The changing face of IT: Five trends to watch

The changing face of IT: Five trends to watch

Summary: IT is changing as fast as an profession on the planet and IT pros need to keep up with the trends. Here are five big developments to keep your eye on.


At the TechRepublic Live 2010 event earlier this month, I gave a presentation called "The Changing Face of IT" in which I outlined five key trends that are changing the way IT is delivered, administered, and staffed. Here's a summary of that presentation.

1. The consumerization of IT

We have been discussing the consumerization of IT on TechRepublic since 2007 when The Wall Street Journal published tips to help business professionals circumvent their IT departments. Back then, it was primarily an annoyance involving a few power users who were bringing their own Palm Treos into the enterprise and using a some unauthorized Web tools to get their work done.

Since then, consumerization has developed into a full-blown trend that nearly every organization -- except for the ones with the tightest security or the most centralized IT departments -- have to deal with. Workers are bringing their own laptops and smartphones into the office and connecting them to corporate systems. More people than ever are telecommuting or working from home for a day or two a week. And, the number of Web-based tools has increased dramatically, including many that have become favorites of business users, such as Evernote, Dropbox, and Google Docs.

This puts the onus on IT to craft pragmatic and effective computing policies and to help users understand which tools are safe to use and for which kinds of activities.

2. The borderless network

The old security model was for IT to build a big moat around the corporate network and only let trusted, authorized employees come across the well-guarded drawbridge and into the proverbial castle. However, that model has broken down as companies have had to make more and more exceptions -- for example, VPN users working from home, smartphone users on the go, and extranet users via company partnerships.

As a result, today's IT security model is more about risk management than network protection. Companies have to identify their most important data and then make sure it's protected no matter who's accessing it and from wherever and whatever device they're accessing it from.

3. The cloudy data center

One of the most expensive and cumbersome aspects of the company headquarters -- and even some large regional offices -- can be the data center. It can make it difficult to reconfigure buildings because you always have to worry about the data center ramifications, which can be extremely costly and limiting.

That's why some companies are looking to break the cycle and either consolidate and minimize their own internal data centers or outsource the data centers themselves. Some are doing it by going with more cloud computing applications like Some of renting server capacity from vendors such as Amazon AWS and Rackspace. Others are going the more traditional route and simply renting data center space from third party data centers that have already solved problems like power, cooling, and telecom redundancy.

Vendors such as EMC and Microsoft see this happening and they want to be part of the mix as well, so they are encouraging companies to virtualize all of their servers and create a "private cloud" that has the flexibility of a cloud solution and the privacy and security of a homegrown server solution.

4. The state of outsourcing

Every time you mention the word "outsourcing" among IT professionals (especially in the U.S.) there's a predictable knee-jerk reaction. In most cases, they are associating outsourcing with "off-shoring," the practice of moving entry-level help desk and programming jobs to foreign countries (usually in Southeast Asia) where the labor costs are much cheaper.

However, outsourcing is a much larger trend, and off-shoring is just one part of it. Outsourcing is thriving in many different forms, and it's reasonable to expect that it will accelerate. Big companies such as IBM, HP, and Verizon Business are offering to take over many of the maintenance functions for IT departments. In many cases, they'll even keep IT pros on staff and on-premises but those IT pros will now get their paycheck from the vendor. The big benefit here is 24/7 monitoring since these large vendors have engineers in their sophisticated NOCs at all times, plus they have specialists who can solve more difficult problems when the need arises.

When companies move their maintenance portions of the IT department to outsourcers, that leaves business analysts and project managers as the primary job roles left for the internal IT department.

5. The mobilization paradigm

The computer revolution has put a PC on virtually every desk in the business world and in lots of other places where people work, from the sales counter to the warehouse to the patient exam room. While PCs still make sense on the desks of knowledge workers, for all of these other workers who regularly move around as part of their daily job, the stationary PC often changes the natural flow of their routine because they have to stop at a system to enter data or complete a task. That's about to change.

Mobile computers in the form of smartphones and touchscreen tablets (like the iPad) have taken a big leap forward in the past four years. They are instant-on, easy to learn because of the touchscreen, and they have a whole new ecosystem of applications designed for the touch experience. In the years ahead, we're going to see more and more development done on these mobile platforms, which will untether workers from their stationary PCs and allow them to interact with people and products in much more natural ways.

Topics: Outsourcing, CXO, Data Centers, Hardware, Storage

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  • RE: The changing face of IT: Five trends to watch

    In my experience, #1 (the consumerization of IT) happened because IT gives the users a substandard product and hinders them from getting their work done. So eventually those of us who want to get our work done bring in our own laptops or devices. Serves them right...
    • RE: The changing face of IT: Five trends to watch

      @mridgesc The IT policies come from the top down. We don't have the budget to buy all the new best gadgets and tools. If we had them we would give them to you. We work with what we have. Believe it or not most of us don't go to work everyday thinking about how we can make your job more difficult.
    • RE: The changing face of IT: Five trends to watch

      Most IT depts. work to very tight budgets and work flat out just to keep up with the ever changing IT world. Incidentally a fair whack of the workload is handling the security & connectivity issues involved in giving you the privilege of connecting your personal and often virus riddled devices to a mission critical network.
  • Private vs. public clouds

    I think ownership of private clouds matter the same way the ownership of just about anything matters - over the non-ownership of things. When people were able to own their own phones a couple decades back, the sales and innovation of phones took off. When people were able to own their own cars, the sales of cars took off - which led to a huge expansion of the transportation industry. The same thing is true for computers: the private ownership of the PC caused the computer industry to explode. We are seeing the same thing with mobile phones now. That is why I hope MS et al don't look at the easy money in herding people into public clouds, and not think about the long term impact. I believe driving people to own private clouds, and supplementing them with public cloud services, is the optimum model for the entire computer industry. Taking away ownership of IT infrastructure will simply lead to declining interest, and less imagination on the part of companies, regarding how they can manipulate their IT to become more competitive. (It is kind of like moving people out of private houses into public housing. After a while they stop caring, and lose interest beyond the most basic maintenance of their homes.)

