Cloud

New book says IT departments heading for extinction


Nicholas Carr, author of The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google, maintains that in 10 to 20 years, the traditional IT department will be a thing of the past. According to Carr, "The idea that every company needs its own IT department is dying."

He makes this assertion based on his belief that

  • Corporate IT departments will no longer be constrained by what they can buy and install locally. He refers to this as "utility computing." Companies will be able to tap into a sophisticated infrastructure without having to buy it themselves.
  • Business units will be able to control the processing of information directly, without the need for legions of technical people.
  • Software-as-a-service is going to be a big growth area.
  • There will be automation of a lot of IT processes that used to require a lot of manual labor.

Click here to read an interesting interview with Carr about his new book.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

57 comments
murdock01
murdock01

After we are gone it will be fun to watch. When these companies infrastructures are smoldering disasters, these "business units" will realize the value of good IT employees. We will get some recongnition, some respect, and a raise!!!.

S,David
S,David

The problem with the idea that IT will go away is twofold. First, the outsource, which is really not having it go away, but just putting your critical systems outside your control. Second, and more important, if you spread IT function across other departments, then those departments are not spending all their time doing what is supposed to be their specialty. I don't want my Accounts Receivable people trying to fix a network issue. I don't want my Payables people configuring new software. Also, centralized IT keeps departments from drifting into separate, incompatible, configurations. Nick is a solution searching desperately for a problem. Besides, without IT, who would everyone scream at when the Internet goes down? :-)

Tig2
Tig2

Carr's book may be drivel in the worst sense but I think he makes a near valid point when he says that IT departments will CHANGE in years to come. I've seen that happen in the last 20 years and will likely see more of it, not less. But extinct? No. Mr. Carr needs a new Ouija board.

h0ust0n
h0ust0n

This whole idea of outsourcing application hosting is old and antiquated. This was a really hot business to be in prior to the .com bust. I don't really see business putting sensitive, propriatary (sp?) information in a "public/shared" data center. I think, maybe, for the samll business man who couln't afford a data center for his business, this may open doors. But again, this whold idea is an old one (yawn...)

tonoohay
tonoohay

Without having read the book means I can only make a generalization, so here goes. Having a background in Financial and Audited IT Orgs, my feeling is the control factors will discourage many Board'O Directors, Chief Legal and Business leaders from giving up too much without ABSOLUTE belief nothing will ever go 'wrong'? Right! I'm not saying the synergy won't be there, but for the controlled environments subject to SOX operational requirements, Heavy Auditor oversight and reviews, or other mitigating factors many have no option to allow another source to be their IT world. But if the ones who can 'off-site', 'hotel', 'co-lo' are needing new hardware what makes the author think the market and employment model won't expand for any shared environment location for all these handsoff IT corporate activities. I come from mainframe as my first Techie job, and the model for usage has changed, but I don't see our Number Crunchers leaving the building anytime soon!

jdclyde
jdclyde

First, the more you automate something, the more that CAN go wrong. Second, there has been a HUGE dumbing down of the computer USERS over the last decade, and is getting WORSE, not better. People had to KNOW things to use a computer, and now they just click on a pretty picture and something does something to something and they get their report. What happens when that pretty picture accidentally gets deleted off of the desktop? Who put it there in the first place? Users today don't WANT to know anything about computers or how they work, that is why they pay us to learn the technical aspects FOR THEM. The ultimate outsource? Never happen.

scultrera
scultrera

For one thing, it sounds like he's mostly talking about infrastructure. Here are two questions to him from an interview: Q: Because remote computing facilities supply all the processing power? That's right. That doesn't mean that all the jobs and all the skills that today reside in IT departments, things like thinking about information management and information flows, and how software can be used to automate processes, it doesn't mean those jobs are going to disappear - in fact they might become more important. But my guess is that, as the IT department shifts away from being a technical resource, those kind of jobs will probably be incorporated into traditional business units and other corporate departments. Q: Your theory suggests that IT will be a tough profession in the years ahead ? employment will be slashed dramatically. There will be some super workers," so to speak, but the rank and file will see far fewer jobs. I think that's right for some categories of IT workers. Obviously when we talk about IT employment we're talking about a broad range of jobs. And, if anything, software is going to become more important to the general economy even than it is today. So those kinds of jobs, there may be more of them, but they won't necessarily reside in IT departments. But the more maintenance-focused jobs, which obviously count for quite a lot of IT employment today, I think we can assume those jobs are going to become fewer rather than greater.

