Thoughts on what businesses actually need from the Cloud, not what vendors wish they needed.

Chris Bliss

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The Changing Face of IT: part I of II

We’ve hammered on it time and time again but the point still stands: the role of the IT guy (or IT person, for all you Berkeley-ites) is changing. The face of IT today doesn’t look like it did 10 years ago – it’s not even the same creature – and that’s a fact that businesses and organizations need to realize and act upon asap. I’m not talking about SaaS or cloud computing per se, though those innovations have driven the change in which I’m interested. Instead, I’m talking about fundamental shifts in what IT can and should deliver.

Lets back up. In a verbose and confusing entry, Wikipedia defines IT as:

…the organization in an enterprise or business that is held responsible and accountable for the technology used for planning, design, construction, testing, distribution, support and operations of software, computers and computer related systems that exist for the purpose of Data, Information and Knowledge management and/or processing.

I suppose that vaguely characterizes what most people think of when they think IT. It’s the person or place or both that fixes your hardware and software and otherwise stays out of the way, right?

Wrong. While that may have been the case a decade ago, it’s no longer – scratch that – should no longer be true. The digital age is here (how many hours are you online every day?) and it bringeth forth new products, ideas and, you guessed it, IT challenges.

This blog has enumerated some of the new roles for IT already, but I’ll recap. Today’s IT people should focus on processes, not software: solutions begin with a business’s core value, not with software suites. Similarly, today’s IT people should leverage software in terms of “wellness”, not surgery: SaaS and cloud alternatives are inexpensive, scalable and effective, while the custom one-shot fixes of the past are not. Today’s IT people should encourage and support vendor innovation while challenging clients to streamline processes and workflows. Today’s IT people should not troubleshoot Lotus Notes; they should ensure that software is continually leveraged to keep business afloat. The list goes on and its implications are clear – the world has charged into the digital age and businesses, sadly, are playing catch-up.

Sure, traditional IT functions still exist, and no, I’m not saying to fire your IT guy. I’m saying that IT should be more than a support function for “Data, Information and Knowledge management and/or processing” (thanks Wikipedia). It’s time for IT guys and the folks who manage them to see the tide turn – otherwise they’re going to end up under water.

Next week: “Scrapping the Term IT Consultant.”

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Chris Bliss works at VM Associates, an end-user consultancy for businesses looking to move to the cloud from pre-existing legacy systems.