The role of the IT department will dramatically change over the next five years and will morph into a hybrid corporate function focusing more on business processes and customer service than technology and infrastructure, according to leading CIOs and heads of IT.

Analyst Gartner warns that IT professionals will need to adapt to more general business roles as the IT department evolves. At its annual Symposium later this month Gartner will unveil its latest outlook on the future of the IT department.

Gartner will predict that 40 per cent of people in the IT department will have substantial business and non-IT experience by 2010 and that demand for process and relationship expertise will double, while demand for IT specialists will shrink by 40 per cent.

All 12 of’s CIO Jury IT user panel agreed with Gartner’s view of the evolution of the IT department, and said the role and boundaries of the IT department will fundamentally change over the next five years.

Andrew Turner, head of IT at Aspen Insurance Holdings, said: “Don’t believe that it will be as fast or as fundamental as Gartner predicts but the role of IT is changing and the impact of increasing outsourcing is one factor influencing this change.”

In this brave new world, IT departments will need to become much more customer centric and business aware, according to Phil Young, head of IT operations at Amtrak Express Parcels.

He said: “A core of technology specialists will always remain in the team but ideas and innovation will be brought to reality via business service people within the same team.”

Rorie Devine, IS director at Betfair, added: “I think the IT department’s challenge will become even more about managing relationships than managing people in the future. Expertise will gradually centralise and externalise, and the IT department will draw on these external resources as necessary. The best IT directors will convert most of their fixed costs into variable costs without sacrificing agility and perceived quality of execution.”

The evolution of the IT department is also not just about the private sector. Richard Steel, head of ICT at the London Borough of Newham, said it is already happening at his local authority.

He said: “We even have used an ‘assessment centre’ to select IT people to be retrained in business support to enable them to much more effectively support process mapping and business process re-engineering. Increasingly, we find that the ‘IT problems’ are not with the technology or systems but with business processes.”

Kevin Fitzpatrick, CTO at Manpower, said that in future businesses will have fewer internal “technology gurus” and more “hybrid leaders”.

He said: “The days of an IT department seen by the rest of the organisation as very separate and sometimes geeky is already at an end in the forward looking, successful enterprises advantage.”

Luke Mellors, IT director, The Dorchester Hotel in London, summed the dilemma up, saying: “The evolution of IT has begun and resisting it will be fatal for anyone who tries.”

Today’s CIO Jury was…

Neil Bath, IT director, Brewin Dolphin Securities
Ken Davis, head of IT, Five
Rorie Devine, IS director, Betfair
Michael Elliot, IT director, Hasbro
Kevin Fitzpatrick, CTO, Manpower
John Keeling, director of computer services, John Lewis
Luke Mellors, IT director, The Dorchester Hotel
Peter Pedersen, CTO, Blue Square
Sean Powley, head of IS strategy, London Borough of Barnet
Richard Steel, head of ICT, London Borough of Newham
Andrew Turner, head of IT, Aspen Insurance Holdings
Phil Young, head of IT operations, Amtrak Express Parcels

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