Changing Directions

Major Trends that will Force IT Organizations to change the way they support Workers
by: Jerry Liao

People have varying levels of difficulty with change. The adoption of innovations and technological changes involves altering human behavior, and the way they do things. Technology has brought change to new heights. And according to research firm Gartner, five major discontinuities are combining and will force IT organizations to change long-standing practices for procuring and managing IT. The intensity of these trends will grow through 2011, according to Gartner, Inc.

The five discontinuities include – Web 2.0, software as a service (SaaS), global-class computing, the consumerization of IT and open-source software.

“The five major discontinuities have the potential to completely disrupt vendor business models, user deployment models, whole market segments and key user and vendor brand assumptions,” said Tom Austin, vice president and Gartner Fellow. “These emerging discontinuities reinforce each other, and their combined effect will prove far stronger than each individual trend. IT managers who oversee applications must incorporate these trends into their long-term planning.”

These five major intersecting discontinuities amplify each other and any one of them can upset the balance of power between users and their IT organization. When the five come together, they intensify each other’s dislocating impact and can cause major disruption that creates pain for some and opportunity for others.

SaaS is already empowering business units to act independently of corporate IT strategies. Global-class systems, built on tera-architectures (as in Google Apps), threaten to upset the careful balance of power between IBM and Microsoft in messaging, and more importantly, they introduce entirely new ways to implement and scale applications. “Consumerization” and users’ clamor for IT organizations to be as responsive as Internet vendors are giving many IT departments headaches. Web 2.0 communities are bonding people in ways many people do not fully understand. Community members are doing business in ways that most enterprises had never even considered as they laid out their communications strategies. Open source is a hidden “secret” that enables many elements of the other four discontinuities to develop.

Gartner recommends five actions that can help IT managers take advantage of, rather than just react to, these five trends:

– Question Core Assumptions about the Role of the IT Organization — Once upon a time, it was the only source of IT. Now that users can often buy “what they need” from the Web, business executives must re-evaluate IT-related operating principles, guidelines, policies, practices and governance.

– Experiment with Free-form Environments — Create free-form searchable “personal Web pages” for users, along with folksonomies, tag clouds, navigation by tag or type of user, feeds, blogs and “wikis”. Companies need to provide free-form, open environments to facilitate productive social interactions and to allow patterns of behavior, interaction with the rest of the business ecosystem and new business models (and opportunities) to emerge and evolve over time.

– Help Users Innovate — Innovation speeds economic development. IT managers should apply this general rule to the enterprise by helping selected users interact in an open environment and thereby innovate. Allow them to exploit Web-based tools and share their experiences with other users.

– Segment Users — The IT organization needs to stop providing the same support to everyone. One size does not fit all. IT managers should segment users based on difference in roles, responsibilities, and information and application access requirements. The IT organization can increase workers’ effectiveness by giving them support that better fits their individual needs.

– Stop Trying to Provide Everything — The IT organization should admit that it can no longer compete with the Web in providing many personal and social tools. The IT organization should define what it is really good at, and for other activities, play the role of advisor and facilitator. It should no longer assume responsibility for supporting and managing all IT systems that workers use. Users must take personal responsibility for experimenting with new software and communities.

“For the IT organization, the greatest consequence of the five trends may be that — for better or for worse — they will give business units and selected users more independence to set their own IT direction. In addition, business models, marketing and distribution will shift radically,” Mr. Austin said. “As a result, companies will embrace some powerful new ways of using IT to implement their business strategy.”

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