Emerging Tech

Poll: Will the average IT department be smaller in five years?

Will cloud computing make traditional IT obsolete or will IT scale-up as tech becomes embedded in every aspect of business? Take our poll.

Right now there's an on-going debate among tech workers over the future of the IT department. Will cloud computing and outsourcing conspire to make traditional IT obsolete? Or, will IT scale-up as technology becomes more and more embedded in every part of modern organizations?

TechRepublic recently asked its CIO Jury to weigh in on this topic and the IT executives were split 50/50 on whether IT departments will be smaller five years from now than they are today. So now we'd like to pose the same question to the entire TechRepublic audience.

What do you think the average IT department will look like in another five years? Take the poll and then jump into the discussion to share your thoughts.

Take the poll

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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 upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).

39 comments
jsaubert
jsaubert

It's impossible to say what the future will bring. Do I think IT departments will be larger? Not really. Do I think IT department will be smaller? Maybe. It really depends on the use of the words larger and smaller. While it's likely that the group of people 100% within the IT department may be fewer other departments may take on functions that used to be the domain of IT or entirely new departments may be used in conjunction with the original IT department. I think it will be more common for "split" functionality in the future. One department that deals with the implementation of hardware, programing and back-end things. And another department that deals more directly with the end-user, internal tech support and day-to-today things like replacing monitors and keyboards. At the end of the day the number of people in the "traditional" sort of IT department may be smaller but I feel that the number (or percentage) of people in a given organization that should be considered IT will be the same. Hardware still breaks, users still need training, Murphy still strikes. The cloud doesn't change that, it just shifts the focus.

maclovin
maclovin

THis is based upon assumptions that companies are upgrading all their systems on a yearly/bi-yearly basis. I can't count the number of people that are resistant to change, especially your average user. Also, people are afraid of IT in general. Until the older "thinkers" (CIOs, IT Managers) are retired and new ideas come in, it's not going to happen, especially not by 2015. I'd like to hear a poll on how many places still use systems based upon technologies that are older than 10 years....or a server older than 5 years.

barbara-gilbert
barbara-gilbert

Yes, more focus will be on SME and process management

colin.cruikshank
colin.cruikshank

It all depends on what you mean by "Much". Very subjective statement and the results show that.

ElderEagle
ElderEagle

The death of IT has been predicted for decades. First, the mainframe was going to be replaced by the mini. Then, by PCs and PC networks. Smaller, simpler computers means less expense, right? Funny -- it didn't work out that way. Decentralizing IT costs more in infrastructure and personnel, and it isn't abating, it's accelerating. Toy computers and toy operating systems have not yet delivered what was promised.

wlportwashington
wlportwashington

Thanks to outsourcing, or what it should be properly called - Off Shoring, I feel that we will see a further reduction of in-house IT Departments. Offshoring the IT work to third world nations like India saves companies millions, so they feel. But as anyone can tell you from calling one of those offshored support sites, the service and technical skill is beyond lacking which in the long run costs more money that it saves. But companies, especially the accountants do not see that. Only the "savings" that comes from off shore. As the economy tanks further and further, I am sure that we will see a further reduction.

randyk
randyk

The need for IT staff will not be diminished by virtual or cloud computing. The same issues are still going to be there that are here today. They will just be resolved in a slightly different manner. Tech support staff will have to have a higher level of skill in order to be capable of resolving the issues but I do not think there will be a diminished need for technical staff. I may have the skill set to accomplish any task within the IT department, but I am only one person and I can still only handle so may issues at a time and no matter how many things I have going on at one time; I can only do one thing well at a time. The more I have going on at once the longer it takes to complete any one task. Since the number of end users is not getting smaller; I do not believe the number of required technicians will be getting any smaller. Not to mention that there are so many niches in IT that one can get involved in and specialize in; I don?t see the IT departments shrinking. If they do shrink they will be going to outsourced services and the IT departments will be going into business for themselves and becoming independent solution providers. IT for hire; so to speak.

codepoke
codepoke

We're service oriented now, right? Our services are still expanding, and so will the people required to provide them. The job of the Telephone Operator is dead, but the job of the PBX operator is more technical, pays better, and expands the connectivity service rendered to the customer. Our jobs will be replaced, but they'll be replaced by the kinds of jobs only people like us can do.

