Sometimes when we stop and think about how the world is changing, we realise that it already has.
From Symantec’s perspective, as we have learned from our many conversations with customers large and small, nowhere is this more apparent than in IT service delivery. Delivering IT services was never simple, but at least it was linear. Traditional IT departments follow a command-and-control approach: strategy, procurement and related decisions have been made centrally and delivered out to business departments. This model is changing however, driven by factors coming across from business departments and up from the individuals that staff them. Business divisions are unquestionably taking more control over the technologies they depend upon. What we used to know as “shadow IT” – procurements taking place without the knowledge of IT – is emerging from the gloom and becoming the norm.
We see this for example in the marketing department, which has become increasingly dependent on an array of technologies from digital signage to online advertising and data-driven campaigns. As it learns how to make the most of these tools, so it is becoming more technology-savvy.
Other departments are taking advantage of social tools, online project management and collaboration services, cloud storage and so on. Equally, with devices becoming both smarter and easier to use, individuals are becoming much more comfortable with technology than in the past. This also leads to a change of expectations, from passive acceptance of corporate standard issue kit to a clearer understanding of what technology can do, based on personal experience. As a result, pressure is coming from both business departments and front line staff for IT facilities to become more flexible and responsive. We know from our conversations with people in senior IT roles, just how hard it can be to address these issues particularly when faced with the ongoing challenge of keeping existing, frequently high-maintenance systems running.
But IT cannot be a bottleneck. To say, for example, that changes to web-site code or that access to a software-as-a-service application require 3 months of lead time is simply untenable. Similarly, an employee who cannot access email from a non-standard smartphone may miss a communication about a crucial schedule change, or indeed fail to grasp an opportunity which might have led to a sale.
IT should be there to enable the business, not hinder it. This does not mean that an organisation should throw caution to the wind, that anything and everything goes – in that direction, madness lies...
Equally clear however, is that IT departments cannot doggedly hang on to the command and control approaches of the past. All is not lost. We know from more forward-looking organisations that the right combination of strategies can help strike a balance between enablement and control. Use of monitoring tools for example, new control points for cloud computing, implementation of acceptable use policies and co-ordination of best practice (for example, around content management) with business departments can all play a part.
The IT role is far from redundant, as the organisation still requires technical smarts, security and governance, orchestration, business continuity, supplier management and a financial purview of technical capabilities in use across the organisation. The alternative to proactively managing the increasingly diverse technical environment would be a rapid descent into chaos, which wouldn’t help anybody. As service portfolio manager, the IT department can remain the holder of the bigger picture, understanding the risks and benefits without having to manage each of the assets within the portfolio. Above all, it can measure its own success on services delivered. The bottom line is that a well-served business is a more effective business. The more an IT organisation can do to facilitate service delivery, wherever services are coming from, the better off the organisation will be.
We’d love to discuss this with you further, what trends are you seeing in this area ?