What happened to innovation in IT?


Today’s IT department is under considerable pressure to do things differently and strike a balance between meeting the needs of the organization and the changing expectations of users. What has made IT successful in the past may no longer be adequate.

Pressure from within IT persists as management continues to struggle with the age-old conflict between just keeping existing systems running smoothly and the need to generate value for the business (e.g. by deploying new applications and new services). Reports from industry analysts suggest that maintaining existing systems chews up as much as 70% to 90% of the total IT budget, leaving precious little time for innovation and value-generation.

Outside the department, line-of-business managers are looking for more-responsive support from IT in the form of faster provisioning of applications and services. They are also looking for IT to be more agile, closing the gap between what IT delivers today and what is available in the public domain – namely, utility computing and cloud services.

Lines-of-business managers are quick to point out that IT is often too slow or cannot give them what they need, yet they themselves can simply go online to Amazon with a credit card and spin-up a new service or application the same day. This gap seems to be growing wider in spite of a lack of guarantee that when they circumvent IT to access public offerings they will get the service level they need. Concerns such as the level of control over data security and regulatory compliance are often given little or no consideration. The more public services that emerge, the more LOBs try to leverage these services instead of waiting for IT to deliver.

And finally, expectations from the end-user community for simplicity and speed are greater than ever, in part due to the consumerization of IT. Historically, with users sitting in an office, connected to the corporate network, IT could control what they did; but the world has changed. More often than not, today’s knowledge workers work remotely – outside the four walls of the organization, outside the corporate LAN, outside the firewall – and thus have a different perspective on what they feel they can expect from IT.

When users choose Dropbox for file sharing, for example, it is because it is seen to be faster and easier to use than the file servers and SharePoint solutions IT might typically promote. Similarly, when users spin up new servers and workloads on a public cloud, they often rationalize it to IT, saying “It would take you guys six months to give this to me, but I got it this afternoon.” In many cases, users are taking advantage of public cloud offerings without IT’s knowledge, with many organizations not even aware this is occurring.

To respond to these pressures, IT must change the way it does things. What worked in the past will not be enough to ensure success going forward. IT must complement their traditional focus on the needs of the business with increased focus on the expectations of end users. “If I can get what I need faster and cheaper somewhere else, why would I get it from IT?” A thought common to users and business unit leaders today; however, security of data, maintenance of systems, and ongoing administration are usually far from their minds. Who will ensure add new users to stand-alone application? Who will be responsible for any upgrades or compatibility concerns? There is a balance to be reached. IT organizations must constantly evaluate their efficiency and agility, and lines-of-business must consider how to achieve their goals without negatively impacting the business. Education and open minds must prevail to move IT forward.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *