The Coming IT Futures

CIOs and IT departments are moving into the futures every day. “Futures” is plural because there is not a single way forward. Game theory suggests a strategic way of think that involves choices and adapting to new and changing environments and challenges. Instead of a fixed path forward, the futures of IT are coming, going and changing.

Gartner outlined four possible paths forward for CIOs and their respective IT groups. All these paths include playing a more dominant part in business strategy. “We are witnessing the emergence of a new generation of CIOs, one that aims not so much to ‘run’ IT as to ensure that the business achieves strategic value from the use of technology,” says John Mahoney, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “Although this isn’t an entirely new development, the extent of the change is growing and a tipping point will be reached in the next five years.”[1]

Now more than ever, IT must understand business goals and play a pivotal role in reaching those goals. Since CIOs set the vision for the IT group, it is essential to catch a vision or play a vital role as a business leader within the company. Gartner lays out several possibilities for how this might develop in the coming years:

  • IT as a Global Service Provider
  • IT as the Engine Room
  • IT “is” the Business
  • Everyone’s IT

As CIOs plan for development, infrastructure upgrades and such, it is helpful to have a long-term vision of where IT is headed. By identifying a course forward, the IT team can make plans to gradually expand and change as needed to meet the coming goals. These four futures different in operational or informational roles as well as in external or internal focus.

  • IT as a Global Service Provider
    Leveraging the centralized role within business, IT can deliver competitive operational services externally as a shared-service unit that runs like its own business.
  • IT as the Engine Room
    Focused on internal operation, the IT group can be the experts in tools that drive business goals. By tracking market and technology developments, they help improve company performance and competitiveness by optimizing, sources and managing all IT vendor relations with an eye on always improving the bottom line.
  • IT “is” the Business
    In this emerging age of big data and high value analytics, IT may focus on delivering a value-chain-specific information flow that becomes an explicit company product.
  • Everyone’s IT
    In dynamic businesses such as startups and R&D/entrepreneurial/community ventures, IT may become a key collaboration driver that breaks traditional business perimeters.

Whatever the “futures” may hold, IT faces the challenge of embracing a role as a vital strategic driver focused on overall business goals.

[1] Rob van der Meulen and Christy Pettey. “Gartner Identifies Four Futures for IT and CIOs.” Gartner Press Release, November 7, 2012.

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