Forecasting the Future of Enterprise IT

ByAllan E. Alter and Jeanne G. Harris

Ifyou could pick one business function to rebuild completely from scratch, whichwould it be? Accenture posed this provocative question to 152 IT executives and164 other executives in four countries. The top pick by far, especially among technologyexecutives, was the IT organization. Half of the respondents to our survey alsosaid they are or soon will be revamping enterpriseIT. 

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

Most executives are still scratching their heads. Sixty-eightpercent don?t have a clear vision of what the IT function will look like by2016. Even more lack a clear vision of the future role of the CIO.

Who could blame them? There are plenty of questions abouthow cloud computing, mobile systems andconsumer technologies willaffect IT organizations.

The uncertainties extend beyond technology. ITorganizations are affected by the same mercurial social, political and economicforces that shape the business world. Planning for a flat, connected andtech-enabled future, without considering whatbusinesses will require from IT as a result of shifting social, economic andpolitical forces, is at best na?ve 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 crisesand geopolitical tensions intensify and lead to a more fragmented world.That could force companies to cut back on foreign ITlabor and vendors, and might cause executives to restructurebusiness and IT operations.

Take consumer technology. It could continue to transformeveryday life and IT expectations.  Or, datasecurity and privacy worries couldmake people and companies wary of the Internet. It?s difficult to imagine a worldwithout the Internet, but some executives are trying.  Twenty-seven percent of the executives wesurveyed expect tostart seeking alternatives to the Internet by 2016.

Another uncertainty: how competition from multinationalsbased in the developing world will challenge established companies and the waythey manage IT. Forty-two percent of the IT executives we polled think globalmultinationals are likely to radically lower their IT costs. That will catchthe eye of your CFO.

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

How can yourIT leadership team startplanning your company?sfuture IT organization? Byworking with other executives to envisionthe possible future business environments. Then they?ll have to think about the pressures each will place onyour IT organization, and the different decisions thatwill compel IT leadership to make.

The following 10questions will help executivesstart making connections between future visions and basic IT decisions aboutorganizational structure, IT investments, skills and technologies such as cloudcomputing. 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, anticipatepossible changes and design a more agile IT function.

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