Due to some immaturity on my part, I’ve been given a refreshed view at how life looks inside of an office. That’s not to say that I am seeing things totally different than at a client’s facility, but its always a refresher to see things within your internal spheres and then see how this figures to the present and soon-coming norms. In both cases (inside and outside of the office) I’m certain that we are seeing the death of the IT department. Which is both a good and a bad thing.
The Good Part of IT Dept Death
Given that most of the businesses that make up USAmerican businesses are small (that is, under 100 persons) there’s probably some truth to an assumption that some fields might get along better without the overhead of an IT department. After all, when there’s no IT department, you can make base assumptions about the technical competence of the company (hopefully good ones) and there’s an easier ability for company profits to go into the pockets of the company’s workers, rather than into infrastructure and those concerns.
You can make assumptions that not everyone is happy being their own – or their department’s – IT knowledge person, but you do get that effect of in-house and neighborly service, to which IT departments usually miss on pretty badily.
The Bad Side of IT Dept Death
Of course, having IT as a seperate department allows companies – at least those in such fields – to test, deploy, and experiment towards standarized solutions to which the entire company will benefit. And yes, you get that extra layer of planning, budgeting, and strategy, yet – and speaking again for the good companies out there – you are out in front of IT, process, and sometimes even industry-specific trends which better enable your businesses and even employees to stand up after turblent times such as a reorganization or economic issues.
Without an IT department, people (individuals and even departments) are left to fend for themselves. Or, the leadership, for IT-centric methods will have to come from senior leadership (some organizations are better here than others). With such leadership, there’s a lot more that has to happen in terms of making sure that systems and processes are consistent – which gets harder the larger a company gets. And there’s the inevitible stress of someone who isn’t IT-centric making financial or strategic IT decisions without as much as a “get it done” date to go on.
Even with all of that, I’m starting to get the unction that the age of IT departments is starting to come to an end for some, if not many, small and possibly even large businesses.
From IT Dept to IT as DNA
There used to be an assumption that if you would work in XRZ field that you’d have the skillsets needed to at least from a base level be successful there. I think the same is becoming true towards IT-centric aspects of being in a business.
No longer is it just fine to have some experience with MS Office, you need to know the suite and how it applies. Its not just enough to know how to load applications, but you need to know how to configure them for a broader audience (speaking of those in management or director roles). Its even to the point that you need to almost be your own level 1 or level 2 support person – knowing how to use the Internet and other networking resources to be your own help desk, especially when you are in the field more than at a home office.
As I sat with some persons today giving them a heads up on their mobile device configurations, I started to understand this trend not as something that’s coming soon (at least in consulting) but something that’s nearly here. And those companies who wish to make the most of their IT, intellectual, and even financial capital will do well to not just make sure that a person fits their job description, but can also change a flat so to speak.
The good part in this is that it will free support personnel up to deal more with strategy and optimization efforts. It might even give companies who do this well and ability to deploy more versatile regional teams for activities in which an entire office was needed to support.
And at the same time, it will mean that companies will have to plan towards those non-billiable IT efforts which will take time – such as the training time it would take a marketing manager to learn the ins-and-outs of content management systems so that billiable activities could come forth. This lack of specalized departments will end up putting the kinds of stresses on people to be IT-savvy where their job functions previously let that stand with another person or department.
From my vantage point, this change isn’t just easy to see, but inevitible. The tools we use today – BlackBerries, iPads, search engines, etc. – will be the toys of today’s kids, and they will build upon those expereinces processes and tools we never even dreamt of. As such, they will come into the job setting with a sense of freedom and control that doesn’t look like the layers of IT departments and policy. They will just want to know what the govrenance is (what are the terms of service for using enterprise computing resources) and do what they can to work within them even though they have lived through them much longer.
To this, the idea of an IT department might soon die out for many small businesses. And what replaces it will be companies that rise and fall based on the technical leadership and compitencies of their workers.
What happens to those companies that didn’t foster the compentency, yet killed off their IT department anyways? Will they be able to truley execute on their vision, or will their companies essentially be run by the IT shops that sprout to take advantage of their missteps? I wish I really knew the answer. But those questions remain with me today after my time watching what has evolved around me.