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How well is your IT department positioned for the future?

Ideally your IT processes are effective and efficient, and the department itself is viewed favourably by its customers, employees, and management. If at all possible, your IT department is positioned well enough to meet future needs and you have a good grasp on what you are doing to develop opportunities to answer present and future challenges.

These challenges include among other things, changes to technology such as cloud computing.

To illustrate, a recent IBM whitepaper “The Future of the IT Department Exploring the impact of Cloud on IT roles and responsibilities”, suggests:

that cloud computing spells the end for the internal IT department of the enterprise. After all, you just use a service provided from somewhere else by someone else don’t you? What possible need would there be for an IT department?”

However this same paper indicates:

Cloud computing engagements with clients however tell a very different story. It is plain to see that most organisations will still very much need an IT organisation. It may well be smaller in size; the standardisation and automation that clouds provide saves cost by removing or reducing the number of IT organisation employees; and what that department will be called upon to do will change considerably from today. The need however still remains. This then raises the question: what will the IT department of the future look like?”

Also, according to the annual TechRepublic event, the IT department does have a future as an entity, but will have fewer full-time staff members, will hire more consultants, and will focus more on software, mobile, and the cloud.

A decade ago, there was a lot of new stuff that needed to be set up — ethernet networks, directory servers, mail servers, company laptops — and a lot of baby boomers who still needed help transitioning into a computerized workplace. Those days are long gone.

Most of these technologies run themselves today and don’t require a lot of time from IT pros to deploy them and keep them running. IT pros also spend a lot less time doing repairs, maintenance, and end user support. Replacement is the new support. In 2015, employees will just swap out their malfunctioning laptop, smartphone, or tablet to IT and immediately get a replacement device that will connect to the private cloud and/or public cloud and instantly download the user’s apps, settings, and data.

The cloud (private and public) will also transform provisioning servers and setting up data centers from a month-long task to a matter of minutes with a few clicks in the web browser. The real work won’t be setting up the servers any more, it will be all about choosing the right applications to deploy and putting the right plans in place to help the organization streamline business processes.”

However, if you are not asking yourself questions like the examples below about the future of your IT department, or if you are not satisfied with your potential responses to questions like these, you may have some catching up to do:

  1. Is the age of your application portfolio a concern?
  2. How much do you invest in researching emerging technologies?
  3. Have you identified trends that may soon present challenges for your team (e.g., social networking, bring your own device, cloud computing, big data and so on)?
  4. Do you have a record of the expertise on your team?
  5. Do you know what gaps need to be filled, whether you need additions, or how you are going to train and educate the team?
  6. Do you have metrics and benchmarks that assess the current situation?
  7. Do you apply metrics based continual improvement?
  8. Does your organization have an IT/Business aligned strategic plan? Does it use an IT balanced scorecard?
  9. Do you report the value delivered by your IT expenditures?
  10. Are you proactively developing the professional competencies that will be needed on your team in the future?
  11. Is IT being used as a strategic partner for business growth?
  12. Do you have a knowledge management initiative or system?
  13. How do you assess the capability maturity of your IT processes, and how often is this done?
  14. Does your organization document lessons learned, and is that information used for planning improvements?
  15. Do you have one or more people who regularly read and consider special reports by external analysts (e.g., Gartner Inc., Magic Quadrant for Dynamic Application Security Testing)
  16. Do you have policies for planning, software/systems acquisition, software/systems maintenance, disposal, systems management, data management, operations, support, monitoring and evaluation?
  17. Do you have policies for physical and systems security, data security, network security, backup and disaster planning, training and support, and user responsibilities?
  18. Do you know if your policies are compliant with applicable standards, legislation or modern best practices?
  19. Is IT Governance just a buzz word in your organization or is it a tangible framework that includes usage of a CIO?
  20. Does your IT department have a quality policy that is linked to a corporate quality policy?

Your answers to such questions may help you determine how well your IT department is positioned for the future. The suitability and preparedness of your IT department for the future could play a key role in achieving your corporate strategic goals.

For peace of mind when creating or updating your corporate strategic plan for 2013 and beyond, you may want to consider spending a bit of extra time ensuring you have sufficiently factored in considerations for improved IT/Business alignment.

Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without talking about the other.” —Bill Gates

The Software Engineering Institute offers some helpful guidelines in their November 2010 technical report,

The key to an IT strategy is that it explains how information technology will align with and support an organization’s overall business strategy and reflects a global level of thinking about IT and its integration with the rest of the organization. For this reason, organizational scenarios can be used to explore IT options. It may also be fruitful to develop IT-specific scenarios, in alignment with organizational scenarios.

