IT’s changing role

Mobility has been the catalyst for change in many organisations, impacting everything from the speed of processes that run the business, right down to the role and responsibilities of IT departments.

With more IT buying decisions being made by end-users, IT is now charged with a different set of expectations and sometimes even viewed as being disconnected. Most companies unavoidably have some level of disconnect between their various departments, which often results in parallel management structures, conflicting policies and opposing budgeting goals.

But it’s the bring your own device (BYOD) trend, which started with the release of the iPhone and spread from the top down across large enterprise through SMEs, that best illustrates the growing disconnect between users, line of business (LOB) managers and the IT department that once was the sole technology gatekeeper.

IT Directors are extremely concerned about the security and management risks that come with BYOD, but end-user research says end-users and LOB managers simply are not. No surprise there, but indicative of the diverging viewpoints and the evolving role of IT. BYOD, by its very definition, means end-users choose and pay for the device, leaving IT with the management and security repercussions of those choices.

And that is where the responsibility of IT lives in mobility. However, negative issues are often traced to perceived roles. IT has always existed to support the needs of the business, but has often acted as a branch of leadership, dictating its policies and imposing technology decisions. If BYOD brings efficiencies to the business, IT needs to get on board. When it doesn’t, or when deep collaboration is called for to maintain pace with the speed of mobile innovations, some organisations have taken the bold step of integrating IT departments directly into the line-of-business– potentially the start of a new trend. It has also been a strategy to alleviate the competition between IT and LOB for budget pounds, acknowledging that it can be difficult to execute a comprehensive mobility strategy when budgets are fragmented across departments rather than aligning with an overall company goal.

So what does IT’s role in mobility look like now that they have loosened its responsibilities on buying technology? At the highest of levels, its focus continues to centre on the business’s objectives for revenue, customer insight technologies as well as efficiencies and risk mitigation. But at the nuts and bolts level, its energies are clearly focused on back-end infrastructure, security and working to make networks, devices and applications interoperate automatically.

Base line management expectations are that IT will manage a multi-OS environment with security systems that stitch together heterogeneous devices into something controllable. But when it comes to user expectations, IT has plenty of room left to innovate. Users want IT to focus intensely on the user experience of applications and make security as transparent as possible while also working to automate as many tasks as possible, spanning all areas such as communications, support and social.

Perhaps one of the more significant expectations that mobility has levied on IT is the directive to make everything simple. For organisations that have purchased disparate solutions over time, have multiple offices and made one or two acquisitions, making systems simple is no short order. But when it comes to mobility and the degree to which BYOD has involved end-users, simplicity is more important than ever. End-users need to be insulated from the technology as much as possible, which mean apps need to be straightforward and usable with little to no training and back office systems seamlessly integrated.

IT’s role may be changing, but it clearly has plenty still on its plate.