Keeping the servers humming is no longer enough to justify the existence of the IT: it’s time for the tech team to raise their game – or risk becoming irrelevant.

The IT department needs to prove to the business why it’s more than just a support function, according to Essex County Council CIO David Wilde.

“It’s almost an adapt or die moment for a lot of the IT profession, if you don’t start being able to articulate and contextualise technology’s value add to service delivery then why are you there?” he told the Efficient ICT 2012 conference in London.

IT roles likely to be less in demand in future are “bog standard engineering and desktop support. All that kind of stuff is a diminishing service,” he said.

Wilde said this change in demand as inevitable: “Stuff is getting better, it breaks down less and people swap it out more often. So the demand for those level of skills is reducing.” In addition, today’s workforce is more IT-literate than that of a decade ago, he said, so can do more IT-related tasks for themselves.

Staff at in-house IT departments need to learn the ins and outs of the business – and use that knowledge to communicate technology’s benefits, or else risk seeing the IT department demoted – to a necessary but uninteresting support service.

“The IT department will change, and its influence within the organisation will become lesser or greater depending on how it changes,” he warned.

“I’m a big fan of moving to that value-add space around quality of information and business alignment, which I think is how you grow,” he said.

Opportunities for IT to spread its influence in areas like big data analysis, will otherwise be taken up by other areas of the business – the likes of finance – if IT fails to step up to the plate, he said.

While the in-house IT department may shrink as jobs continue to move from the business to third party providers, Wilde doesn’t subscribe to the view that automation in cloud computing will destroy the IT department.

He said that automation of provisioning of the likes of storage and compute power took place years ago and that with cloud computing comes additional complexity that needs to be managed.

“In cloud environments you might get much better automation but the complexity of the multi-tenanted environment gives you different challenges around how you manage multiple VMs, how you manage security and access control – it’s just different roles,” he said.