CIOs split on future destiny of the IT department

Is IT waxing or waning in today's organizations? TechRepublic has taken up the topic with its CIO Jury, and the IT executives had plenty to say about it.

Is the influence of the IT department waxing or waning in today's organizations? Or is it transforming? Or, will cloud computing make IT almost completely obsolete? These are the kinds of questions that are bouncing around the IT space in 2010.

TechRepublic has taken up the topic with its CIO Jury to ask the leaders of IT where they stand. See how the jury ruled and then read our selection of comments from the IT executives. And, see how CIOs in the UK and Germany voted, as this special edition of the CIO Jury was coordinated with our international counterpoints.

The jury vote

TechRepublic polled its 100-member panel of U.S. IT executives on August 31 and asked, "Will the average in-house IT department of 2015 be much smaller than it is now?" The jury, made up of the first 12 respondents, were split exactly down the middle with six "Yes" votes and six "No" votes.

The jury for this topic was:

  1. Matthew Metcalfe, Director of IS, Northwest Exterminating
  2. Michael Knibbs, CIO of CompWest Insurance Company
  3. Joel Robertson, CIO of King College
  4. Laurie Dale, Director of IT, Ability Beyond Disabilty
  5. Kevin Quealy, Director of IS, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia
  6. Lance Taylor-Warren, CIO, H.A.W.C. Community Health Centers
  7. Mitchell Herbert, Director of IT, McCormick Barstow
  8. Michael Hanken, VP of IT for Multiquip Inc.
  9. Chris Ricciuti, CIO, Needham and Company, LLC
  10. Randy Krzyston, Director IT, Thomas Jefferson School of Law
  11. Michael Foerst, CIO, Missouri Employers Mutual Insurance
  12. Robert Culpon, Director of Information Systems for Anderson ZurMuehlen

TechRepublic's CIO Jury is based on the original CIO Jury concept developed by, where you can find lively opinions from IT leaders based in the UK.

The changing role of internal IT

Lou Hablas (Director of IT for RZIM): "Cloud computing will undoubtedly reduce the need for staff at the organizational-level, but likely increase the need for staff at the cloud-level and the outsourcing-level. I think the rise of locally-based consulting and tech support companies - many with ties to the cloud as well - is evidence of this accelerating trend." Mike Wagner (CIO for Stone & Youngberg): "The tendency to outsource the pure technology function to managed service providers will continue to increase, and resources with a purely technical skill set will work for service providers rather than internal IT Departments. In other words, the generic and commoditized aspects of IT that do not provide competitive advantage will be outsourced to service and cloud providers. However, IT functions that provide competitive advantage and cost savings via process optimization and decision support (i.e., business analysts, IT architects, BI and statistical analysts) will continue to grow and slightly offset the headcount loss associated with the outsourcing of commoditized functions to managed services and cloud providers." Chris Riccuiti (CIO of Needham and Company, LLC): "While it's true that infrastructure jobs will shift to vendor data centers, those jobs will be replaced with more 'business-centric' IT folks that will still reside in-house." Jeff Relkin (Director of IT for Quadel): "As technology becomes ever more commoditized and as the availability of objects for application construction without traditional development continues to expand, the need for in-house IT resources will dwindle. The overall organization of IT will also change, along with the skill sets required. IT professionals will need to become more mainstream business resources than ever before, with more emphasis on contributing to revenue generation rather than expense reduction." Delano Gordon (CIO of Roofing Supply Group, LLC): "Smaller but not eliminated. Cloud computing affords some reduction in staff positions but will not eliminate the need to have SMEs [subject matter experts] on staff." Michael Foerst (CIO of Missouri Employers Mutual Insurance): "Yes, on average it will be smaller but not because it is all outsourced. IT departments will leverage the capabilities of the cloud in order to allow their internal resources to become more familiar with the business and deploy technology solutions that will help differentiate their organizations in the market." Ren Johnson (IT Director of Professional Dynamics, Inc.): "IT departments and skill sets for what is required is changing due to cloud computing. We are looking at an industry on the verge of reliable cloud computing that will solve IT's maintenance and disaster recovery issues. The role of IT will be reduced to helpdesk/desktop support and IT leaders who manage vendors to maintain key critical applications and systems. The only vertical markets I see building internal cloud computing supported by their own IT departments would be regulated sectors such as financial and healthcare, although there could be some strides made into making these effective on the cloud as well."

Smaller? No, IT will grow

Kurt Schmidt (IT Director of Capital Credit Union): "With the ever-increasing usage of technology, the need for technicians to support it will only increase." Michael Woodford (Executive Director of IT, USANA Health Sciences, Inc.): "I don't believe that cloud computing will have as dramatic effect as everyone thinks it will. There may be portions of an IT shop that could be outsourced, but with an ever growing reliance on IT as a corporate resource IT shops should expect to have concurrent growth." Martin Szalay (Director of IT, FWE Co.): "I, and others, have come to find that outsourcing is a not always as cost effective, agile or as wise a decision as others would have us believe. The threat of IT downsizing has loomed over me for over 20 years now; with the evolution of newer technology, IT automation, or cutting edge business processes. Yet, we need more developers and admins than we've ever had before." Kevin Leypoldt (IS Director for Structural Integrity Associates): "While I do see (and forecast) dramatic changes in the way that IT functions, I believe that the department numbers will remain relatively stable. However the roles that make up the department will change in relationship to these shifts in technology. [For example], the pending shift to cloud computing will likely see a shift in resources to networking and security from server and desktop support."

Booming IT in health care and finance?

Brian Wells (CTO of Penn Medicine): "Not in the healthcare sector. The systems are only getting more complex and automation is spreading to more and more of the enterprise requiring more and more diverse expertise and support." Lance Taylor-Warren (CIO of H.A.W.C. Community Health Centers): "Cloud computing is just one of many options that a company has to look at moving forward. No one knows what the next big thing will be. IT departments may shrink in certain markets, but health care IT is on the cusp of a huge growth phase due to health care reform and the requirements being forced on the industry by the federal government. Outsourcing can't address the hands-on need." John Gracyalny (Director of IT, SafeAmerica Credit Union): "No, it will be larger. At least in the Finance industry, primarily due to increasing regulation." Jeff Cannon (CIO, Fire and Life Safety America): "No. Proportional to the rest of the business, the in-house IT department will be roughly the same for best-in-class companies. Roles may shift. An IT department that is very tactical today - systems maintenance, security, backup, archiving, user support, etc - may see its focus shift towards strategic planning, partner/vendor management, audit and compliance tasks. Whether it's private cloud, public cloud, non-cloud or some future permutation we have yet to see, there is still risk to manage."

CIOs in UK and Germany disagree

This special edition of the CIO Jury was coordinated with our sister sites, in the UK and in Germany. We all posed the same question to our IT executive panels. Interestingly, the UK and Germany posted divergent results. UK IT chiefs voted "Yes" by a margin of 10-2 that future IT departments would shrink. Meanwhile, German IT leaders were far more optimistic, voting "No" by a unanimous 12-0.

Would you like to be part of TechRepublic's CIO Jury and have your say in the hottest issues facing today's IT departments? See if you meet the requirements to participate and then drop us a line.


Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

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