Forecasting the Future of Enterprise IT

By Allan Alter & Jeanne Harris Print this article Print

Don’t take for granted that the future will be flat, connected and technology-friendly. Don’t assume tomorrow’s business and IT environment will be a continuation of today’s. Instead, use these 10 questions to explore what the future might require from your IT department.

By Allan E. Alter and Jeanne G. Harris

If you could pick one business function to rebuild completely from scratch, which would it be? Accenture posed this provocative question to 152 IT executives and 164 other executives in four countries. The top pick by far, especially among technology executives, was the IT organization. Half of the respondents to our survey also said they are or soon will be revamping enterprise IT. 

Executives are eager to overhaul their IT departments, but what will tomorrow’s IT organizations look like after they are overhauled? What will be their roles, responsibilities and priorities?

Most executives are still scratching their heads. Sixty-eight percent don’t have a clear vision of what the IT function will look like by 2016. Even more lack a clear vision of the future role of the CIO.

Who could blame them? There are plenty of questions about how cloud computing, mobile systems and consumer technologies will affect IT organizations.

The uncertainties extend beyond technology. IT organizations are affected by the same mercurial social, political and economic forces that shape the business world. Planning for a flat, connected and tech-enabled future, without considering what businesses will require from IT as a result of shifting social, economic and political forces, is at best naïve and at worst dangerously myopic. 

Global integration and economic cooperation aren’t givens. We hope they continue, but we may not be that lucky if today’s economic crises and geopolitical tensions intensify and lead to a more fragmented world. That could force companies to cut back on foreign IT labor and vendors, and might cause executives to restructure business and IT operations.

Take consumer technology. It could continue to transform everyday life and IT expectations.  Or, data security and privacy worries could make people and companies wary of the Internet. It’s difficult to imagine a world without the Internet, but some executives are trying.  Twenty-seven percent of the executives we surveyed expect to start seeking alternatives to the Internet by 2016.

Another uncertainty: how competition from multinationals based in the developing world will challenge established companies and the way they manage IT. Forty-two percent of the IT executives we polled think global multinationals are likely to radically lower their IT costs. That will catch the eye of your CFO.

No wonder it’s so hard to envision the future of the IT organization and the CIO. There are many possible futures, and each could affect IT priorities and operations.

How can your IT leadership team start planning your company’sfuture IT organization? By working with other executives to envision the possible future business environments. Then they’ll have to think about the pressures each will place on your IT organization, and the different decisions that will compel IT leadership to make.

The following 10questions will help executives start making connections between future visions and basic IT decisions about organizational structure, IT investments, skills and technologies such as cloud computing. Some questions focus on the fundamentals of how IT creates value. Others are more timely questions for running tomorrow’s IT organization. Together, they can help you envision your revamped IT organization, anticipate possible changes and design a more agile IT function.

This article was originally published on 2012-07-17
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