Does the IT department have a future?

With the rise of cloud services and open-source in business, there’s an ongoing debate in some companies: What is our IT department really for? 

It’s a silly argument or at best a huge overstatement to say that IT is no longer needed. The ability to control and maintain secure systems is always going to be a must.

But a recent Wired article wonders about the future facing IT departments as the cloud has led to less maintenance of server equipment and users prefer consumer apps to their business counterparts.

Clarifying IT’s role

Consumerization is having all kinds of effects on the way your department is run — some good, others not so much. One of those effects is that people start to question “Why is IT blocking me from using programs I like and making me use theirs instead?”

It’s unlikely you’ll be called on to defend your department’s existence: Most C-level execs don’t know exactly what IT does, but they’re pretty sure it’s an important thing to have around.

But here are some ways you can clarify IT’s role in the new age of consumer-driven enterprise:

1. Gatekeepers are still needed

Users may have a better idea of security and more savvy than they did just a few years ago. But that doesn’t mean they’re security experts.

A big key to the future of IT will be not just maintaining your own systems and protecting them against vulnerabilities. It’ll also be protecting against the external threats users are unknowingly bringing into your systems.

In short, the more applications and outside services that are brought in, the more you’ll need people who can secure your systems against their threats.

2. Collaboration services

While cloud services are becoming more and more common in enterprise, most companies aren’t quite sure what to do with these new-found tools. The result: They don’t use them to their full potential.

IT is uniquely positioned to not only help set up cloud for enterprise, but also to help users get the most out of it. By virtue of being the department that maintains this service, you can help users collaborate and help departments connect together to get more out of the data they already have.

Forming these connections will be an important changing role for the IT department of the future.

3. Users will always need help

Finally, IT has one thing going for it that will never go away: Users will continue to have problems and want to know one place they can go to get them solved.

Vendors are good at troubleshooting major issues with their services. But if a user needs something fixed right away (if not sooner), they want to know the person they can go to for help.

As long as there’s a human element to technology — and by all indications there always will be — IT will be needed to support it. Remember, tech is only half your department’s job. The people are the other half.

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