Rod_V
Rod_V

Companies are using more and more online web based applications instead of local installed software. This takes away a nice ammount of "job" between server and client installation, local maintenance and support.

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

There will be less techies and more business-centric IT people.

mike_patburgess
mike_patburgess

I am a mainframe guy of the 80's. Although the datacenters were huge, by comparison, the data center of today is massive. People are demanding more and more services, more uptime, more more more... These demands put the datacenter under pressure to add these services which in turn mean more and more hardware and software. People we tried to put distributed computing together in the 70's and 80's. Yes, Cloud Computing is a variant of distributed computing. We had some limited success with DC but, people want to control their own data and not have someone else. There is a paranoia of wanting to own your own stuff. To that end will data centers embrace the "new (old)" technology of cloud computing. To a limited degree, yes but on the whole, people will not really jump on the yet another new band wagon or chase yet another red baloon. Yes, there will be those pundits out there that bang their fists on the table and say that we will make the major move... to them I say Yawnnnn... We've seen it before guys and we'll see it all again..

khafner
khafner

I actually think that IT departments will become smaller as a result of the economy and the desire to reduce costs more than anything else. It seems to be a common idea that people should do more and work more efficiently so this will apply towards the IT department. The focus of the IT staff is changing as well. The 2 years I have been with my company we have merged 2 times, and have grown to a company 3x to 4x bigger than when I first started. The IT department has only grown by 3 people in that time frame, all developers or DBA's. The admins and engineering side has remained stable and will continue to do so.

rtillotson
rtillotson

By oursourcing most IT functions, and utilizing temporay contract IT specialists, organizations will be able to initiate and complete most IT projects expeditiously and with less payroll dollars.

Niunio
Niunio

Interesting. 7 servers PDC - File and print server as well DC - Sophos EXCHANGE DATABASE NAS server TERMINAL SERVER MS CRM Server and File server 130 users. Head office in Canada 2 locations in USA connected through VPN. 1 support guy. Do you really think they are going to cut one guy in half?

asics447
asics447

IMHO - there is not much more to downsize here in IT- sure they will try but in the end it will cost more - with all of the outsourcing/offshoreing there still needs to be a handful of people who know what is going on - staff will be about the same or decrease slightly but that envelope will be pushed to see how much you can take away while still funtioning as a company - It all comes down to Money that is it and could care less about customer service or functionally

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

One place I worked at was still using a 286, not even an XT to run a critical piece of kit, 16 bit printer/vga card died and it cost them 50,000 pounds to replace it..... If it isn't broke, don't fix it, is okay as far as it goes, a better definition of broken would be good though.

maclovin
maclovin

I can't help myself, but.... You mean Windows? Ahhhkay, that's it for me!

zoso967
zoso967

there will be more need for app developers and less need for administrative roles. sec, server maint and the like will be outsourced more easily but app dev will be the competitive aspect of IT. sure app developers will be expected to know more about the business but this will help them to make the co more competitive by developing apps for new platforms like smart phones and other platforms yet to be developed for our cars, appliances etc... it will be exciting if nothing else ... developers can be expected to morph into bus/techies ...

