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Traditional IT Departments: Just a footnote in history

By Graham Robinson, Group Practice Manager, Data#3 Limited

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Companies must engage in digital transformation, and the IT department should be at the forefront, if both want to avoid becoming just a footnote in history. And here’s why.

Just as the dawning of a new day casts a long a shadow across the ground, the emergence of business digitisation, the 4th industrial revolution, has cast a long shadow across Enterprise IT.

Since the term “Shadow IT” appeared a number of years ago, it’s commonly been used to refer to “information-technology systems and solutions built and used inside organisations without explicit organisational approval”, however times have changed.

Wikipedia now defines Shadow IT as “technology solutions … deployed by departments other than the IT department”, and that shift should be cause for concern for every IT department.

Digital TransformationAs business models evolve to take advantage of emerging opportunities, technology has rapidly shifted from a set of tools which support back-of-house business operations to become an intrinsic part of business itself, and in the most competitive and disruptive organisations the two have become indistinguishable from one another. Just as McKinsey and Company found in Raising Your Digital Quotient, progressive business leaders are not only allowing the introduction of technology outside of the traditional IT department, but are actively embracing it and the competitive advantage that it brings.

And where once Shadow IT was seen as a misaligned investment in technology outside of IT, it’s now Shadow IT, the deployment of technology by departments other than the IT department, which has become the foundation for the next wave of enterprise growth and profitability.

But if it’s business evolution itself, like the rising of the midday sun that is stripping the shadow away from Shadow IT activities and leaving in its place business strategies flush with new technology investment outside of Enterprise IT, then what’s to become of the traditional IT department?

Well, like all business services which fall out of alignment with business strategy, the IT department now finds itself with the clear and present danger of being cast into the same budget-starved obscurity that Shadow IT once occupied, but this isn’t good news for anyone.

As Gartner argues in Six Steps to Build a Successful Digital Business, an IT department is critical to successful business transformation, albeit a new and progressive-minded one.

What’s needed in order for IT, and more importantly the business, to survive is an immediate decision to shift away from the dogmatic ideology of today’s IT departments, and the adoption of an intent to lead the digital transformation, not merely support it.

Unfortunately, this is uncharted territory for most IT leaders, and requires action before the sun sets on their opportunity to change; and they’re quickly relegated to the footnotes of history. But for those that take action, it means wholesale acceptance that change is not a choice, but a necessity. It means aligning technology investment with business drivers, not business operations; and it means earning a seat at the strategy table, not waiting for instructions.

For those wishing to avoid becoming merely a footnote in history, Data#3’s Business Aspect provides a range of business, technology and strategic consulting services which help companies create, plan and successfully execute a digital strategy.

Alternatively, feel free to spark me at graham_robinson@data3.com.au. You can grab the desktop client and mobile app from www.ciscospark.com.

Tags: Consulting, Shadow IT

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