The Changing Role of IT Part 1 of a Two-Part Series on Enterprise Technology Adoption

Originally published March 7, 2013

Once upon a time, the IT manager was the corporate leader for technology. Once upon a time all things technology were the purview of the IT manager.

But look around today and what does IT management manage? IT management pays maintenance fees. IT management is responsible for day-to-day operations of transaction systems. IT management is responsible for upgrades. But – all things considered – IT management is a shadow of its former self when it comes to budget, new systems, end-user satisfaction and so forth. IT has ceased to be the driving force behind the future of technology in the corporation in many organizations.

What happened here?

Perhaps the first step to the loss of control by IT was the introduction of the PC. With the PC, the members of the organization could take control of information processing into their own hands. With the PC and the ubiquitous spreadsheet, the end users were equipped to do much of their own data processing. No longer was the IT department required to fetch data or create a decision-making environment. The end users could simply “do their own things.”

The PC and the spreadsheet were the first clue that control over data processing was changing, that IT was not going to be the master of the technology universe. But there was a much more subtle, much more powerful force at work as well. That force was the IT had no vision for the future of technology (or stated differently, that IT had the wrong vision of what the future would look like).

In case after case, IT would go to management and get management to buy in to the latest IT “vision,” only to have the IT vision turn to quicksand. After two or three experiences with following the IT vision du jour, management stopped listening to IT when it came to the vision of the future of technology within the organization.

As cases in point of this lack of vision by IT, consider the following very real examples:

CASE technology. Once there were conferences on CASE technology. Presentations were made and companies sprang up overnight. And today many people in the IT profession do not even remember what CASE stands for. (CASE = computer aided software engineering.) Yet IT departments coerced their organizations to spend huge amounts of money for questionable technology. So much for that IT “vision.

Guru-led visions. Once upon a time there were gurus who made such brilliant proclamations as “Someday even secretaries will be programmers,” “With a 4GL language you will get a 1000% increase in productivity,” “Let’s all do application development without programmers,” and so forth. It is hard to believe that people took these gurus seriously and that corporations were enticed to invest millions into these guru-inspired visions.

Dot-coms. Does anybody remember the dot-com phase? How we held in disdain the “old” brick-and-mortar corporations? How much money was invested in dot-com and what return on investment has there been? What happened to the companies whose IT staff led them down the path of the dot-com vision? Today dot-com is a four-letter word in many circles. No wonder management winces when IT comes up with another vision.

AI (artificial intelligence). Once upon a time a magazine had a picture of a company where all the employees were gathered and the magazine proclaimed that these AI pioneers were all future millionaires. Once upon a time the IT community went hook, line and sinker for AI as a vision for the future. What came of all that hype and furor? And exactly how many millionaires did AI produce? Or, for that matter, how many useful products came out of the AI IT vision?

Y2K. Does anyone remember the panic that arose over the Y2K crisis? IT demanded money and resources.
These examples represent only the tip of the iceberg. In case after case, IT management proclaimed its vision, got the corporation to buy into the vision, and then fell flat on its face.

Is it any wonder then that IT has lost some credibility?

SOURCE: The Changing Role of IT

  • Bill InmonBill Inmon

    Bill is universally recognized as the father of the data warehouse. He has more than 36 years of database technology management experience and data warehouse design expertise. He has published more than 40 books and 1,000 articles on data warehousing and data management, and his books have been translated into nine languages. He is known globally for his data warehouse development seminars and has been a keynote speaker for many major computing associations.

    Editor's Note: More articles, resources and events are available in Bill's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

Recent articles by Bill Inmon



Want to post a comment? Login or become a member today!

Be the first to comment!