Beginning of the end for IT departments

The emergence of services such as cloud computing, data analysis, social business and mobility has brought corporate IT to what market research company IDC has dubbed the "third platform". But Wieland Alge asks, what will the third platform mean for the CIO role?

Beginning of the end for IT departments
Beginning of the end for IT departments

The role of CIO differs depending on company size, structure and the complexity of information technology. In large companies with more than 5,000 employees and numerous specialist departments, regional and international subsidiaries, the top-level IT manager designs the applications in cooperation with departmental managers. But IT management in companies with a clear and impermeable hierarchy is still managed without cross-departmental cooperation. The CIO is the sole "ruler of his empire". But does this model still have a future? If we look at one of the major trends in IT today, cloud computing, the answer is "probably not".

The cloud: a driving force for changing roles

The cloud virtually forces a cooperative IT management style as individual departments become increasingly self-sufficient and start relying on solutions that enable them to complete their tasks faster and better. This forces IT teams to address those departments' respective business processes if they want to avoid being bypassed.

As cloud computing becomes more widely accepted, the number of IT managers that have not mastered any programming languages or written a line of code will also grow. They may not be able to write programming code, but they will score points with their business acumen because it will enable them to examine the benefits brought by software for individual business processes.

Revenue beats compliance: The rules are out of date

While there are concerns compliance regulations could be violated by the public cloud, they cannot be a barrier for change. If the management, business line managers, CIO and auditors decide the existing IT infrastructure no longer works and responsibilities have to be changed from the ground up, that is what will happen – without any consideration of compliance regulations. Compliance guidelines are not in line with the reality of "business-driven IT”.

The trick: lower costs and more flexibility

Focusing on the public cloud will help business units to meet market requirements and survive in a competitive environment. A recent Barracuda survey of 900 IT managers across Europe found this was one of the most important factors for small and medium companies with up to 500 employees when it comes to outsourcing IT into the cloud.

Improved competitive ability was second behind costs in terms of advantages offered by the public cloud (37 percent), although it was less important for companies with 5,000 and more employees (29 percent). Just under 60 percent of respondents across companies of all sizes and countries viewed cost reduction as an advantage of the cloud, with improved flexibility in second place (40 percent).

There's no doubt companies are preparing themselves for the cloud with the survey revealing 45 percent of European IT managers in the survey are planning to use public cloud in the future.

Team work is the "killer application"

The two most important areas identified for public cloud usage by the survey – team-working technologies and distributed working processes – place increasing emphasis on the ability of CIOs to collaborate with specialist departments. Mobility and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) also play a key role because they can only be realised via the cloud – and they require the CIO to work with the business lines.

The IT department's traditional role as the sole driver of IT projects and investments is changing with the emergence of cloud services. Business units are supporting cloud investments and becoming increasingly successful in implementing them because they see the advantages of the cloud most clearly. This trend was illustrated in the survey where 30 percent of respondents viewed departmental and divisional managers as supporters of public cloud services.

The CIO's core competence: Zero trust

With increasing levels of cross-departmental team-working, consultation and management, the CIO's key task as an architect will be to build a zero trust environment on the underlying infrastructure level and safeguard the organisation's ability to act.

From a security standpoint, there will no longer be a line between trust and mistrust. The CIO will have to mistrust everything and everyone. Every application and every piece of hardware can be hacked, every user surfs on unsecured sites or can share sensitive data using file-sharing services. An organisation's data is at risk from criminals, states and competitors. If IT were to break down subsequent to an attack, insolvency would not be far off. The CIO has to ensure critical infrastructures are protected against other IT components and users by additional, intelligent security gates. Each query needs to be checked, each suspicious act prevented and investigated.

Mistrust will become the CIO's guiding principle.

The organisation is changing

The third platform is already starting to cause organisational changes. Business units can meet their own demands for IT resources quickly and easily using fast and flexible cloud applications. Bypassing centralised IT departments for new cloud solutions saves time, but also brings the risk of unauthorised, potentially insecure developments within the company.

As the architect, the CIO will build up – entirely without blueprints – individual corporate networks but many of the CIO's historical responsibilities will be handed over to the business lines. Tomorrow's CIO will spend a large amount of time working with specialist departments within the organisation and be involved in projects from the outset. The CIO will be responsible for ensuring IT delivers the performance the business needs - with the zero trust concept always at the back of his mind. Eventually, the IT department will disappear as it blends in with other departments.

Contributed by Wieland Alge, VP and GM, EMEA at Barracuda Networks