Techie role diminishes as IT services morph to 'utility'

The role of the IT shop is changing rapidly as application development, IT maintenance and network management evolves into a "commodity".

Mass customisation is turning a range of IT services into utilities, according to users, analysts and service providers.

Harris Scarfe Ltd IT general manager, Jeff Hobart, said there is less in-house specialisation today, because it is impossible to have an IT shop with all the latest Java skills as well as qualifications in Oracle or other languages, whereas providers have more diverse skill sets on demand.

"We still maintain our legacy applications in-house but new projects such as finance and e-commerce are bolt-on modules supported by the vendor; there is still some in-house application development especially in manufacturing where a lot of development was done in the 1980s," Hobart said.

Analysts and service providers have now dubbed the remote delivery of standardised IT services or business processes to enterprises as "IT utilities".

In the past it was called data hosting services, Web hosting or more recently selective outsourcing. But today application development traditionally carried out by the IT shop isn't so customised, with more standard offerings available from service providers.

Gartner chief analyst for IT services in the Asia Pacific, Rolf Jester said applications and services are developed once and delivered to many; it is the age of mass customisation as IT becomes a commodity.

Standardised IT services are available on demand using dependable infrastructure, simply on tap for cheap and easy usage.

"This has changed IT shops where the IT manager is now managing multiple relationships; their job is to source strategy," Jester said.

In Australia, Jester said, most organisations keep some IT in-house pointing to a reluctance to share servers with an outside provider, but they will combine outside facilities and computing assets.

Even with the infrastructure in place, he said organisations seek outside help on their own premises to simply manage and maintain some IT.

This is particularly true in financial services and telecommunications organisations where more than 60 per cent of these companies in the Asia Pacific region have deployed IT utility services. The main drivers are operational efficiency and quality of service.

IBM Global Services Asia Pacific principal for e-business on demand Anand Pradhan said companies have begun to look at IT services the same way they look at other utilities.

"We will increasingly see more complex business processes delivered as utility services including e-procurement, business intelligence and security," Pradhan said.

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