A brief answer to the question, is Corporate IT dead? Yes and No. Please hear me out.

IT has been hit by three main evolutions over the last two decades. The Mobile evolution, the social evolution and the newest of all, the Cloud evolution. The cloud computing evolution continues to have the most interesting and revolutionary impact on the IT Function.

Until recently for some organisations, and still very much a reality in many organisations, the primary objective of the corporate IT department/function has been to deliver value by managing the whole IT supply chain. That, dear readers,is not a small task. It involves several different skills, processes, functions and departments working together to source, design, produce and deliver information technology services that are robust, scaleable, secure and available.

A quick peek into the supply chain and you realise that IT has to manage several resources like computer hardware, including all types of servers, end client computing, devices like laptops and mobile devices, printers, software, apps, wireless and wired network equipment, firewall devices, authentication systems. The list is endless. In addition, IT has also carried the mantle of data centre carers; managing the big supercooled vast football sized rooms that house most of the IT hardware these days.

To manage such a vast complex array of software and hardware technology most large to very large organisations have seen huge organic and unoptimised growth of the IT function, creating and expanding departments like dedicated help desks, end client computing, dedicated network management teams, server build teams, database administrators, network security teams and mobile specialists. Yes, some functions are outsourced, but in many cases, that adds to the complexity and creates further chaos.

Let’s not underestimate the scope of the effort that IT undertakes in things like:

  • Provisioning new hardware, sometimes including unboxing, racking powering on,
  • Ensuring availability of sufficient power, air conditioning,
  • Provisioning new servers, where an operating system is installed on the newly racked server,
    • Configuration management,
    • Patch management,
    • Security hardening,
  • Provisioning the service, where the server is readied for “battle” and necessary functionality is enabled, for example, installing and enabling the web server component,
    • Configuration management,
    • Patch management,
    • Security hardening.

Furthermore, there remains an ongoing debate about how much of the current IT function could fall into the “blue collar” category as there is, as anyone who has been IT for years now, a considerable amount of manual effort involved in running IT. The opposition, however, would argue that sitting for hours at a keyboard, sometimes in a near freezing data centre, trying to install and configure an Operating system, is NOT blue collar work. The jury remains out on this.

So, is this ongoing Cloud computing evolution so disruptive, so powerful to change the Corporate IT function? Without going into too much detail; On the surface the Cloud as a service model of Infrastructure, Software and Platform (IasS, SaaS and PaaS respectively) appears to provide the Perfect Nirvana where the Cloud takes care of everything.

Imagine not having to manage the supply chain of your infrastructure! Imagine now not having the deal with software licensing and procurement! Finally, imagine having a ready built platform ready when you want it, no waiting around! Sounds too good to be true? Again, my answer is Yes and No.

The cloud computing model promises to take away the immediate and sometimes physical pain associated with the traditional IT supply chain by means of automation and straightforward outsourcing.

With Cloud: Gone are the steps like: order the hardware, wait and wait more for the delivery, ensure you have the spare parts, ensure the cabling is available, rack the hardware.

With Cloud: Gone are the steps like: Call engineer to install the operating system, call another engineer to install the application, ooops, order the latest operating system or application CD. Pay for the licenses.

I could go on, but you get the point.

What the cloud evolution does not and will not do is take away the accountability, responsibility and ownership from an organisation. You still need the processes and policies and the people to underpin this evolution.

What is different? If managed properly, the Cloud evolution will see the dawn of true white collar IT employees who are more skilled in the management of IT, more skilled in the governance of IT and more skilled and aware of their organisations IT strategy. The future of the IT function is optimised, integrated and collaborative. The cloud evolution could truly create a Business Focused IT function. Something that the IT department should have been from the start.

This article was originally published in the KuppingerCole Analysts' View Newsletter.