    I think companies like HP should become preoccupied with making it easy to own private clouds of any size. Even if HP and other OEMs have to come up with techniques like using extensible, easily assembled pre-fab structures, that allow companies to easily add to their IT infrastructure at the side of their buildings, in an aesthetically pleasing manner; I believe they should do so. In other words, I think OEMs should innovate around the construction and maintenance of private clouds, and not simply say it is easier to drive everyone into public clouds. History has repeatedly shown, that people are usually willing to pay more to own stuff that is easy to use and manage, rather than use public equivalents.

    Taking a look at this problem from another angle: how much innovation does anyone see taking place in common public services such as power, water, sanitation, bank accounts, etc.? Compared to the computer, mobile phone, and car industries where people own the technologies, almost none. Is this what the computer industry wants? I believe everyone who has a stake in the IT industry should favor private clouds over public clouds - with public clouds filling the gaps that private clouds cannot reasonably provide. Private clouds and their ownership will allow the IT industry to continue to grow in the short and long terms, whereas public clouds will likely hinder it in the long term.
    P. Douglas
  • Architecture of Information

    The psychopathology of human nature invented the wall. The greek and ancient philosophers refer to separation of civilization from nature, what was already ancient wisdom for them and called it "Chora" or "Ur."<br><br>Over the years, centuries and millennia, the moat, castle, fortress, pentagon and temple came to separate one set of humans from another.<br><br>Humans who were civilized within these architecture of civilizations built the same kind of architecture for information, and still continue to do so.<br><br>But, for the first time in 20th century when a bomb was fitted to an aircraft, the separation of humans by a wall, moat and everything grounded by gravity was blown apart.<br><br>Today, you can see the opening sequence of Disney's logo before the start of any of their movies. The elaborate Cinderella's Castle is celebrated with fireworks, completely denying the purpose of its thick walls and towering structure. Then there is a huge arch in the center of the castle where the water that appears to be a river than a moat cuts right through the arch to the other side of the castle. A small boat with plastic explosives will blow up the entire castle and the image is a total anathema to the very nature of a castle.<br><br>The Architecture of Information is an exact parallel to this Disney Castle. The 'Metaphors We Live By' define the information we design. That metaphor is in a state of war - a war between old guards of heritage, tradition, conservatism, conservationists and preservationists on one side pitted against the those who have realized the world has already changed.<br><br>Information is power, and like a river, it wants to flow, not be dammed and exploited without serious consequences to the ecology of decision making.<br><br>I've spent the last 25+ years helping organizations transition from a centralized theocracy to transparent decision making networks of information. The fortress wants to be a city. The city wants to blend into nature.
    • Are you off your meds?

      @SendilNathan Half of what you say is rambling, the other half is just non-sense.
    • RE: The changing face of IT: Five trends to watch

      @SendilNathan It's amusing how we pretend that abstract concepts are physical items, or even worse, capable of reasoning and thought.
  • RE: The changing face of IT: Five trends to watch

    "The consumerization of IT"

    Whatever that means. Not sure if the title fits the description. Is "consumerization" even a real word?

    "The borderless network"

    I still say protecting the network is important - now more than ever, even. Tools like VPN help to keep it secure while allowing more freedom - but security is not any less important. I most certainly would *not* want businesses to just open up new lines without considering security.

    "The cloudy data center"

    Hopefully businesses aren't just using data centers with no purpose - I think most businesses should think about the importance of the information they track and why they need to track it.

    And I'd still want to have a backup - can't have all our your eggs in one basket, even if that basket is the cloud.

    "The state of outsourcing"

    What's our unemployment again?

    There's really nothing left to debate here - either you care about it or you don't.

    And oh, yeah - there's a reason why those jobs are cheaper. Gotta love how reducing costs at any price turns a blind eye to the human element.

    "The mobilization paradigm"

    "for all of these other workers who regularly move around as part of their daily job . . ."

    Frankly, I think the statement is way too broad to say anything about what the "natural" flow is! Different jobs are different, and may use computers differently - and sometimes may not involve them at all. I think it's very presumptuous to make broad claims in an area where specifics are vitally important.
  • RE: The changing face of IT: Five trends to watch

    I find this very interesting that 4 of these 5 are clearly mobility issues/trends. I think that the consumer devices are giving us ideas for how to better do our jobs, than the traditional desk. Smartphones have made us more mobile personally ("Mom - just call me! It doesn't matter that I'm in another city or country") and we want that mobility in the workplace. Tablets and other input devices put people where the work is. Employees with on-campus roaming, walk around with open laptops, so that they can continue to connect and work. Even outsourcing provides you more mobility - you can interact with people and your lines of business rather than a faulty server or network.