End Users: The Locomotive Heading Directly for IT’s Covered Wagon

Moving trainI have a confession. A few months ago, I went to our IT department and asked if they could help us implement a new service that would automate our win/loss analysis program. They said they could, but wouldn’t be able to get to it until 3-4 months out (granted, part of the time was during the holidays). I’m not the world’s most patient person, so I decided I’d take the bull by the horns and figure out how to do it myself. I’m sure I created some security concerns with my implementation, and I’m fairly certain IT doesn’t have any access to what I did, but that’s their problem. Sometimes work has to get done, and in this case, it did.

I’m not the only one guilty of going around IT to get work done. We recently visited with a customer who had a policy that no one could use Dropbox to store work files. The policy worked for about three days, until a senior director came to IT and told them that his team required Dropbox to collaborate on important strategy documents, and IT could not restrict access to it. After fighting a long battle with the team and later executive staff, the IT department finally went to the board of directors and voiced their security concerns. The board, after hearing IT’s concerns, decided that the risk was worth the boost in productivity.

About a year ago, I wrote a blog post about IT getting circumvented by the end user. During that time, many IT organizations were forcing policies and procedures on end users that severely limited their productivity. Since then, the problem has been exacerbated immensely. Older, monolithic systems are keeping IT from being the deliverers of innovation to the business. On the other side of the coin, enterprise-grade services in the cloud are being developed just about as fast as pickup trucks in Texas. A study by IDC stated that 82 percent of net new applications are built for cloud delivery. These services provide huge productivity boosts, but IT can’t keep up with the pace of user demand. Gartner stated just a few months ago that by 2017, the CMO would own half of the overall IT budget. So what does this mean for IT?

Shadow IT – Get Ready for Change

Shadow IT- the notion that pockets of IT expertise are being hired by individual business departments to meet specific business requirements – is an indicator of big things to come. In this type of model, IT changes entirely. Internal process optimization and management of infrastructure is likely to get outsourced so IT can focus on the more important things: helping the end user. Gartner predicts that in 2014 IT departments adopting hybrid cloud services will likely be “filling the role of cloud service broker.” This will make IT a critical piece of the business, and will give IT the flexibility to quickly meet the demands of end users better than ever before.

This also indicates a fundamental shift of focus is in order for IT. No longer will IT be worrying about their problematic Exchange Server implementation, or their heavy ERP system they have to keep up and running. Instead, IT will be managing vendor relationships, ensuring that end users have access to critical business services, and optimizing the experience end users have on whatever device they might be on.

Where IT Lives in the Personal Cloud

If you’re following my train (no pun intended) of logic and you work in IT, you may be wondering what your personal responsibilities might look like in this new world. To answer Girl with tabletthis question, consider for a moment the world that an end user will live in. They will undoubtedly be using a combination of web, mobile, and desktop applications for personal use, and to get their job done. They might be getting those applications from an app store or from a departmental admin, but one thing’s for sure, there are a lot of them (and most of them aren’t built by Microsoft).

IT’s responsibility will be to manage the intersection of that personal cloud with the critical business services that the end users need. IT will be enablers, making sure users have the access they need to those services, that they are running properly, and that the data generated and stored with these services is secure. IT then will need to take a user-oriented approach.

Think you have some time to jump on the user-oriented IT bandwagon? Think again. This ships sailing baby, so hitch up the horse or get left behind. Time to unhook the trailer, and I’m not talking about that extra 10 pounds you put on to keep warm during winter. As President Barack Obama would say, change is ahead. The digital revolution is changing the way that end users work, and in turn, the way that IT gets their job done. IT professionals that are not willing to compromise with end users and embrace new technology will soon find themselves out of a job to do. Conversely, those who look to streamline their IT operations and adopt new practices and technology that improve end user productivity will find their contribution to the business bottom line invaluable.

What do you think? Is the digital revolution more hype than substance, or is IT in for some big changes just around the corner? Leave your comments below.