5 principles that should already be part of your technology strategy

Times are changing, but not all IT organizations are changing with them. Make 2016 the year of aligning your strategy with the world's new realities.

change machine
Credit: flickr/tracyshaun

At the end of the year, we all like to take stock of emerging trends and prepare for those that will impact us in the year ahead. While none of us has a crystal ball, we have seen enough change in the past 12 months to cross some trends off the list—they have emerged, and they are our new reality.

Though the pace of adoption will continue to vary (remember how many mainframes are still out there?), the adoption itself is undeniable. And yet, when I look at most organization’s IT strategies, some important elements are still missing. Service providers are partly at fault by obscuring reality under mountains of … well, I’ll just say, jargon.

The following are five principles every technology organization should be building on today:

1. Multi-tenancy in all its forms is here to stay. Very little varies from company to company in terms of enterprise systems or infrastructure. Whether you call it cloud or as-a-service or any other clever marketing term, these assets are already being shared by enterprises as much as possible, not only for cost advantage, but because it is much easier to stay up to date when the investment is shared and the development is done by a specialist. This should surprise no one in our industry—after all, this was the unfulfilled promise of outsourcing: give the work to someone who can make it their core business and share resources across multiple clients.

2. Software will do the work of humans. It is clear that software will continue to replace human labor at a rapid pace. Remember when we bought airline tickets from people rather than websites? Or when you had to see an actual teller to deposit a check? That was just the tip of the iceberg. Accounting, HR, IT and many other functions are on their way to being automated even faster than customer service has been.

3. Embedded technology is the goal. So if all of IT is getting automated or outsourced, why do we need so many technologists to fill jobs? Because, though we may be seeing a drop in back-office demand, the use of technology in the front office has only just begun to take off. Just about any physical object can be made a smart device, and it will be. In many ways, IT leadership is far more threatened than software engineers. Writing code and designing solutions will be valuable skills for another generation, but running enterprise systems? Probably not. For CIOs and their leadership teams to stay relevant, they must be intimate with the product or service their organization sells so they can drive competitive technology into it every single day.

4. The key function of any IT organization is service integration. For the foreseeable future, delivery methods will combine multiple internal and external providers. The most important outcome the IT organization can achieve is seamless, agile delivery across all of their platforms, service models and providers. Already, we are seeing marked differences in the performance of organizations that integrate services well versus those that do not. Success comes most readily for those organizations that have learned to innovate with their partners

5. The return of shadow IT is inevitable. Controlling IT spend the old way simply won’t work. Everyone has an insatiable need for speed and the self-contained options on the market are too irresistible. Shadow IT isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it leads to competitive advantage. But we have all seen this movie before: early on, things will look more agile and responsive to the market, but, over time, integration challenges will rear their ugly head, and interoperability will suffer, grinding some processes to a halt. Then someone will say “look at how much we spend on technology!” and a new wave of centralization will begin. In my opinion, it is better to accept shadow IT as a reality from the beginning and make it work for the enterprise.

Now, none of these tenets is earth-shattering, but most IT organizations I work with are not accepting them. In effect, many IT groups are taking a head-in-the-sand approach, and the fallout won’t be pretty. I will spare you the “change is difficult” speech that underlies this phenomenon, but we all know what is going on. My hope is to cut through the jargon our industry seems to love and make it easier for organizations to find and address the gaps in their technology strategy so they are not caught off guard in the very near future.

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