Further,

These new roles and responsibilities will ensure that the IT departments have a much greater involvement in the financial planning process than ever before and we invisage that large enterprises will need to invest in analytics and modelling to help them make the most cost-effective use of the resources they have. Strategic and tactical functions will have greater longevity than operational ones. This implies that IT professionals will need to ensure they have the right skills to meet these new challenges.” (idem: IBM whitepaper).

So, here you are, trying to determine how well your IT department is positioned for the future. What are some factors you need to consider?

For example:

  1. Who are you going to involve?
  2. What are your critical success factors and what is your process going to be?
  3. When can you reasonably expect to know how well your IT department is positioned?
  4. Where can you find reliable data, information, knowledge and insight about competition, the current state, trends and the future?
  5. Why might stakeholders resist insight provided by consultants and research?
  6. Why might stakeholders protect their internal data, information and knowledge?
  7. How are you going to overcome resistance to change?
  8. How are you going to ensure confidentiality and professionalism along with true Business/IT alignment, visioning, objectivity, due diligence, and change management?
  9. How are you going ensure people are treated well?
  10. How are you going to ensure that quality is built in to all of your strategy and planning considerations, so you generate wisdom and a future organization that delivers more pervasive value?

Strategizing and subsequent planning is not always straightforward, but a necessary exercise that always benefits the bottom line, efficiency and productivity; and in the end, the viability of your IT department within the organization.

As always comments are welcomed, and appreciated.

To get you started, below is a quote from Ken Metcalfe, I.S.P., CCP, ITCP/IP3P, Vice President, Board of Directors Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals,

Effective Chief Information Officiers (CIOs) drive the performance of their teams while aligning with business. They look to processes and frameworks for best practises to hire, promote and assign workload. Managing for performance requires information about their teams: skill sets, gaps and depth; and professionals on their teams need to participate in these best practises, including for strategic planning, to provide valuable input and due diligence assistance, and to help validate decisions by demonstrating their knowledge and expertise.

IT professionalism forms a foundation to maintain career focus and competency. CIOs and members of their teams can help ensure application of IT Professionalism by being members of professional associations which require members to adhere to ethics and standards of conduct that include attesting to ongoing professional development. Particularly given that Moore’s Law applies to both hardware and ‘soft’ skills, continual learning is essential for CIOs and members of their team.

I think it would be interesting to see comments, from the readers of this post, that speak to how they are keeping up, and what research and development they have planned for their career and organization.

The Institute for the Certification of Computing Professionals can help organizations (and particularly the individuals within organizations) who want to know how well their IT skills and department is positioned for the future. Our programs are intended to help IT leaders at all levels in understanding future IT needs, in assessing the current state of their skills and IT organization, and in factoring in related considerations into strategic planning and professional development exercises. We offer the only broadly applicable and internationally recognized certification program in the profession. For more information CIOs and other IT professionals can visit www.iccp.org and send an email to office2@iccp.org.

Having recently attended the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, this document may also be of interest for readers to review in thinking about how well their IT organization may be positioned for the future; read The Future of Talent; Stop Hiring People, Start Hiring Clusters.”

Ron Richard, I.S.P., ITCP/IP3P
Quality Management Specialist

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Ron Richard

Quality, Information Technology and Enterprise Risk Management specialist at Ron Richard Consulting
Ron Richard, Quality, Information Technology and Enterprise Risk Management specialist has held positions at most any level of an organization, and acquired more than 30 years of relevant experience including related work done at the College of the North Atlantic. Ron is author of Inherent Quality Simplicity and the Inside Internal Control newsletter Modern Quality Management series. Read more
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3 thoughts on “How well is your IT department positioned for the future?
  • Ron says:

    For readers, here’s some additional food for thought.

    Are these your top 10 issues this year?
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/oracle/2012/09/28/the-top-10-strategic-cio-issues-for-2013/

    Are some of these issues carrying into 2013?
    http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/top-ten-it-issues-2012

  • Ron says:

    Thank you for contributing a comment Dan; thank you also for reaching out to me via email and sharing these kind words about the post, “great insight, food for thought”.

  • Ron – great ideas, reinforces that we need to stay current, which means we stay dynamic. Every generation, team members arrive to the workplace with common knowledge that years ago required an entire (IT) department to implement. Hanging on to ‘tried and true’ methods will result in a stagnant organization. (tried methods = tired methods).

    The IT Department is like a PMO, there is a need, a rapid growth, bells and whistles, then we realize the organization has bumped up a level or two in maturity/knowledge, time to refocus our limited time and energy.

    When we conduct that refocus of the ‘IT Deaprtments ‘ role, remember we are looking to the future, what is the baseline capability, knowledge, and tools of today’s graduates. They do not need as much support as I did when I arrived on the scene in the 1980s. My six year old knows how to ask questions over the internet, imagine the IT support (or lack there-of) he will need when he enters the workplace.

    We’re not in Kansas anymore.

    Dan