Canadian IT pros taught to SWOT away PESTs

TORONTO – Canadian technology professionals should expect to deal with convergence of operational roles, relationships between buyers and sellers as well as changes in compute models, according to those who spoke at the IT 360 conference this week.

The three-day event, produced by IT World Canada, included tracks on business management, open source and networking technologies but might be best summed up by a session held late Wednesday afternoon, which was simply titled “Managing Change in Your IT.” Russ Atkin, principal of Markets of One Consulting in Cochrane, Alberta, led a discussion on the theme of operational convergence – the idea that not only technologies but people are being more tightly interested within the enterprise to take better advantage of their IT.

Atkin, who spent eight years working at a telecommunications firm, urged IT 360 attendees to start developing a “responsibility matrix” which would outline who in a company should be directly handling things such as help-desk problems, and who should merely be assisting or advising on those kinds of responsibilities. Creating a responsibility matrix is more difficult among technology groups, he added, because terminology is not consistent across departments. Telecom-focused employees and IT-focused employees might both use the word “latency,” for example, but might associate it with different meanings.

While most companies are aware of a SWOT analysis – a breakdown of an organization or team’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – Atkin said they should consider another acronym as well. PEST refers to the political, economic, cultural and technological realities that face IT as they try to develop their strategy and meet expectations.

“The ‘economics’ area could be referring to a reduction in your capital budget,” he explained, “which is something we’re all faced with at some point. That’s a reality. The culture of the team and the individuals – those are things you can’t afford to ignore, either.”

Mike Moszynski, senior manager in the Advisory Services Practice of KPMG, raised a similar point in a session he co-led on negotiating for IT purchases. He said part of setting expectations between buyers and sellers is about getting to know each other on a more personal level.

“It’s a good idea to know, for example, when someone (at a customer organization) is going to be in Bermuda on vacation for three weeks,” he said, adding that issues around culture and personalities are often repeated but just as often ignored. “I’ve made a living out of pointing out the obvious to people. But sometimes they really need to hear it.”

Bill Edwards, strategic alliance director with Telus Communications, said IT professionals may also need to realize that life for vendors has changed in the last five years almost as much as it has for them.

“You used to be dealing with quotas that had to be filled once every six months,” said Edwards, who presented along with Moszynski. “Now you’ve got companies that are asking salespeople to meet their quota once a quarter, or once a month.”

The most disruptive change to IT managers from a pure technology point of view was discussed in a keynote by Google enterprise executive Matthew Glotzbach,who provided an overview of cloud computing. This is a model whereby compute resources are accessed by enterprises through a service provider which hosts their data in an external data centre “cloud,” much like an electrical utility. Glotzbatch said concerns around security and control over IT infrastructure remain the biggest barriers to cloud computing, but in an interview with ComputerWorld Canada he admitted that providers like Google have to offering more management capabilities than what consumers tend to expect.

“When it’s just me, my wife and my kids, we don’t have to schedule a time to use the fridge,” he said. “But in an enterprise you do need to be able to schedule the use of resources.”

In one of the final keynotes of IT 360 Vito Mabrucco, country manager for Toronto-based IDC Canada, said IT professionals will likely begin to adopt “smartsourcing” agreements that see products and services delivered through Web 2.0 technologies or mashups. He also said delivery of IT is evolving beyond what we think of as cloud computing and software-as-a-service today.

“We know about software-as-a-service, but now we’re also starting to hear about what’s called services as software,” he said.

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