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Eric  Lundquist
Eric Lundquist
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IT's Future: Less Building, More Bundling

With human resources, marketing and other departments going in different technological directions, IT's new mission is to tie all the company's services securely together.

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Big Data Talent War: 7 Ways To Win
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The future of corporate IT is less about building stuff and more about tying stuff together. I suppose this might be obvious to some folks, but it is worthwhile to step back and take a look at what is happening to business technology, budgets and the state of the IT profession. Consider the following three developments:

1. CMOs Spend Lots On Tech.

The marketing department -- you know, that group that is always going out to lunch and talking about brand development and cost per eyeball -- is now a major technology spender. Gartner analysts are predicting that by 2017 the CMO will spend more on tech than the CIO.

The language gap between marketing and IT might be the biggest chasm on the corporate landscape. Recently I took a look at a presentation from a marketing startup in San Francisco that is in the forefront of changing the Web ad model from measuring ads served -- a really weak proposition -- to ads viewed. Its metrics for measurement, heat maps and best practices makes great sense to the marketing group and would sound like Romulan to the IT group. Come to think of it, because many in IT are Trekkies, Romulan might sound more familiar.

[ The key to success is asking the right questions. Read Will CMOs Outspend CIOs? Wrong Question. ]

2. HR Has Become A Major Player.

The HR department, which used to be a backwater of forms, procedures and free donuts on Friday, is now a major technology spender. You don't have to look any further than the rapid growth of Workday, and in particular the mobile capabilities of Workday 18, to see a SaaS platform that enables team collaboration, time management and talent development. Workday's growth spurred SAP into spending $3.4 billion for Success Factors and was a major factor in getting stodgy Oracle to transform into a cloud advocate. Maybe the language gap between HR and IT is not quite as large as the marketing gap, but how many in IT have ever heard of human capital management (HCM) best practices?

3. IT Has A New Primary Role: Bundling.

The finance department, the manufacturing group, sales, and building services all are being wooed by software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendors eager to get a foothold in your company. The BYOD trend means you don't even get to be the arbiter of who gets a new laptop or smartphone.

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So, the building and owning stuff train has left the station. Although you are probably happy not to have to sit through one more requirements meeting about enterprise resource planning systems, you are probably wondering just what is your future role? I'll argue that the future role is vital, happening right now and probably unrecognized at your company. With each department out there contracting for the service that best meets their needs, one thing becomes clear: there is no one tying all these services together in a system that is secure, private, always available and in compliance.

I'm not alone in seeing this new role for IT. Nico Popp at the SilconAngle has a good article looking at the role of identity in a SaaS world. For many users the issue of identity is apparent in the frustration of maintaining multiple sign-ins. But the frustration of trying to remember which sign in goes with which service is, as Popp points out, only the tip of a very large iceberg. An employee has a role within the company that changes with each department: HR sees an employee one way, sales another and so on. An identity and privacy system that spans all those roles is about as nitty gritty an IT issue as you will encounter. IT's role as the glue that ties all those systems securely together is not going to get usurped anytime soon.

When I interviewed Pew Charitable Trust CIO Greg Smith following his keynote at the Fall Interop conference in New York, he outlined the new roles that IT will have to undertake. Of the seven new roles for IT, three dealt with the shifting role of IT in supporting the SaaS choices being made by business groups. One was to pursue a cloud strategy as part of the IT strategic role. Another was to refine and redefine your security strategy to center around filtering and data loss prevention. The third was to shift business intelligence internal systems to cloud-based applications. Any one of those activities requires a new talent set for IT; all three together represents a fundamental shift.

A few weeks later, I was moderating a panel that included Bret Goldstein, CIO for the City of Chicago. Goldstein's myriad projects include providing a way for waiting riders to know where buses were on their routes, mobilizing applications that were developed years or decades previously and taking on projects that directly affect residents.

In wintery Chicago, getting the snowplows to plow the streets in the most efficient manner possible is a big deal, said Goldstein. He is anxious to get to the public sector the types of software services available to the private sector, and in many cases that involves bringing in SaaS. One of his most interesting projects involved using predictive analytics to identify some of Chicago's crime spots for additional policing. I'd say the overarching role for IT in Goldstein's model is to figure out the best way to acquire services; take analog services -- such as buses -- and bring them into the digital world; and tie the whole system together in a mobile, secure private environment.

The employment prospects in the IT community remain quite good. In an analysis of the current IT jobs market, Foote Partners described the IT job market as "roaring back" after a September dip with 12,500 IT jobs being created in October. But the talents needed for IT are rapidly changing. Not too much new in that sense. I remember when being a Netware engineer was the hot job. Chris Murphy has a nice roundup of the current state of IT hiring in which retraining IT for mobile is strong and app development -- which I think app integration is part of -- is also strong. As Rob Preston recently wrote, incremental change in IT won't cut it. Cutting it in the future for IT will mean changing from a builder to a bundler. CIOs will change from technology owner to technology orchestra leader, and IT employees will find a great future if they are willing to learn some great new mobile, integration skills.

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