adam.payne
adam.payne

I don't think the traditional IT department is going anywhere anytime soon, it might change a lot in twenty years but it's not going anywhere. Software/hardware breaks that takes a techie to fix, certain users will always need babysitting, the other slightly more competent users will always need techies to hold their hand.

waseem.parkar
waseem.parkar

Mate all this is an era from today. At its best such a world is atleast 100 years away. But then surely you would disagree as you have to back up your opinion. For the record, I agree but all this is an era away

seanferd
seanferd

Reminds me of an episode of the Twilight Zone. Automation replaced everyone. Thing is, technology will always need some human intervention. The other thing is, would you feel secure outsourcing all your IT and computational needs? I think a lot of companies would like to keep all that under their own thumbs. No accounting for poor executive decisions, though.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Lift lid on laptop Crack knuckles (blokes only) Pick nose, fart, wait for Vista to finally boot up. Start the sweaty task of the typing. IT tasks that require a lot of manual labour... Try potatoe picking for a day, what a craphead. Why do they still pick taties by hand, because it's cheaper and more effective....

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

pundits who make money off sensationalist FUD with no research behind it, will be extinct in 5-10 years. Ok, that's as likely as Carr's ideas coming true :)

alistair.joy
alistair.joy

This is always going to be a popular idea (however unrealistic) as senior management often find Business Technology one of the biggest cost centres and one of the most difficult departments to manage. So nice pipe dream for Directors, nice earner for Carr.

IronHead80
IronHead80

I've only been in the IT field for a little over a year. During this time I have spent quite a bit of my time playing babysitter to most of the users at my company, along with my supervisor. Yes IT will change and with change comes the need for someone to always be there to hold the users hand, if not most would be lost and clueless. This just proves that any moron can write a book, now how it got published I'll never know.

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

AND still WE do not see it. This despite it only being cited as 18 months from then.

No User
No User

First all of the posters thus far are nailing this poser. Excellent job. I say this poser because he is assuming that he actually has both a clue and a crystal ball. IT is all about change. DAHHHHHH!!!!!! What about IT is static? (Perhaps IP Addresses!) What about IT could possibly remain static? The biggest change will in my humble opinion for IT over the next 20 years will be the inevitable rise of IT's prominence in the board room and at the executive table or as I like to put it a seat at the big table. Face it nearly every company relays on IT in order to function and that dependence will only increase. It will never decrease but it can and in many cases will change form. I think this guy got beat up by an IT guy, had his girl taken from him by one or both. ;) Clearly this article is intended to inflame IT folks and stroke the standard business types or as I like put it the old world business types. It has no hope of of becoming reality. Once again change is the very essence of IT. I think that what you will begin to see is companies beginning to understand (by virtue of brute force) that IT has flavors and specialties and IT folks are best utilized when their efforts are focused in a tighter area then the universal monkey wrench that we are now used for. It takes more people but the results are much better.

Fluke Skywalker
Fluke Skywalker

D as in dumb... the existence of the IT department will be justified.

davidota
davidota

I think Toni Bowers is waving Raw Meat in front of the IT dogs to get a reaction. Anyone in IT knows this is the equivalent of the flying car or jet backpack. In 10-20 years I will have hit the lottery and be on an island. Call me in 20 years and see if I'm right.

