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Goodbye IT

Yesterday, I had a colleague that sat in the audience as Apple unveiled a series of applications targeted for the education market.  In the midst of the announcements, this colleague tweeted the phrase “Goodbye IT“.  He later clarified the tweet, explaining that the tools introduced would relieve Information Technology from hosting and providing services for the dissemination of educational content, as oppose to the complete dismissal of products and services that Information Technology offers their respective organizations.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time I’ve heard the rumblings about the demise of organizational IT departments.  Some may recall an article that Nicholas Carr penned for the Harvard Business Review that proclaimed that “IT doesn’t matter”.  In Carr’s later book “The Big Switch“, he states that, “In the long run, the IT department is unlikely to survive, at least not in its familiar form.”  He goes on to explain, “It will have little left to do once the bulk of business computing shifts out of private data centers and into ‘the cloud.’  Business units and even individual employees will be able to control the processing of information directly, without the need for legions of technical specialists.”
Echoing this idea, Bill Clebsch – Vice President of Information Technology Services for Stanford University, recently spoke at the Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education seminar and bluntly pointed out technologist have “living off it’s assets.”  Clebsch points out that mobility and cloud computing adoption lessens the demand for IT assets and as a result changes the expectations of IT.  He continues that IT can no longer rely solely on their technical skill sets.  Clebsch predicts the viability of IT will be in its ability to be a service broker as oppose to a service provider.
As a 15 year veteran of Information Technology, much of this is hard to take in.  At the same time, the signs of this tension is ever present.  In my own experience I see a greater scrutiny by other departments related to the services and products that IT has traditionally provided.  This scrutiny includes the funding models required to operate IT  as well as the service catalogs that IT maintain.   Sustainability is a question that comes up in conversations at all levels of the IT organization.  Can we sustain the myriad of applications that customers want or the devices they prefer to use?  Can we sustain funding enterprise infrastructure components to support legacy workflows and processes?  Can we fund investments in untested innovative technologies?  Can we sustain the mantra of doing more with less?  It would appear the focus on sustainability is masking the broader question associated with being able to survive change.


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