Whatever the industry, there are regulators there to tell you what you can do, what you can't do, who you can do it with and who you can't do it with." And the regulators themselves, thanks to the internet, are regulating much more quickly, Raskino pointed out.
As an indicator of Gartner's view of where BPM lies in the context of technology change, Raskino uses Gartner's well-known mathematical analysis. "It is there in the edge of the Trough of Disillusionment," Raskino said. But that should not make IT managers gloomy, he said.
"We have gone through the hype phase with BPM, and that clears out a lot of companies that were playing with the technology, and now we are down to the serious phase," he said.
Raskino illustrated his argument with a guide to the fundamentals of BPM. He called it the "2015 BPM strategic capability wish list":
- Standardised IT systems
- Flexible IT systems that can be moved about, and swapped in and out, at will
- Auditability so that managers can quickly comply with any requirements from any regulator
- Innovative, so businesses can fit in new technologies as required
- Differentiating, so that systems can be adapted for any localised environment
- Globally consistent, so you can open up a new system or move an existing one to another at short notice if required
- Locally adaptable, so you can open up a system in a new country immediately
- Spans the value chain