Tag Archive: Future


Is the IT Department being left behind in the 21st Century?

I was sparked into writing this article this morning after hearing an expression I thought we had moved away from. I overheard a couple of Senior IT guys at my client talk about “end user computing”.

This is an expression I haven’t heard since the 90’s or even the early 2000’s but with all the changes with devices and technology over last 10-15 years is it still a relevant concept?

This got me thinking about IT departments and the 21st Century. Has the march of technology overtaken the ability for the IT department to react and deliver technology solutions? Has the advent of digital given the business the opportunity to cut the IT department out of the equation and if they have what does the IT department need to do to reclaim the “technological authority”?

In the 80’s and 90’s we implemented massive organisation and productivity changing systems that impacted an entire organisation (without email and mobile phones in a lot of cases). Many of these system still exist with organisations and are deemed “heritage” or “legacy”. These needed a massive cohort to implement and then to support and this formed the bases of the IT department.

Large frameworks for the “management” of these projects and systems were developed and a governance structure put around the, ITIL; Prince 2 are two of the most popular. This led to longer delivery times and an administrative burden.

In parallel to these changes going on in the consumer space new technology was being introduced. Smart Phones, Netbooks, Tablets, Smart TV’s to name but a few. The internet that had ballooned during the late 90’s, and crashed, suddenly became mainstream and, as I predicted in the late 90’s the 4th utility.

All the while whilst this was going on the IT departments continued to get bigger and apply more and more frameworks and overheads along with outsourcing, what it saw as commodity skills which, were in fact, intellectual property (this will be the subject of a future article). What this meant was that to even have an idea to change a small bit of technology cost you thousands before you started.

It also led to the rise of the “shadow IT department” where end user departments were hiring, developing and supporting their own solutions.

Then we entered the digital economy. The rise of smartphones; tablets; ubiquitous internet via mobile phones and WiFi caused a perfect Nexus. Everything had to be digital. Again the IT department tried to impose a lot of the legacy disciplines onto the business which was rejected and as a result a new part of the business was created and called “digital” which meant the Technology Skilled staff worked alongside the business people as one to deliver what the business wanted.

Now we are deep into the new world. We have IT people looking after “heritage” and “Lagacy” systems and the Digital teams looking after the social media and digital world. Where does this leave the traditional IT department? My answer is well behind the curve.

People existing in the old world need to upskill and understand where the world has moved on to. Certain ideas and understandings need to be challenged and refreshed.

In conclusion there is no such thing now as “end user computing” everything is.

post-pc era

Post-PC era

I am fascinated to see the coverage in the press over the last few days raving about windows 8 and how this is a move to the post pc-era.

As someone who was working and delivering large technology programmes in the pre-pc era I have to ask myself if the pc has had its day.

My initial response is it may well be the post pc-era in terms of consumer devices and the use of technology in the home but in terms of the corporate world I really doubt it. How many people out there are still using XP service pack 2 (my current client has only recently moved to SP3!)?

What really is happening is the computer power that was once the domain of the PC can now put delivered in any form factor imaginable, tablet, smartphone, small screen devices what ever the human mind can dream up.

I think the term that should be used is not the post-pc era but the era of “ubiquitous computing”.

The fact that these new devices and form factors are providing opportunities to deliver new and exciting business solutions needs to be embraced and we should push to use them wherever possible.

In previous articles on this site I have said that IT needs to move away from and cant do attitude to a can do attitude. Well thinking differently can help in that re-alignment.

As the computer pervades more into day to day life there will be the demand to have the same in peoples professional life, how many are already asked about ipads!

I have always been someone who has looked forward in technology terms and I find what is happening now as one of the most exciting times to be around. The early promise of computing is now becoming a reality.

Crystal Ball2012 Predictions

So its that time of year when I start thinking about what is going to be the next big thing in the coming year in terms of corporate IT and technology generally.

Cloud Computing

As in my 2011 predictions article cloud computing will continue to be a major theme within IT. Cloud computing will go through a maturity stage in the coming year and the definition will become widely accepted as –

requires systems that run on a simplified data center architecture, operated largely by automated policies, not human hands. The architecture allows end users to self-provision their own servers, and has a billing mechanism that allows the supplier to charge only for the resource used, not the lifetime software license cost”.

Not just adding the word cloud to existing offerings as several of the large vendors have tried to do (termed as cloud-washing).

I believe that this concept will also move toward cloud based applications which does enable SME’s to use enterprise class applications at a fraction of the cost.

The major challenge for the big enterprise vendors is how they set up the billing for these kind of services and they will need to change the mind-set from the existing Processor based and other costing models.

Enterprise Apps

Again this was an area I touched on last year and this hasn’t moved as quickly as I thought it would, however there are signs of this market picking up.  The site www.getapp.com currently has over 4,580 apps available for download in many areas of business.

This area needs to become more mature before it becomes mainstream but the signs are there that this is happening and the trajectory is in the right direction.

Social Media/Collaboration

The one area that I see massive movement next year is the area of Social Media and collaboration. In the past collaboration would have been treated separately but until the drive of social media the collaboration would have been 1-to-1.

With social media the collaboration becomes many-2-many or any other combination you can think off.

It seems strange that this hasn’t happened sooner as a corporation has to be the best example of a social network in existence.

The tools are now there and a good example is www.yammer.com. This has aspects of Twitter and Facebook and is integrated into corporate infrastructures for security purposes but is cloud based.

Theses tools lend themselves to be department; company; interest group; Project  or any other configuration that suite the problem/need you currently have and facilitate communication interaction and inclusion.

Transform from Can’t do to Can do

Probably my most radical prediction for the coming year is the transformation of the IT department from a mentality of cant do to a can do mentality.

