Thursday, January 11, 2007

The end of IT?

I was struck by two articles I read recently. The first was this little nugget from the more comprehensive survey conducted annually by the good people at CIO Magazine:
The average CIO makes $23,562 less in real dollars today than five years ago.
The average salary for CIO's at large companies is still almost $300,000, so I'm not shedding any tears. Still, these numbers are certainly on a trajectory that suggests that the IT department is becoming less, not more, important, to the businesses they serve. Notice that I said "the IT department" not IT itself. The importance of IT is not in question here, its how it is delivered and accessed that is the issue. Which brings me to the second article. This article, subtitled "Consumer technologies are invading corporate computing" (subscription required) appeared in the last issue of the Economist magazine. It talks about business users taking more control of their productivity tools, from IM and VoIP to Email and Calendaring. If the IT department is not on board, they are simply bypassed by their users. The article mentions Adrian Sennier, CIO at Arizona State University, who recently moved the entire university to a productivity bundle from Google called Google Apps for your Domain. The article goes on to say:
For Mr Sannier, however, a bigger reason than money for switching from traditional software to web-based alternatives has to do with the pace and trajectory of technological change. Using the new Google service, for instance, students can share calendars, which they could not easily do before. Soon Google will integrate its online word processor and spreadsheet software into the service, so that students and teachers can share coursework. Eventually, Google may add blogs and wikis—it has bought firms with these technologies. Mr Sannier says it is “absolutely inconceivable” that he and his staff could roll out improvements at this speed in the traditional way—by buying software and installing it on the university's own computers.
Is this the end of IT as we know it? Software as a service, empowered users, tools to allow encoding of business rules and workflows by non-technical users - what will this mean for the IT department of tomorrow? Or, for that matter, to the legions of IT consultants (whether onsite or offshore) who assist them?