Canuckster
Canuckster

How is that any different from an accounting department, human resources or maintenance? There is almost nothing that can't be out sourced or rented or done away with. Maybe we can even out source CEO's and Boards of Directors. This author is a case of a self-professed consulting guru in search of of attention. After all, one thing he can't out source is his customers.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

Nicholas Carr is the guy that wrote "IT Doesn't Matter" a couple of years ago. It seems that whenever he disappears from the public eye he writes something controversial regarding IT that panders to CEOs and CFOs fears. Essentially, if something is beyond their understanding, it is either evil or on the verge of extinction. On the plus side, followers of his particular belief system quickly fall behind more limber organizations and thus remove themselves from the corporate gene pool.

Prefbid II
Prefbid II

Corporate IT is always changing color. What existed in the corporate IT world 20 years ago is not what exists now. What exists now will certainly change in the future. Will it go away completely? Sure, just as soon as I get my flying car for my commute to work. Large companies currently have the option to outsource their entire IT operation. They are not doing it en masse. Those that are doing it, don't always get what they thought they were signing up for. The outsourced operation changes the complexion of the remaining IT personnel, but it does not eliminate the IT department. If you "eliminate" the help desk, does it actually disappear? No. Those jobs reappear in another company. However, now you have to have a person at the remaining company that knows enough about the help desk to be able to monitor the outsourced help desk to see if they are doing a good job. Shifting jobs from one company to another and then creating a new specialty of outsourcing overseer is not eliminating IT -- it just another way of reorganizing it.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

The hardware is going to be so well designed, the software so well written and our requirements understood so completely including future ones, that we won't be necessary anymore. I must say it's nice to be out of the mental institution finally, I used to have a problem with reality you know. ... ... ... Sorry I got distracted by the flying pigs for a minute there. What was I saying, oh yes alien abduction....

jedmonds905
jedmonds905

Haul monitor to second floor, test user's dead monitor to make sure it's really dead. Move enough personal belongings, snacks, bosom thumper novels and medical supplies for WWIII from underneath workstation. Disconnect monitor from workstation and install the new one. Put the user's personal belongings back in the space they occupied. Haul the %!@@@@%$$ thing downstairs. Log dead monitor on the electronic hazardous waste disposal log. Roll it out to the warehouse -- well I think you get my drift. It's not just dead equipment that gets moved around, but a host of other things. Help Desk support often includes a lot of manual labor on top of the not so physical task. It's not as clean and pretty a job as a lot of people think. Give me a break please!

bernalillo
bernalillo

FUD has been used successfully by a wide range of people since before we were people and it ain't going anywhere. Let the man have his say. 10-20 years may as well be forever. The number and type of changes we will see in that length of time are not really predictable. I have made a bunch of my own assininities and had to live with the result. Fotunately after that long no one remembers them but me. The same will with Carr in 10-20 years. (even if he got it right)

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

He did research...After his morning constitutional, he looked into the bowl and came up with his new book!

poolmanjim
poolmanjim

Exactly, IT will always be more of an overhead than a necessity in the eyes of executive management. Problems are not always popping up and when things are going good Jonny the Network Admin is entertaining a good game of WoW. To administration IT is just another expense that seems to never bring in money but when the stuff hits the fan our phones are the first to ring. Technically our job is to make sure everyone else can do their job... and better!

Tech Warrior
Tech Warrior

Not only do you need to baby sit users and admin, also hardware does break there will always be a need for technicians who know how to fix reconfigure and setup hardware. Just like cars will always need mechanics, COmputers, Networks and the like will always needs there (mechanics) the techicians

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

I prefer the term "id 10 t" to moron. The hardest parts of writing a book are remaining focused and not blowing the advance check before the book is accepted. After that, it's just putting words in a row.

bfpower
bfpower

"Change is the very essence of IT." Neatly said. I would also add that IT is a support service and therefore will continue to morph to support the needs of businesses. As long as there is business there will be service.

rdettwyler
rdettwyler

Certainly, Small Businesses could get by with a couple-three guys/gals, but to getting rid of IT dept is akin to stating that you don't need accounting dept because QuickBooks is available online. The guy's gotta be a muttonhead - has sheep for brains. (not related to previous post - this should be in the root position.)

