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Your IT Department Has Outlived Its Usefulness

explosionIt’s time to blow up the Information Technology (IT) department as we know it. It has outlived its usefulness and over-stayed its welcome. It just doesn’t work any more. Say goodbye.

The proponents of agile development, devops and Scrum, myself included, are getting no where fast. It’s not the fault of IT departments per se. The core issue relates to the way big corporations are run. They centralize everything — command and control — top down design — role specialization — all the stuff that’s about as anti-agile as it gets.

The IT department is a victim caught in a bureaucratic maze. Even if the IT team tries to do things differently, the corporate culture police will stymie their efforts. Big companies demand conformity even when it hinders positive outcomes.

Consider this simple example. Bring you own device (BYOD) is a hot topic in just about all major corporations. Some allow it, some don’t. But think about it. In a large corporation, some business units deal with highly sensitive information where BYOD is a significant risk. Other units don’t. Why should all units be limited in deploying BYOD options? It’s because a centralized IT organization seeks conformity by design.

The only viable solution is to blow it up. Destroy the IT department as we know it — decentralize. Move the IT functions out into the business units where IT will have to be responsive to business needs or perish entirely.

“You Can’t Do That!”Really, why not?

“Duplication of effort. Each business unit will reinvent the wheel.” That’s a self-serving argument. It assumes that business units won’t cooperate and help each other. The issue can best be addressed using a “Centers of Excellence” model whereby the best ideas are refined and distributed to all units by leading experts in their fields. Business units can take the advice and benefit from a body of knowledge or blaze their own trail without support.

“It will cost a fortune as hardware is overly-specialized and software licenses are scattered about.” Those sound like functions for a Center of Excellence (CoE) too. It’s more cost effective to buy a big physical server and share it across multiple virtual machines than to buy many physical servers. It’s also more cost effective to buy software licenses in big blocks rather than multiple small blocks. A CoE can monitor those things and make specific recommendations as needs arise.

“Staffing flexibility will be lost requiring units to hire specialized skills rather than share them across projects.” Okay, there’s some validity to this argument. Will each business unit need a full-time DBA or Security Admin? Probably not. Those that do can hire as needed. Those that need occasional services could use outside contractors or better still, draw from an internal pool of “inside consultants”.

“Some things really should be centralized.” Agreed. Some network infrastructure components are best left to centralized management. After all, it’s one big corporate network not a bunch of LANs. The same can be said for help desk functions. No one wants to call multiple help desks to troubleshoot a problem. It’s okay to centralized in special cases where it makes good business sense.

Blowing up IT will place many people far outside of their comfort zones. Get over it. It’s time to get smarter and move faster. Oh, and while we’re at it, what if we blew up Human Resources, Finance, Operations, Procurement, etc.? Think of the possibilities.

photo credit: Dioboss via photopin cc

Updated: October 23, 2013 — 9:40 pm

5 Comments

  1. I guess if you last long enough, you do see complete cycles complete. I lived through IT decentralization in the 80s/90s (!) and it didn’t change the culture much,just created more IT managers… Its a pendulum swing, reorgs, and ideas like decentralization will swing back and forth. Reorgs will not change culture, because they happen too often. You have to do it directly, and change what matters, company policy. If you think your area needs less BYOD security, lobby for the change, get into policy management processes. It is hard work, but that’s where it counts. Reorgs will not do it. There may be many reasons for blowing up IT, but this isn’t one of them.

    1. Yes, David. My BYOD example is perhaps too simplistic. The point is simply that IT is not providing enough value. We need to find another way.

      1. I believe most people don’t appreciate what IT does anymore because it is expected to be there, but heaven help us if there is any kind of outage. That is a lot of pressure, and change means risk, so minimizing risk is core to continuous service.
        . so of course this is inhibiting to change efforts. You need to be prepared to share the risk, pay not just for change but for capability to reverse any change if things go bad.

  2. Yes! Network structure is the answer to this, building teams around business value creation – not functions. Reading a lot from Niels Pflaeging

    1. Glad you agree, Andrej. It’s time to try something different.

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