Application and infrastructure management are out, and vendor management and business analysis are in, according to Info-Tech Research Group

Five trends that will transform the IT department

Five sweeping trends are are set to transform the modern IT department, Info-Tech Research GroupLtd. told attendees at its recent technology trends and predictions event in Toronto.

Cloud computing is one of five trends, along with mobility, security, social media and big data. And Davin Juusola, vice-president of research and development with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech, said these trends will mean major changes for IT departments and IT staffing.

“Today, IT departments are focused primarily on applications and infrastructure, and less so on vendor management and business analysts,” said Juusola. “You need to transform to put more emphasis on business analysts and vendor management.”

As companies move more workload into the cloud, infrastructure and application management will be less important; that will be the responsibility of the cloud provider. But trends in big data, for example, will require skills in other areas.

“You’ll need an army of smart business analysts to dig out from under all that data, and you’ll need to manage your vendors like you manage your staff today,” said Juusola, making sure your service providers are on top of their responsibilities to the business. “If you get out in front of this perfect storm it will be a rewarding experience for you and your organization.”

The trends

Rob Dreyer (pictured), vice-president of research with Info-Tech, said it can be hard to get to the critical mass necessary to achieve real infrastructure savings by moving to the cloud. Most organizations dip their toes into the cloud strategically, moving certain processes or functions, but that’s often not enough to allow them to start retiring on-premise servers. Companies shouldn’t think of cost-savings as a key driver for moving to the cloud anyway, said Dreyer.

“Cloud offers a low cost of entry when provisioning new services, but that’s not the same as low total cost of ownership (TCO),” said Dreyer. “For the first two years a cloud solution can offer better economic value than trying to build it yourself, but over time it (evens out).”

Moving to the cloud isn’t really about cost, said Juusola. It’s about capabilities such as greater speed to market and flexibility as a business and an IT organization. He recommends starting with infrastructure as a service or platform as a service to start, as these tend to be less disruptive to the business.

The consumerization and bring-your-own-device trends play into mobility, and Juusola said burying your head in the sand on this front isn’t an option. Users will be using personal devices anyway, and ignoring the situation will be 24 per cent more costly than offering even limited support, according to Info-Tech’s research.

“People with titles that are beyond the standards are going to come to you for support, so you should really get out in front of it,” said Juusola.

There are a number of device management platforms on the market, and organizations should develop policies after performing a risk assessment, tailoring access to business need. But it’s about more than just managing the devices, said Juusola. Mobility is fuelling the rise of the business developer, and moving mobile applications out of the IT department.

“Now virtually anyone in the organization can design a mobile application,” said Juusola. Problem is, they may not always consider factors IT would, such as security, which is why IT must develop a trusted relationship with the business side and be seen as a partner and an enabler to its application dreams, rather than a hindrance. And it’s set to be a growth area. While only 18 per cent of organizations have launched a mobile application, 15 per cent have one in development and 55 per cent are in the evaluation phase.

On social media, Juusola said a major shift is taking place in the way we search. In 2008, indexed search such as Google was dominant, accounting for over 50 per cent of Web searches. Today that figure has dropped to 30 per cent, and continues to trend down.

What’s taking its place? Social-based search. People are turning to Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms for more and more searches. Instead of searching Google for Thai restaurants in Toronto, for example, they’ll leverage their social networks for recommendations.

“Consequently for organizations, investing all your time in search engine optimization doesn’t make sense anymore,” said Juusola “You need a social media monitoring platform.”

The combination of social and mobility is leading to a huge increase in the unstructured data an organization has to deal with, leading to the final major trend: big data. Legal and regulatory requirements mean much of that data has to be held onto for a period of time, and Juusola said tools such as predictive analytics can help organizations drive better business decisions by leveraging that data.

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.

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