ASP.NET Security Consultant

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The end of the IT Department?

Published on: 2011-02-26

I came across an interesting post predicting the end of the IT department. Basically, the author argues that IT is too rigid in its methods and departments will find ways to work around IT fairly soon, making IT departments obsolete.

While I think this blogger (David) is somewhat correct in that the traditional IT department is in danger, I think he has over-simplified the problems in communication between business and IT. (Despite the fact that this is my second blog post recently rebutting a point made on a 37signals blog, I swear I don't have anything against the company itself or its bloggers.)

To start, David's characterization of IT personnel as creating roadblocks in order to keep jobs for themselves only perpetuates false stereotypes of IT workers. One does not need to look hard before finding out that the "rigid and inflexible policies" put in place by the IT workers are often there to protect the company's data, either from accidental or malicious acts. Bad information makes Information Technology useless, so it is vital that workers knowledgeable about technology help guide the process to maintain good information. It may take a few mistakes for business departments to realize this, but I'm sure they will at some point. Secondly, business users, whether they know it yet or not, need an IT department to ensure that companies are protecting their data and keeping systems secure. Finally, it will be a LONG time before medium-sized (much less large) companies can get most or all of the services it needs from "a web site somewhere". It is extremely tough to integrate technologies, customize workflows, increase security, etc. without some sort of IT department.

I would agree, however, that the days of the traditional IT department are numbered. I have not done sufficient research to say what the trends are, but I think it would make sense to reorganize the IT functions to break up its current functions into different areas. In many companies, it may make sense for each department to have personnel that have IT skills appropriate for that department. For example, public-facing web development and design may be done by marketing personnel or financial rules may be programmed by accounting personnel. Rather than eliminating the IT department, personnel in the IT department would instead be responsible for ensuring consistency in approach, ensuring safe data (both in terms of security and in reliability), and evaluating future trends for company applications.

For such a scenario to occur, we must all be more knowledgeable. At least David and I agree that the future of IT involves having more technically-savvy business people, but I would take it further than he seems to. Business people will need to learn the basics of programming, source control, and other similar items. IT personnel will need expand their knowledge and experience beyond simply maintaining computers and computer systems to learn more about enterprise-level concerns and functions. It would not be an easy transition, but I think it is a necessary one in order to get the most out of our technology efforts.

This article was originally posted here and may have been edited for clarity.