As IT leaders and professionals, we are waging an important battle every day. We are expected to be at the forefront of innovation—influencing and compelling the organization to move towards revolution while also keeping the lights on. But innovation and growth responsibilities are inherently competitive with run operations and, unfortunately, run seems to win every time. Consequently, we are losing the war.
Think of your own IT department for a moment. Quick gut check: what percentage of your department’s time is spent innovating versus completing chore tasks? Many organizations spend as much as 90 percent or more of their time on run tasks. Even the best struggle to bring their run below 65 percent. We continue to lose ground as we increase our effort and expenses around supporting the run of our IT systems.
Though your department may be bottled down by the slog of day-to-day tasks, the reality is that IT departments need to be at the center of innovation. In fact, according to the Society for Information Management (SIM)’s 2017 report which surveyed CIOs, other than the CEO, the CIO has the most complex, broad, and diverse set of responsibilities.
In many ways, IT professionals are on a never-ending journey… searching for validation, seeking respect and longing to be relevant within organizations. They are on the path I like to refer to as “The Road to IT Relevance,” only maintaining relevance if they can stay abreast of and drive market trends.
Let’s examine five core factors complicating the job of today’s IT professional:
1. Technology Consumerization
The modern IT world is incredibly different than it was 20 years ago, even five years ago! Today, the power of technology is in the hand of the consumer thanks to the rise of smartphones, Wi-Fi access almost anywhere, mobile applications, and cloud-based solutions. The consumerization of IT has made the end-user more tech savvy and, consequently, they have greater demands of the technology they use and the expectations of their IT departments. For instance, they may think building an enterprise ERP system is as simple as flipping the switch and moving to the cloud. Or they may hear IT say a rollout could take a year and wonder why it can’t be done in two months. These contradicting beliefs and expectations can erode IT’s value to the organization over time.
2. Digitization of the Enterprise
Companies like Amazon, Uber and Airbnb have demonstrated firsthand the power of transformation. They are innovating on a dime, keeping the customer front and center, and driving towards evolution daily. The new digital era has disrupted entire industries, almost overnight, and its creating awareness that things don’t need to be done as they always have been. Pressure is on today’s IT leaders to harness technology and talent to advance the organization’s digital ambitions. But the availability of talent to understand and manage technology is reducing, making it harder to find and retain the people needed to drive digital innovation in the enterprise.
3. Managing Modern IT
When I first started out in IT, businesses solely invested in on-premise equipment that would be stored securely in the data center. Over the years, however, we saw a natural shift to colocation and then hybrid environments and now the cloud. This complicated environment has created the modern IT world, one in which data, tools, software and hardware are distributed anywhere in the world. One of the chief complications caused by this new paradigm shift, however, is that there is not a great way to manage this environment with a single pane of glass—or a single set of tools. Instead, each environment comes with its own need for management. Today’s IT leaders grapple with how to manage this distributed IT environment that is no longer under lock and key, or under the four walls of the building.
4. Cost of Running IT is Rising
We all know that running IT is more complex than ever before, but it’s also more expensive—just consider the cost of operating IT Operations Management (ITOM) or IT Service Management (ITSM) systems required to support this new “AlwaysOn” imperative. In addition, the expense of these comprehensive tools—coupled with the cost of implementation, integration and maintenance—will break the bank.
In addition, the cost of building and supporting an “AlwaysOn” environment is increasing. In the past, an organization may have had a few mission critical applications requiring AlwaysOn support. Today, it seems like all applications and systems require 24/7/365 support. IT operations are no longer confined to a 9-to-5, M-F workweek, meaning the amount of manpower required to run IT is increasing.
5. Talent Deficit
It’s well understood that the talent deficit is alive and well. In fact, the crisis is so prevalent that we are witnessing a dramatic increase in salaries (even having to pay premium salaries for mediocre talent), an extended talent search process, and greater challenge in retaining talent. And when we find top talent instead of enabling them to spend time setting the strategic vision, they become glorified firefighters—extinguishing fires all day. Our IT teams are drowning in a sea of alerts, alarms, events, complaints and requests for help, all of which drowns out the important tasks. Instead of your IT team being proactive, they are stuck in reaction.
It’s Time For a Revolution
With these mega trends complicating the success and relevance of IT professionals and their organizations, isn’t it time to stop the insanity? Isn’t time for a revolution?
IT leaders need to transform the way in which they run IT. They need to reposition their top talent so they are focused on driving the business forward, rather than putting out fires. They need to set aggressive growth goals and make sure the organization is assembled in a way that allows the department to take a step closer each day to revolution. And they need to figure out how to run IT cheaper, faster and more efficiently than ever before.
For many companies, the revolution starts by teaming with the right partner to offset the chore tasks so they can reposition their talent to focus on strategic growth imperative. In fact, MarketsandMarkets predicts that by 2019 managed services spend could represent nearly 20% of all IT services spending around the world. The notion of out-tasking—or outsourcing specific functions of IT—is growing in popularity so that a business’ in-house talent can get back to driving transformation and innovation
In the coming weeks, we will continue to look at the global forces affecting IT leaders as well as the ways in which these leaders can reimagine how to run IT. After all, as IT, we are in the revolution business.