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IT as Whipping Boy

by Jack Santos  |  April 28, 2011  |  Comments Off on IT as Whipping Boy

The Journal (and for those of you that don’t know what I am referring to, go read someone else’s blog) had a recent section on IT that was interesting, and a good overview of the executive POV.

But one of the things I see fundamentally missing in their viewpoint, and in many discussions I have with companies about strategy and organization, is the distinction between IT as an organizational function, and IT roles/tasks/work.

There is no question (and our research bears this out) that IT functions morph in two directions – into the business (think analytics) and into the market (think sourcing, outsourcing, cloud).  The implications of that to the IT department are profound.  Even more profound is the impact on IT careers and work futures.  I have research coming out on that from Gartner (The Future of IT Work).

Take the WSJ article “Put IT Where It Belongs; Control of information technology shouldn’t rest with the IT staff. But moving the responsibility isn’t going to be easy.” The article tries to address the dichotomy of work vs. organization, but really doesn’t get at this core issue.  Making IT results clearly  (while using business terms) linked to business results is just a start.   There is very little reason why some of the work that we have labeled “IT” shouldn’t be dispersed within the business.  Deciding what is centralized vs decentralized is the classic management dilemma – and we know that shifts with the wind.  Having some  of it go outside has become a current fade entitled “cloud computing”.

But the core issues of technology and process are still there; the core questions still have to be grappled with.  That’s where our research comes in – whether it’s read by a geek/gear head, an IT executive, or a CEO.  Of course, we write that to those different continuances – but with similar messages; often times its not WHAT you say – but HOW you say it.

I’ve come to notate the variants of IT organization within enterprises as:

F (DiGamma or Stigma): organizations that may choose to marginalize IT – along the lines of “facilities”.  The IT department than becomes a 2nd tier, and a service.

λ (Lambda): organizations that may choose to integrate IT –  really make it part of the business DNA.  The need for IT as a department may be more strategic, and part of an innovation effort.  The department itself could be quite small, and there for direction setting and oversight.

And numerous variation in between Stigma organizations and Lambda organizations.

Putting the whole dynamic into a black/white winner/loser paradigm helps no one.  Understanding and acting on the distinctions between the department and organizational design vs. skills sets and workforce development – that is what we need to be talking about.

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Category: career  cio-issues  cloud  externalization  governance  it-governance  management  managment  offshore  outsourcing  strategic-planning  

Tags: cio  consumerization  culture  externalization  gearheads  management  outsourcing  

Jack Santos
Research VP
7 years at Gartner
40 years IT industry

Jack Santos is a Research Vice President with Gartner, part of the Enterprise Architecture and Technology Innovation team within the Gartner for IT Leaders product. He focuses on enterprise architecture and technology trends. Mr. Santos' specific area of research covers individual development, leadership and management practices for enterprise architects, EA innovation, and collaboration approaches. Read Full Bio




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