Avoid being steamrolled by the cloud

Forrester Research Inc. said its recently released “top 15 technology trends that enterprise architects should watch” report should also come with a warning for IT managers: Adapt or become irrelevant.

The research firm’s annual report, which looks at technology trends that will continue to gain in prominence over the next three years, was broken down into four themes.

The first was empowered technologies, which covered customer community platforms, collaboration tools, and mobile apps. The second theme focused on process-centric data and intelligence trends such as next-gen business intelligence, social networks analytics, and master data management.

Rounding out the final two trends were “agile and fit-to-purpose apps,” including Web 2.0-enabled business process management; and “smart technology management,” which include planning and analysis tools for virtualization rollouts.

Across all of these technologies, the movement toward cloud-based services is the common thread that links everything together, said Gene Leganza, an analyst with Forrester’s enterprise architecture team.

Leganza said that while IT staff might currently lead information architecture or business analytics projects, this won’t always be the case as cloud-based software and services emerge in these fields. At that point, business leaders will gain control of these initiatives with the heavy IT lifting being done off-site.

He said that many IT professionals are underestimating the real impact cloud-based software and services will have on their role and the relationships they have with the business unit.

At medium-sized enterprises, in particular, IT managers might want to ask themselves if their company will even have a data centre five years from now, Leganza said. He added that this could be “entirely possible” for some companies in the very near future.

“The very future of IT’s role in the organization is being challenged by the availability of outside services,” he said. “This is something that’s going to substantially alter how IT needs to see its role in terms of providing technology services to the business.”

Leganza’s advice for IT staff is to quickly become a “broker of services” for the enterprise.

“The best thing IT people can do to not get steamrolled by all this change is to get better at planning, to get better at understanding the business impact of all this technology change, and get as close as possible to business people and the problems keeping them up at night,” he said.

He said that IT leaders should avoid falling back into an “IT way of thinking about problems,” which he described as primarily talking about how to keep the lights on and reduce costs. Leganza said that they should entice business leaders about things they can’t do today and how to get there.

Rather than saying “we have a data quality problem,” IT leaders should focus on what enterprises are going to be able to do with the information once they’ve straightened out the problem.

“Concentrate on what they will be able to do in 2013 that they can’t do today,” he added.

Leganza’s advice is similar to what was dished out at this year’s Showcase Ontario earlier this fall.

Ken Kawall, CIO with Ontario’s Economics and Transportation I&IT cluster, said IT leaders must turn into successful relationship managers in order to evolve from an order-taking service provider to a trusted partner.

He said 70 per cent of IT organizations never make it to a trust environment with their business clients and only about five per cent are actually transformational to the business. The key to moving toward that five per cent, Kawall added, is to gain trust and credibility from your business clients.

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