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Rapid Tech Change Challenges IT Leaders

Agility is the name of the game for today's IT organizations, but keeping up with the rapid pace of change is difficult. We explain what's holding IT back.

Faster technology innovation and competitive pressures are taking their toll on IT. Gone are the days when IT procured and managed all of an organization's technology. The reason: IT can't deliver fast enough on what individual operating units need.

To help keep their companies stay competitive, IT departments are evolving from centralized organizations to hub-and-spoke organizations that serve individual operating units and the enterprise simultaneously. But even then, keeping up with the latest technologies is challenging.

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Steve Devine, O'Melveny

"Things are progressing at such an exponential rate, that it's tough to keep up and you're a little more uneasy about the decisions you make," said Steve Devine, director of IT at international law firm O'Melveny. "Solutions are being developed so quickly and hitting the so market quickly, that it's much harder to differentiate between the solutions that are coming out."

Part of the problem is the technology landscape itself. Everything runs on software today, including businesses and hardware. Much of that software is developed in an Agile fashion so it can be delivered faster, in weeks or months verses years. The result is often a minimally viable product that is continually enhanced over time versus a traditional product that includes more features out of the gate, albeit at a much slower pace.

The cloud has also helped accelerate the pace of software innovation and the economics of software innovation because software developers no longer have to build and maintain their own infrastructure. They can buy whatever they need on demand which speeds software testing and DevOps, further accelerating software delivery.

The on-demand nature of the cloud and shift to minimally viable products lowers the barrier to market entry, which means the number of vendors in virtually every product area has exploded, and so have the number of products hitting the market.

Keeping up with all of that challenges even large IT departments.

Security is front and center

IT departments have always had some security element, but with the growing number and types of threats, they are necessarily expanding their capabilities. That means changes such as adopting more types of security products and services, and having talent on hand that understands all the details.

"With so many outsiders trying to hack into systems, even if you understand security systems, the technology is always changing," said Jermaine Dykes, senior IT project manager Wi-Fi Strategy & Operations at telecommunications infrastructure company Mobilitie.

O'Melveny's Devine said his company's IT department has evolved from a "keeping-the-lights-on" type of shop to a security-focused organization in which members maintain expertise in their specific areas.

"Retaining talent is really key with all the emphasis on security, machine learning and AI," said Devine. "People in that world are very hard to find and very hard to keep."

Enabling analytics is critical

As more businesses become insight-driven, IT organizations need to provide a solid, governed foundation for data usage that can be leveraged by different parts of the organization as necessary. That way, departments and lines of business can access the data they need without exposing the enterprise to unnecessary risks.

"Big data is huge. Gone are the days when we used a huge server and IT was considered overhead," said Mobilities' Dykes. "Today's IT leaders need to have a vision about how they can incorporate data analytics to propel their organizations into the 21st century."

More analytics solutions use machine learning and AI to improve the quality of insights they deliver, but quite often the hype about the solutions outpaces their actual abilities.

"The healthcare industry uses machine learning for diseases and things of that nature, but if you look at other industries, it's basically nowhere," said O'Melveny's Devine. "The early adopters pay a price because you spend a lot of cycles getting something like that implemented and a lot of times it's just a non-starter once you've gone through all that."

Get insight at Interop

IT leaders and aspiring IT leaders who want to improve their ability to deal with increasingly complexity caused by fast change are encouraged to attend Dyke's Interop ITX session on May 19, Four Faces of Strategic IT Leadership. Dykes will explain how strategic leadership, collaboration, individual empowerment, and relationship-building can enable better project, initiative, and organizational outcomes.