IT 2020: A Five Year Plan for Building the IT Organization of the Future

In a Mobile First world, the relationship between IT and the rest of an organization differs significantly from the traditional model that has existed for decades. I’ve written about how this new paradigm affects the way IT communicates and engages users, changes the flow of information throughout an organization, presents new challenges and opportunities related to shadow IT, and defines new core competencies for CIOs to be successful in the coming years.

This week, I’m taking a look at what this means for the overall structure of the IT department and the changes that will be needed over the course of the next five years in order to ensure innovation, competitiveness, and business value.

IT becomes embedded within each business unit

As more and more technology decisions are made by individual business units and managers, IT departments will need staff that are highly engaged with each department or unit. This means that business analysts will make up a growing percentage of IT staff. These analysts will need a deep understanding of the units with which they interact. In order to facilitate this, they will ideally be assigned to work intensively with specific teams instead of working on projects from disparate parts of the organization.

This embedded IT approach allows individual analysts to truly work with managers and employees to develop the best tools and solutions business to processes and problems. The result will be a greater working relationship and much more tailored solutions. This offers tremendous opportunity to drive employee satisfaction, cost savings, and long term value for a company.

At the same time, a team of higher level analysts will need to work with these embedded staff members to ensure a bird’s eye view of the organization as a whole. This is important to ensure effective integration of various apps and services, avoid duplicate costs, take advantage of economies of scale, and prevent the creation of data siloes.

This team could take the form of an IT steering committee that acts as a liaison to the rest of the IT department and the CIO and would serve to ensure that embedded staff are aware of emerging technologies and market changes in addition to the immediate needs of their assigned business units.

Traditional PC deployment and management become streamlined

Mobile and modern operating systems, including Windows 10, offer much more lightweight provisioning, deployment, management, and security models than earlier desktop OSes. This means that all of these IT operations will become streamlined. Provisioning and deploying apps and system configurations, for example, can be done in a self-service model that eliminates the need for the traditional monolithic system images that have served as a primary deployment tool for PCs for decades. The same self-service approach allows users to manage OS and app updates.

Some traditional systems administration duties will also be streamlined. As EMM becomes the standard for management across all forms of devices, the reliance on heavily granular group policies decreases. The continued move to cloud services will have a similar impact. This doesn’t mean the role of the systems administrator will disappear, but it does mean that user, device, and service management will become simpler.

Support becomes a partnership between end users and the IT staff

As individual users and managers continue to make decisions about devices, apps, and services, the needs and mechanisms of support change.

Users are also increasingly turning to each other and to their own social and professional networks for support, a trend generally associated with millennials, though it is becoming common across other demographics as well. One advantage of users creating their own ad hoc support communities is that, as toolsets and workflows become customized to specific business units and teams, users are increasingly becoming experts in their solutions of choice. This specialization means users may be able to offer better support for their specialized solution than the traditional help desk would be able to offer.

This doesn’t mean the help desk or traditional support teams will disappear, but it does mean that the mechanisms of interaction will shift significantly.

In addition to traditional support channels and user self-support, social support options including enterprise social networks, chat-based support, and support communities or wikis are becoming more common. Many companies have also begun to deploy user-centric support and information resources modeled after Apple’s Genius Bar approach that offer informal education, engagement, and support options.

As the mix of support options changes, support becomes a group effort between IT staff and the user community. This means streamlined and more effective support operations, greater employee engagement, and a broader range of support options.

The journey from today to 2020

These changes impact the heart of IT operations as well as the relationship between IT and the rest of an organization. Capitalizing on them will deliver significant advantages in areas like cost savings, value, competitive advantages, employee recruitment, and retention. They also represent significant cultural shifts from the traditional model of IT.

Getting from today’s IT department to that of 2020 will require strong leadership as well as executive sponsorship both within the IT department and across an organization’s executive team. Although this shift will need to be top-down, it isn’t something that should be mandated all at once. The transition in each area of IT needs to happen gradually and thoughtfully, ensuring that individual changes happen in a logical order. That order and the time required to make these changes, both cultural and operational, will vary from one organization to another, but ultimately they will need to happen for businesses to remain competitive and seize the advantages that mobile, cloud, and modern working styles offer. Regardless of the process and timeline, it’s important that organizations begin this transition immediately in order to ensure a successful transition.

For more information on preparing for the IT department of 2020, sign up for our upcoming webinar on Tuesday, July 28th.

Ryan Faas