The Future of IT & the CIO - Redux of the Dodo?

The Future of IT
Image by kevinzim via Flickr

The future of the information technology group  has been determined…and it doesn’t look good.

See that bird over there? That’s the Dodo.  He’s extinct.

Will IT follow the Dodo into extinction?

I don’t think so…but without some real changes in how iT groups do business, many IT groups may find themselves on the endangered list.

The Future of IT & The CIO

Earlier this week on CIO Essentials, I wrote about CIO Insight’s reporting on the Corporate Executive Board‘s (CEB) research report titled “The Future of Corporate IT“.

I asked readers there if they had any more detail on the report…and a good friend let me read his copy and I also found a version of the report online – read a PDF version of “The Future of IT“.

The report is an interesting one….and one that every CIO and IT professional should read through.

The main points of the report can be summarized as a “current state” and then a “future state”. These points are provided below with a brief discussion of each.

Current State: Business Process First

Future State: Information Over Process

IT has been working with the motto of ‘business first’ for a few years now (and maybe longer) but the CEB report states that this will change over the next five years.  Rather than focus on the business process, IT groups will change their focus to be more on the customer experience, data analytics and making the job of workers easier by providing better access to knowledge.

Current State: IT as Service Provider

Future State: IT Embedded in Business Services

According to the CEB report, IT will move away from providing services directly to business units and move toward supporting platforms, systems and applications that are embedded within the business unit(s).  IT’s role as central service provider will change and IT positions will move into business units.

Current State: Right-sourced IT

Future State: Externalized Service Delivery

A fancy way to say more internal IT jobs will be outsourced or completely eliminated due to the move to SaaS, cloud, and other offerings from vendors.  This is a scary one for anyone who’s in an IT operations role.

Current State: Pressure for Central

Future State: Greater Business Partner Responsibility

IT will no longer hold the keys to the technology kingdom.  Responsibility for purchasing, and managing technology solutions will migrate to the business units.  This is already occurring in many organizations (think about Shadow IT) and will only continue to grow.  What is IT’s role in the future if business units will be managing their own technology?  Better figure that one out Mr/Ms CIO.

Current State: Fully Functional IT

Future State: Diminished Standalone IT Role

The role of IT will move away from an all-in-one functional unit to a dispersed group of smaller IT shops within business units.

The CEB report continues to say that the IT group will transition into a shared services group (much like HR and finance has done in the past) and most will shrink by a whopping 75%.  Ouch!

The role of the CIO in the Future

So…if we do see these things come true, what happens to the role of the CIO?  Well…according to the CEB report, the CIO will:

“expand to lead the group of Business Shared Services or shrink to manage IT procurement and integration”


The “future of IT” (and the CIO) looks bleak.  Gone are the widespread powers and responsibilities.  Looks like the CIO could transition into a role of procurement and project manager.

So…is the IT group and the CIO going the way of the dodo?

Nope…but I do think there will be some major changes coming in the next few years.  IT groups will shrink due to external platforms (e.g., the cloud) and will transition from a pure technical group to a more business oriented IT group.

The future of IT is actually bright….but I do see a need for change.  Without change, you may just find the CEB report to be true.

There are just too many stories (most shockingly true) of the inability of IT groups to actually get anything done.  I know quite a few groups who regularly take 10 times as long and 10 times the budget to get anything accomplished.

Organizations have become immune to the delays, cost overruns and failures found within IT projects…but I think we are seeing that changing now.  Companies have realized how important technology is to their competitive advantage today and are no longer putting up with the CIO & IT group of yesterday.

Change is coming. I”m not sure it will be the revolution that the CEB report predicts but I do think the IT group 5 years from today will be different.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Corporate Executive Board Report and the future of IT and the role of the CIO.