Some IT pros are putting their profession on a path toward perpetual downsizing and outsourcing.
-- U.S. GDP started to shrink in the fourth quarter of 2007 and didn't return to peak levels again until late 2010. Anyone who hasn't taken this economy as something of a personal body blow is living in a hermitically sealed pouch.
-- Home sales stared hitting the skids in 2007, starting the waves of economic uncertainty. If the economy itself didn't dull your enthusiasm, watching your home lose value, and seeing millions of others lose their homes, was at least cause for concern.
If life on a personal and work level was good for IT pros during the tech bubble, that didn't last long. For those who made it past rounds of layoffs, each day was met with greater personal workloads and an overall feeling that IT organizations were as out of fashion as Monica Lewinski's dress--the 1990s were over. IT is now considered by some business colleagues to be too slow, supportive of the wrong devices, and ill equipped to handle increasingly pervasive apps running on increasingly diverse platforms anywhere, anytime.
If you accept this notion, or something like it, the question becomes: What are you going to do about it? If you do nothing, you'll end up in a vicious cycle where your IT organization loses clout and resources, leading to even more negative attitudes, leading to even more loss of trust. If this state of affairs were in some way good for business, then IT would simply have to go the way of the buggy whip manufacturers--which is to say, away.
But it's not good for business. As slow and stodgy as IT may be in the eyes of some business leaders, it remains critical to providing integrated systems, managing exploding amounts of data, and analyzing that data for competitive advance. Outsourcing those functions will cost just as much or more while causing the sort of disruption few businesses can stand. This realization, however, can't come from within IT; it needs to come from the corner office.
No doubt, in this age of technology consumerization, IT organizations need to be fewer things to more people, but management needs to call the shots on how IT will serve the organization. Hopefully, that determination is made in consultation with IT and line of business leaders. Then IT pros need to realize that this is their call to step it up and execute, with the same enthusiasm and dedication as when they entered the profession.
That there's a new age dawning for information technology in business really isn't news. What is news is that IT pros are in serious danger of becoming their own worst enemy in being marginalized by the latest trends. Businesses and IT organizations that let that happen will regret it.
Art Wittmann is director of InformationWeek Analytics, a portfolio of decision-support tools and analyst reports. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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