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

http://content.techrepublic.com.com/2346-1035_11-185755.html?tag=nl.e099.dl013008 http://www.moller.com/ As for this guy's book, well, all he wants to do is sell it and make money. You know the saying, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." This guy has a little knowledge and is peddling it to the Cheif Officer crowd who have no knowledge. Those with little or no knowledge of Software as a Service don't understand that it is not a panacea; nor will it work well in places that can't GUARRANTEE 24/7 availability, even in disaster situations. The upshot of this book will be a bunch of businesses' managers making bad decisions that will cost them a lot of money, and possibly their jobs and companies.

max sandman
max sandman

REMIND THIS GUY AGAIN...PLEASE The fastest train in United States Of America runs at about 75 Miles an hours. That is in 2008 . Lets check back in about 20 years and talk about your fantasy ....

toni.bowers_b
toni.bowers_b

trying to start a discussion, I guess I am. The fact is this guy is out there publishing books on the topic of IT. If we don't dispute his points, who will?

tonoohay
tonoohay

Using some of my experience I know that the minute another entity begins "being your" customer support the monitoring is ignored by the 'big cheeze' suits because it is their project! DELL, remember? The other IT sourcing I have been dropped into that had a serious client response in the negative range where always under playing the events. I think there needs to be an independent group within companies who monitor and evaluate such transitions because of the overall impact it can have directly to a company's operation.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

in IT support in heavy industry I know it's not all sitting on your ass. I was being ironic as in british. However, my hardest physical tasks in IT don't even start to compare to a traditional physical job. I wasn't always in IT, I just needed a rest.

IronHead80
IronHead80

That's his problem, must of blown all the money so he's back with something I could use to start up a good fire during the winter.

seanferd
seanferd

Hardware support did not disappear just because tubes didn't constantly need replacing. I am wondering if you could expand on your thoughts here. A little explication might go a long way.

davidota
davidota

I mean suggesting a topic of "losing IT" in an IT forum is like going to the police department and discussing police brutality, criminal rights, and why cops suck. You will probably get someone to discuss the point, but not many supporters of the ideas. Your audience is not your target audience. Just people who disagree with a point that has little or no merit. The target would be the folks buying this guy's book. I've never heard of him and I read alot.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

Nicholas Carr will dispute the point, when his publisher gets 8 or 9 months behind with his royalty check because they followed his suggestions. Also, I kind of wonder if he uses a PC when writing, or an Underwood Number 4.

travelcare_chris
travelcare_chris

Can I get a pdf anybody? The day we have ten users that can keep Acrobat updated will be the day I consider this a possibility. This person clearly thinks end users are more tech savvy than they really are. Just the other day I told a user to click to open a program. He asked me which button. After explaining the left button and that didn't work, I explained that he needed to click twice to open a program. Job security... seriously.

Tig2
Tig2

But even if he self-published, the whole thing would be taken as a non-event. Good to see you! :)

DigitalFrog
DigitalFrog

...not any specific type of hardware. 100 years ago we were the librarians and file clerks, now we store and manage electronic information instead of paper. In another 100 years the medium may change, but there will still be a need for those that can manage, store, and retrieve information efficiently for those that need it to do their jobs.

seanferd
seanferd

you need people to deal with the new tech. The tech wouldn't even exist without people to create it.

mist27
mist27

Do any of you remember Radio Valves, some where enormous, And cost more than a computer does today, And the techs said you cant do without them. Well they are gone replaced by transistors, and soon they will be gone. obsolete. smile while you can.

toni.bowers_b
toni.bowers_b

I'm looking for people to talk about it. Suggesting that I have the wrong "target" audience is like saying my purpose is to promote his book. My purpose is to throw what he says out there and to get some cogent discussion going. If he'd said 10 years from now there won't be motion pictures, I'd have gone to imdb.com.

bfpower
bfpower

LOL right on! While some of our users can use programs, learn new things, and even use correct terminology, most of them lack the analytical ability to understand systems on a planning level. I also don't think this writer understands business. The manager's job is to PRODUCE. The typical manger's understanding of IT (and rightfully so) is that it is needed to get their job done. It's a means to an end, so they hire an expert to do it for them so they can focus on what they do. That is not going to change.

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