Trauk
Trauk

As we change our support model (adding more vendor support) and limited outsourcing, we still need to increase staff to handle users, problems, setup, replacements. We have added a new person in November and are adding an additional low level computer tech this month. Went from 450 to almost 600 users in the last year. Just saying outsourcing and the cloud has not been a proven solution for us in attempting to downsize.

amk32
amk32

OK, so something goes down in the middle of the night in a 24/7 operation (network node, server, database, application), are you really going to get an outsourced temporary specialist to be on call who is going to give a rat's ass? I work in such an operation and believe me, the contract personnel are not the people we call when there is a problem - for that very reason.

m@rcel
m@rcel

Sorry to bother you but if they put their apps in the cloud, you're out.

zentross
zentross

A similar setup here in the US involves 3 sysadmins, one help desk, and two user support specialists. Who replaces the hardware at your remote sites or is that outsourced on an as needed basis?

mic1235
mic1235

Well the staff might go up. I think by that year most it people will work from home going in to work 1 time a week to have a meeting. you could do it by phone but myself having been a manager I would like the team to come together. Lets me know what they are having problems with and it is good for if there is a roll out of some new updates.

mattohare
mattohare

And, I think most of the time I see IT staff dealing with servers being to hide after dealing with a difficult user.

maclovin
maclovin

....It's no different on this side of the pond, though. Watch "The IT Crowd" much over there?

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

It's difficult to "cloud" these industries... So hospitals will continue to have large IT staffs.

DimBulb
DimBulb

App developers will be the ones outsourced. The hands-on techs will be around because the users want/need someone to look over their shoulder and show them what they did wrong. Servers need to be physically checked periodically for overheating problems, cables and/or wireless nodes will need attention, computer/monitors... will require replacement and repair. The kind of work that requires a human presence interacting with other humans will keep the network people employed. Apps can be outsourced much easier and with less disruption to the day-to-day operations.

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

I used to have this fantasy when working for a 100% in-house IT department, that outsourcing everything would make my life better. Then I changed jobs. Now I'm in an environment with outsourced everything. Our line of business app provider has their own T1 into our location. That's two point of failures and that has failed multiple times. On top of that we get raped monthly for this (lack of) service. We've been down more in the six months I've been here than in the six years at my previous place with our in-house systems. Truth is that to cloud providers all their customers are is a number on a balance sheet. If you could quantify how much they actually gave a damn about you and your business from a scale from 1 to 10, you would get a 1/X where X is their total number of clients. To in-house IT, you are THE priority, not A priority. In-house IT has a dog in the hunt, unless you're a big customer, outsourced IT could care less if you renewed. You'll just be replaced by the next sucker.

SomeContractor
SomeContractor

I've been involved in various 24/7 systems over the years, working through various companies. Sysadmins and IT staff at clients come and go, people at the company building the systems come and go, one thing remains constant: calls (sometimes in the middle of the night) from someone I've never heard of: 'I'm the new person responsible for system XYZ, and the previous guy said you know a lot about it. Something broke, can you help me fix it? You can send us a bill for your time'

four49
four49

Sure they will ... when all of those cloud apps provide all of the functionality the company had with their in-house systems. This will happen the day that vendors fulfill all promises made to the users - in other words when hell freezes over. Cloud apps will reduce the need for support and implementation staff, but there will always need to be a technical person to help the technically clueless make it all work.

Sagax-
Sagax-

There is the very real potential that the IT Dept. will be blended into all the operating departments. Left behind will be something like a "Network Architect" and network maintenance personnel. The developers will blend with the "help desk" people into all or most operating departments.

fashizzlepop
fashizzlepop

With programs that let you remotely assist customers/employees, like GoToAssist, I can forsee a highly reduced Tech Help dep. Also, in the future we will hopefully have more reliable and user friendly programs for corporate use and end-user use. There's my 2 cents.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Yes you can outsource application development, but you still need some inhouse management to make sure the application you want developed is what you get. At some point using the application will be part of the day to day operation (hopefully). Besides these boys aren't looking at outsourcing as easier, just cheaper. Usually they get promoted before the loss of inhouse( you knowing where a printer is, or me knowing what they want to print) becomes apparent.

Lamini
Lamini

are not all so gullable and have spoken and understand the risks, costs, and problems involved

Lamini
Lamini

no thanks. not every organization requires an internet connection, fortunately.

Kevin@Quealy.net
Kevin@Quealy.net

I could see this happening ... but not by 2015. Very interesting concept, though.

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