2013: The year IT may lose its seat at the table

A decade's talk about business/IT alignment and strategic benefit was just talk, and users have taken over

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None of this means IT is unimportant -- it is critically important for a business's technology infrastructure and process integration, just as legal, HR, and facilities are for their pan-enterprise roles. But like those groups, IT doesn't drive the business or even copilot it.

Although brewing for several years, the realizations that IT is neither a strategic business partner nor the sole owner of technology both crystallized in 2012. This past year was the inflection point for a change that had been quietly building steam. We can expect the relationship between IT and the other business units to continue this major realignment over the next several years. Business units are more than mere stakeholders, as IT likes to describe them, but the actual owners of the technology they rely on.

Smart IT organizations will adapt, bifurcating into two basic roles. One is operating the core systems and integrating technologies and information flow from various sources: the traditional IT data center role. The other is becoming an internal technology consultant, trading dreams of being the "chief process officer" or "chief intelligence officer" for the truly needed role of innovation incubator and technology modernizer. Business units will run their processes and own businesses, not IT. But IT can help them do it better, if it can learn to work locally and in partnership with the business units.

Dumb IT departments will devolve into janitorial functions or, at best, orchestrators of external service providers. That would be bad not just for IT but for the business as a whole, as it could lead to the reintroduction of the departmental computing mess that existed in the 1990s when everyone did their own thing, without consideration for the business as a whole. Vendors will like that, as they make more money when there's not a reality check in place at the customer site, but it will serve no one else.

But a return to the cure for departmentalization -- homogenization -- won't happen. It's simple: Businesses today have gained huge advantages from standardization and commoditization, but those only take you so far. Human intelligence and instinct power the strategic leaps that make a business exceptional. You don't get that by forcing everyone to conform to the exact same processes, tools, and workflows.

That's really what consumerization is about -- and why the IT/business relationship will never be the same. But it could become better and more grounded to reality as a result.

This article, "2013: The year IT may lose its seat at the table," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Smart User blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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