Who needs an IT dept anymore?

Who needs an IT dept anymore?

Summary: Continuous iterative development on cloud platforms could force a radical restructuring of IT resources within the enterprise and new models of outsourcing.

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It started out, in an airy room on the top floor of London's Royal Festival Hall last month, as a discussion of how the cloud will shape the future of application development. It ended up casting doubt on the very existence of the IT department as a separate entity within the enterprise. Cloud, it seems, will transform IT more than most people dare imagine.

The participants at last month's EuroCloud UK meeting were a cross-section of cloud integrators and vendors, including speakers from Bluewolf, Fujitsu and Grove Group, with contributions from members such as Digital Sabre and Salesforce.com, which hosted the fringe event at Cloudforce London. There was no one there to defend the status quo, and as so often happens at EuroCloud UK meetings, the discussion headed off in unmapped directions. That's part of the magic of bringing practitioners together in this still emerging but rapidly growing industry. [See disclosure: I'm unpaid chair of EuroCloud UK and I've done paid consulting work for some of the vendors mentioned in this article.]

We reached our radical conclusion by starting from the simple observation that cloud development allows much more frequent interaction between developers and the business people they're developing for. There's no delay waiting for the technology to go live, since it's already running in the cloud, and the development work is done in short, agile sprints. Results get delivered fast and feedback is instant. Therefore there's no advantage in having the development work hived off into a separate IT department. Why not instead have the developers sit in the line-of-business department, where they can be better tuned-in to the day-to-day needs of their business colleagues?

Of course some elements of IT policy need to be centralized, but that governance and oversight function could be a section within some other central management department, such as finance, operations or marketing. Developers would have dotted-line reporting into that function, and could interact with other developers across the organisation using social media and other collaboration tools. But the bulk of the developer resource would be sited exactly where they need to focus their attentions, in the line-of-business operations.

A significant shift in IT skills would have to accompany this restructuring of the IT function. As infrastructure migrates off-premise into third-party clouds, enterprise IT has much less need of practitioners in what someone called the "dark code" skills of infrastructure development. Instead the expertise that's more highly prized will be in business analysis, delivering value at the level of process automation and streamlining. There's a need for skills transfer too, as business users and managers learn to become more capable of assessing their own automation needs and understanding how best to adapt applications to deliver them.

The meeting also discussed the impact on outsourcing, and especially offshoring, since it's hard to be present alongside business colleagues, even virtually, if you work elsewhere in a completely different timezone. There's a need to evolve new alternatives to the old 'batch mode' approach to development tasks, when work was parcelled up and shipped out to be returned at some later date. Perhaps one new model will be to take more of a 'cloudsourcing' approach of the type being tested by Appirio's CloudSpokes community.

All these changes are a long way off from becoming mainstream, even if they are on the way. The meeting kicked off with Brian Doogan of cloud integrator Bluewolf explaining how the majority of enterprises have no programs in place for change management and governance after they go live with a Salesforce.com implementation, and thus have no capability to manage continuous improvement of their use of the application. Pip Witheridge, CEO of Google Apps reseller Grove Group, spoke of the unrealized potential in many enterprises to have non-developers create new business functionality on cloud platforms. Fujitsu's Chris Byrne talked about ways of incentivising conventional development teams to increase their use of cloud platforms. This all suggested that, for now, there's little threat to the average enterprise IT department. But the meeting's verdict is that in five years' time, the picture could be very different.

Next month, EuroCloud UK looks at the impact of cloud on the channel. Expect some more unmapped directions.

Topics: CXO, Software Development

Phil Wainewright

About Phil Wainewright

Since 1998, Phil Wainewright has been a thought leader in cloud computing as a blogger, analyst and consultant.

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36 comments
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  • RE: Who needs an IT dept anymore?

    Anyone who takes their business seriouslly.

    [i]a cross-section of cloud integrators and vendors[/i] tells us nobody needs an IT dept, they just need them?

    I don't even know where to start on that one! :)
    William Farrell
    • RE: Who needs an IT dept anymore?

      @William Farrell
      +1. If some executives think cloud could eliminate the need of IT, they need to be audited.
      Ram U
      • RE: Who needs an IT dept anymore?

        @Rama.NET
        I think the article's point is we won't need MCSE techs runninng around the offices troubleshooting computers.... yes IT will still be around, we need systems that can process 100,000 orders each day etc.... high end IT.
        Hasam1991
      • The department of NO died years ago

        The MCSEs and their continual failure and missed project deadlines made the IT department the laughing stock of he company. Hiding their ignorance and inability to deliver with a certificate the rest of the organistation moved on. <br><br>They said no to the Linux, they were ignored. No to iPhone, we mocked their windows phone and blackberry alternatives. After that the MacBook and iPads could be seen everywhere. <br><br>Great days ahead.
        Richard Flude
      • RE: Who needs an IT dept anymore?

        @Hasam1991

        Wow, so cloud will guarantee that the desktop/terminal hardware will *never* have failures that prevent them from accessing the cloud? Didn't realize they were making those kind of promises now...
        spdragoo@...
    • RE: Who needs an IT dept anymore?

      What when their connection to the cloud dies ? Just shut down the company and let it lose millions of dollars until it is fixed ?
      rparker009
      • RE: Who needs an IT dept anymore?

