Wednesday, November 26, 2014

IT in Transition

By Rich Ptak

I’ve spent more than a few years working with technology vendors, business and enterprise IT staffs as they work together to effectively deploy IT infrastructure and resources to achieve enterprise goals. Change, to a greater or lesser extent, is ongoing, and that make IT’s job of fast, reliable service delivery challenging and frustrating, but ultimately rewarding.

We’re now at a time when changes in technology, knowledge, market conditions and ability to exploit technology are upending even basic operations of IT and the enterprise in fundamental ways. Technologies themselves are shifting and evolving, becoming easier to access and apply – altering market dynamics as they eliminate the barriers that kept competition at bay even as they enable ever more complex solutions and accelerate product life-cycles.

These same technologies, ironically enough, increase IT’s ability to deliver new services with capabilities that allow them to do more, process faster and analyze better than ever – even as it is forcing them to rethink how they create and apply it to solve enterprise problems.

For IT, the change is even more critical as they face escalating expectations of rapid response and short delivery cycles at the same time that they face increasing competition from agile, rapid development service providers.  Service providers that may, in fact, be already working inside their enterprise as contractors – gaining intimate knowledge of the problems frustrating business managers.

No market segment is exempt – financial, research, manufacturing, retail, etc. – all are challenged by radical, disorienting alterations in operational processes, tactics and relationships forced on them in all aspects of their business – while it may be more dramatically and easily visible in some situations, the changes are pervasive.

Users expect faster, near immediate response to requests for new services or changes to existing ones. Once a weeks- or months-long process, now creation, development and test of a new app has been condensed to: Code (or equivalent process) first – Implement – Fail and Fix as needed. AND, the market is accepting this. Not that major crashes or mistakes don’t happen, they do. It’s that if the recovery is quick enough, the impact is minimized and consumers move on. Of course, this isn’t true for all situations, but it is a real phenomenon.

Established enterprises find themselves facing new, more agile and aggressive competitors that come from surprising directions – think about how the markets for telephones, communication services, video content creation and access has changed in the last few years - enterprises are forced to develop and define new ways to create products, deliver services and how they generate and account for revenue – IT is caught squarely in the cross-hairs and must adapt.

On the positive side, advances in existing and emerging technologies allow more to be done even as increasing knowledge and maturation has led to advances in the methodologies of development, deployment, testing and management. These increase the capabilities and efficiencies of IT staff to do much more and to get it done quickly. But, it is up to IT to educate itself and work with business colleagues to acquire the insight and understanding of cross-enterprise operations that will enable IT to apply their efforts to benefit the enterprise. That, after all, is the only real reason for having an IT group.