IT departments will take on a more consultative role

IT departments will take on a more consultative role in the future as other business departments play a greater role in the implementation of technologyPhoto: Shutterstock

With individual business departments gaining increasing control over their IT strategy and purchasing, the role of the IT department is set for a shake-up. Today, IT workers are the architects of business technology – in the future, they will be its consultants.

This transformation, according to Forrester VP and principal analyst Mark Cecere, will see business departments take a more prominent role in building and procuring technology, with IT taking a step back – a model he labels “empowered business technology”.

“Empowered business technology is a shared relationship between IT and business with regard to what you build, how you build it and how you deploy it,” he told delegates at the Forrester EMEA IT Forum in Barcelona.

“Within an IT organisation, as we move to an empowered business technology model, our people will be doing less builds and moving towards consulting. [This model] will move many IT roles from ‘do’ to ‘consult’,” he continued.

“My claim is that empowered business technology will move many [IT] roles from doing – building systems, acquiring systems, maintaining systems – to consulting – providing direction, providing guidance, helping out when emergencies occur,” Cecere added.

The trend of businesses taking a lead in technology decisions and implementation could have a profound effect on IT workers, from system architects right up to heads of IT, if it continues.

System architects, for example, will need to become more strategic and act as consultants on business-led technology projects to successfully bring different elements of technology together – much like a certain pop star does with her albums. “Who does the CIO need within the organisation to realise the benefit of empowered BT? I think they need Britney Spears,” Cecere said.

“On this CD you have 22 song writers, you have a dozen producers. Somebody had to have the vision for what this product looked liked and somebody had to put together all the pieces and I claim that’s Britney.”

“We have to have a picture of what the [technology] is, we have to have companies that pull together to do things and make all those people work together. I like to think of architects as the Britney Spears of IT,” he added.

Application developers will need to take on a greater oversight role in tech projects so they are aware of what’s going on and can provide help when needed.

“Application developers will be less about building a system and they will be providing an oversight to business people that will be building the applications as well as assembling the pieces of those applications,” he said.

With IT taking a step back from the nitty-gritty of technology projects, Cecere said senior IT people will have…


…time to bring about innovation. “As we move towards empowered business technology, it will free up time for senior IT people to spend more time on innovation,” he said.

The seeds of the IT department’s shift from doing to consulting have been sown with the trend towards the consumerisation of IT in businesses, as workers’ own gadgets begin to replace companies’ centrally supplied kit.

“It used to be that IT could tell you what computer you could have at work. They can’t tell you that any more, and so their role has evolved to having to support the fluid change in the consumer choice [of technology],” Forrester VP and principal analyst James Staten told

And with the greater awareness of technology outside the IT department and the increasingly integral role of IT in all aspects of the business, other departments are already starting to call the shots in terms of technology procurement.

As a result, CIOs will need to create groups within their departments to work with particular business functions, while roles in the IT department will need to adjust to the new environment, according to Cecere.

There will also be a need for members of the IT department to specialise to a greater extent, with data management and security likely to be particular focus areas. “Within IT organisations you will have a level of specialisation never seen before,” the analyst said.

On an individual level, IT workers will find their skills base will also be affected.

Sourcing and vendor management will become a more important role for the IT department as business divisions buy the technology. “I think most of the activity of the [business] organisation will be building and procuring technology,” Cecere said.

The changes in the role of IT professionals will see application development and delivery within IT departments decline in terms of resources, Cecere added, while project management and planning will increase.

As for how businesses will move to this empowered business technology environment, it won’t be a smooth transition – Cecere likened it to a children’s game of football.

“If you’ve ever seen five-year-olds playing football, they somehow get from one end of the field to the other but everything in between is random motion. You’re going to see it in fits and starts as we transition,” he said.