        @rparker009 Then you called the vendor, things will be outsourced more and more..
        Hasam1991
      • RE: What when their connection to the cloud dies ?

        @rparker009

        Try this one, <b>"What happens if their cloud provider suddenly dies{1}"????</b> How do you keep on running????

        {1} As in gets shutdown, gets it assets seized? You get the idea???
        fatman65536
      • That was my thought also.

        @rparker009
        What happens when the cloud goes down? If a company went total cloud with no physical storage on-site they would be in a world of hurt. How much money can a company stand to lose because they can't get access to the mission critical data and files necessary to operate on a daily basis. One only need to look at the recent Google and Microsoft 360 outages to see that it could spell disaster.
        SElizDav
      • RE: Who needs an IT dept anymore?

        @Hasam1991

        Depends on the connection, though, doesn't it? Vendors can only be held responsible for *mistakes* they make when installing equipment on your premises, or for off-site services they provide you. That is, the vendor may cover the "last mile" from their switch/MUX/server to the connection box at your building...but your building owner (or more likely your employer) was responsible for getting the signal from their to your floor. If the cables go out in between floors, or a router breaks down on your floor, *that's not the cloud vendor's problem*...that's your IT department's problem.
        spdragoo@...
  • To the public cloud hammer, all businesses are nails

    <i>The participants at last month???s EuroCloud UK meeting were a cross-section of cloud integrators and vendors, including speakers from Bluewolf, Fujitsu and Grove Group, with contributions from members such as Digital Sabre and Salesforce.com, which hosted the fringe event at Cloudforce London. There was no one there to defend the status quo, and as so often happens at EuroCloud UK meetings, the discussion headed off in unmapped directions. That???s part of the magic of bringing practitioners together in this still emerging but rapidly growing industry. [See disclosure: I'm unpaid chair of EuroCloud UK and I've done paid consulting work for some of the vendors mentioned in this article.]</i>

    Sigh. What's wrong with your pipe dream? First of all, there are laws that govern our world and human behavior you need to account for. If you look around us, you will see that every entity, has vital, core intelligence integrated into it. Now this core intelligence is usually enhanced by interactions with the outside world. You see this design attribute in humans, animals, plants, rocks, etc. In fact you see this design attribute everywhere! If you try to develop solutions inconsistent with the design principles of our world, they will eventually fail, and they will not be able to compete against compatible design solutions. That is how you know client computing will always be around, and that is how you know that the best IT solution for business, will always be local, private infrastructure, augmented by public cloud services.
    P. Douglas
  • To quote Arnie, &quot;I'll be back&quot;

    The only thing that shifts is where the IT staff are and the customizations that can be done. Some might be able to pull this off, but I hope they track the costs. Historically, once this has been shifted out and there is lock-in, the cost keep going up.
    happyharry_z
  • Bahahahahahah

    I am sorry, but considering the one cloud application that my company presently uses pretty much created the need for a full time IT position just to maintain password changes, system compatibility, and installation. Granted, this person is inept in many ways and can't figure out why in the world anyone would consider using something like appdeploy.com, but that's besides the point. Security tied into cloud apps creates more need for IT than not. In some ways, IT will be removed thinned out and in some ways retasked, but to remove IT all together would be foolish.
    nucrash
  • RE: Who needs an IT dept anymore?

    First and foremost, many businesses can't go to the cloud for all their data storage. No matter what people say about security or not, groups like banks, hospitals, and other regulated industries won't be able to just dump their data in the cloud without some major regulator changes. My industry (aerospace) has regulatory concerns that won't allow us to dump our data into the cloud. I also have drawing/file management software that doesn't work with cloud data storage and won't anytime soon. We also have legacy stores/stock management software that won't work with cloud data.

    Second, even if some businesses do dump their data into the cloud they won't be able to dump all of it and someone will still have to deal with power supplies crapping out, busted monitors, stupid people clicking on malware emails, and so on and so on. New employees, old employees ... as already noted, security and passwords will become even more important if you have all your data in the cloud.
    Ididar
  • RE: Who needs an IT dept anymore?

    I love how this article has NO RELATION to reality whatsoever. I always get a kick out of those who have no experience writing about that which they know the least.
    richphx
    • RE: Who needs an IT dept anymore?

      @richphx, I get the same kind of kick until I remember that, in the IT world, it is those with the least sense of reality who always seem to have the greatest impact!
      kitchen-cynic
    • RE: Who needs an IT dept anymore?

      @richphx
      lol. We should write articles about how we don't need writers anymore because we have an app on our cellphone that can generate articles for us. Ditto for doctors, mechanics and pilots.
      rengek
  • RE: Who needs an IT dept anymore?

    There's only 1 way to find out.
    To the first imbecile CEO that tries it !
    jsmith2113
  • A more biased, self-interested, discriminatory group you'll not find

    ... outside of the halls of government.

    cloud integrators,
    cloud vendors,
    Bluewolf,
    Fujitsu,
    Grove Group,
    Digital Sabre,
    Salesforce.com

    All of which will lie through their teeth to get your business.
    Dr_Zinj
  • RE: Who needs an IT dept anymore?

    Who needs an IT department? Hospitals that need to maintain an internal client/server system and have to worry about supporting it. The "cloud" is about as secure as it's namesake, and hospitals need to be concerned with HIPAA and privacy.
    CptMatt