Its interesting to see that all of the predictions I have may so far are all around things that are or facilitate self service to the end user not the central IT department.

The central department is viewed as a hindrance to the organisation by many and as a result is often bypassed.

IT management need to change the culture and start to get things done. One of the most annoying things that business users experience is the SLA. Service Level Agreement, these were initially put in place to encourage requests to be seen to within a timeframe that can be measured for performance, what has happened over time is the SLA has become how long it will take – not the original intention.

This transformation will not happen overnight it will take years. If we don’t start this movement now we may end up with all IT roles being shifted to the cloud!

Well that’s it for my 2012 predictions it looks like we have an interesting year ahead.

IT not a support functionSupport Function – The History

One of the enduring debates within the corporate world is that IT is a support function in the same way that Finance or HR are. This is something I contend is no longer true in any modern business. You certainly don’t here of any businesses that are gaining market share on the back of being able to do their accounts quicker or more efficiently than others.

Back in the day when everyone was rushing to implement first generation ERP systems and improve the transaction base of the business this was probably true. These systems enable businesses to get in control of the nuts and bolts of the business and put order in place.

At first these were differentiators and businesses that were first to market could gain improved share and business based on these improvements. Generally productivity increased and cost saving were made. However they were very much the automation of the back office.

Over time most companies moved to some level of ERP and the field was levelled.

Then the push was for Data Warehousing which eventually became BI (Business Intelligence). This provided businesses with a means of understanding themselves and their markets in ways that had never been thought of before. This was the point at which the paradigm changed and IT became more of a partner with the business.

Support Function – The Future

In the 21st century businesses can no longer survive without great IT and in many instances the IT is what differentiates certain businesses from others. Being able to react to markets and customers quickly is now the way to gain market share.

However as this change has progressed there are still many cases where people in the business perceive IT as a Master/Slave relationship. They still talk about IT as if it is a bunch of geeks in the basement who love to code, understand the technology but not the business.

These dinosaurs need to be convinced of the benefits of IT and made to see that the world has changed. In order to do this the IT department need to up their game and prove to these sceptics what they have to offer.

It is up to senior IT management to sell the ideas and offerings of the department to the business. To challenge when necessary and offer alternatives and ideas to the business leaders.

We are entering a time where the technology opportunities are increasing constantly and as IT professionals we need to consider these technologies and see how they can help our businesses grow not just follow instruction. How can the tablets and other future technologies be deployed to the business to give advantage?

An old boss of mine always used to say you need to “walk in the steps of the business man” to understand what he needs and then provide it. This is more important than ever and we should be partnering (equally) with the business when ever we can. Once we do that then IT will not longer be perceived as a support function and a slave to the business.


2010 Ends and a New Year Begins

Now that 2010 has ended and 2011 arrives we need to consider what will be the major advances and changes in the coming year and the future. There used to be a distinct split between the consumer and corporate advances but that is becoming more blurred now and many consumer tech advances are crossing over very quickly.

2010 – Keep Taking the Tablets

In 2010 several technologies became the darlings of the industry. The tablet computer came back in to view with the launch of the iPad. Nearly 4 million were sold since the launch and all of the major vendors are now looking at bringing their versions to market.

2010 – The Year of the “Cloud”

With the rise of the ipad and the ongoing popularity of Microsoft’s Windows 7 the term “Cloud Computing” came into the public vocabulary. This technology change has been on the cards for some time and many of the major suppliers have been building their massive infrastructures in order to support the on-demand model. One of the biggest players in the space, Amazon, when the Wikileaks supporting hackers tried to bring the site down and all Amazon did was turn the tap up until the hackers ran out of capacity unlike Visa and Mastercard whose sites were brought down by the attack.

2010 – The ongoing rise of the Smartphone

As well as changes is form factor and the rise of the “cloud” smartphones became more and more important in the market place and this led to the move to purchasing APPS and using them. This really has shifted the thought process and usage patterns of people and is really intriguing to see where this leads. Combining mobility with the cloud, location and very specific APPS has totally changed the game for the user.

2011 – The Continued Rise of the Cloud

This leads on to the key point of this post and that is what are the future technologies that will be the drivers for change in 2011. I feel that cloud computing will continue to grow and will somehow cross over into the corporate world. I don’t mean that companies will develop there own “clouds” as that really defeats the object of the cloud!! I mean that organisations will look at the major vendors to run and manage certain applications to see if this will work. There will be lots of challenges with this in terms of pricing and support agreements but it will be worth the investment as the advantages of a fluid infrastructure are appealing.

2011 – Corporates to Take the Tablets

The changes in form factor and the move to the tablet will be more of a challenge in the corporate world as it is difficult to see the benefit. Obviously for many years sales and marketing departments have embraced these new forms and it is in that area or in the customer facing area that the tablet will become more acceptable. Whether we will see the tablet outside these departments is difficult to asses at the moment but with the mobility aspects of the technology and the extended battery life you only need to let your mind wonder a bit and you can start seeing the benefits.

2011 – The Corporate APPS

To me one of the most interesting advances and one that I can see as a game changer is the use of apps and app stores. In the major corporates over the years investments has been massive in huge monolithic enterprise or transaction based systems that are still being used and enhanced to this day. Millions have been spent with large vendors to make these systems support the business.

However with the advent of APPS there could be an opportunity to develop small little snipits of functionality that can be plugged into the legacy systems that perform very specific activities. The trend started a while ago with the concept of Software as a Service but in reality this hasn’t really caught on as in most organisations it is a solution looking for a problem.

Most corporates have a core database and core processing functionality (back-end) that it doesn’t really matter what it looks like, however at the User Interface (UI) point is where these APPS can come into their own and improve the experience and as a result improve the productivity of the user.