IT departments to become services brokers

IT departments must relinquish their control over IT and work with their businesses to focus on the value IT brings

The Thorp Network's John Thorp.

The Thorp Network's John Thorp.

IT departments must come to terms with their new future as services brokers or face being increasingly marginalised within their own organisations, according to Thorp Network, John Thorp.

Speaking to Computerworld Australia prior to his presentation at the Oceania CACS2011 conference, Thorp said a ‘perfect storm’ of the Cloud, big data, real time business analytics, mobile devices, the consumerisation of IT and social media was realigning traditional boundaries of the IT department.

“All of that is really changing the balance of who makes decisions about IT,” Thorp said. “On top of that is the track record of the success of IT projects is about 30 per cent, then throw in the financial crisis where no-one is focusing on value, and all that means there needs to be significant change.

“IT in itself doesn’t deliver value; it is how we use it that does. How we manage the change that IT both shapes and enables is critical.”

Thorp said another major challenge was IT governance — an issue which affected whole organisations, but which was typically passed on to IT to manage.

“Unfortunately IT governance suffers from the same thing anything else with ‘IT’ in front of it does: it is seen as an IT issue and therefore the IT function looks after it.

“However, it’s not technology — it’s the change that technology shapes and brings — and IT cannot manage that. The business has to own that and step up to it. Yet, the number one thing [IT leaders] tell me is that they can’t get the executive engaged in discussions about IT. They abdicate it and hand it to the IT function.”

In addition to a more sophisticated approach to IT governance, IT departments also needed to move away from the function of acquiring and managing technology on behalf of the business to one that brokered technology services — often supplied externally —for the business, Thorp said.

“The business units have to take responsibility and accountability as to how that technology is used and how they create value from it,” he said. “My concern is that as it comes increasingly easy for business to buy their own devices it isn’t yet understood that it isn’t about technology; it is about change.

“If IT doesn’t now grow into a position where it is trusted partner — helping the business understand how it optimises the value from the services it already has and the opportunities technology presents — then it will miss out.”

Thorp said one of the major constraints in transitioning to this new approach to delivering IT was the “huge amount of baggage” IT departments carried with them as to how IT should be delivered.

“The constraints against moving to this new approach is not from the business not wanting to be engaged — which is a very large challenge — but there are a number of people in the IT departments who don’t want to give up their technology,” he said.

ISACA is holding its Oceania CACS2011 conference to be held in Brisbane from 18-23 September, which will explore issues such as control, risk management, data loss prevention and assurance for Cloud strategies.

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