Naked CIO: Whatever happened to the amazing shrinking IT department?

People have wrongly predicted the demise of the IT department for years…

Reports of the demise of the IT department have been greatly exaggerated. It fact, it's alive and well and living in an organisation near you, says the Naked CIO.

For years we have been told that the IT department will inevitably shrink. The latest doom-mongers are's CIO Jury, who say that in five years' time, the average IT department will be far smaller than it is today because of cloud computing and outsourcing.

Our department and its role have always been in a constant state of evolution. Certainly new technologies such as software-as-a-service and cloud computing will have an impact on how we address and support technology. But to believe the consequence of such change will be smaller departments is to take a myopic view of the state of our role in organisations.

In fact, I see expansion in many areas - most notably as process improvement and automation become increasingly married to technology processing.

An empty office - could the IT department's headcount be set to dwindle?

Could new technology trends actually cause the IT department's role to grow?
(Photo credit: Shutterstock)

Equally the emergence of social networking and greater interactivity via the web and mobile will create a plethora of areas where resources and involvement from IT will be critical.

Growth in compliance
Anyone failing to see the signs that compliance and governance will grow over the next few years should perhaps get out a little more. Further integration into the EU just makes this area more complex and will require appropriate resourcing and skills.

Perhaps the emphasis will change IT activities from completing backups and performing server maintenance to a more active and design-oriented role, improving the distribution and management of technology and applications throughout an organisation. But trust me when I say emerging technology will not shrink the IT department.

Strategically speaking, as more organisations see increased investment and percentage spend on technology, it will foster a more professional attitude towards resourcing. Let's face it, we have had to do more with less for a long time. If our companies want to realise the true power of technology, a commitment to resources and skills needs to be front and centre.

However, I agree strongly with one of the CIO Jury's comments that IT will become rebranded and begin to manage the job of business transformation. As business and IT gets aligned, IT resources will own the change agenda for modern businesses and evolve this way.

I don't necessarily think IT departments will grow but I don't see conclusive evidence they will shrink either. My assessment is the evolution of IT will migrate to change, with IT professionals driving business evolution and process and applying them to technologies and applications.

Offshoring and outsourcing
I also believe that you cannot talk of offshoring and outsourcing as reasons for a reduction in department size. My calculation is based on how many resources are required to perform and manage IT operations effectively. If an organisation uses resources from elsewhere it does not change the fact that it still requires someone to do the job.

If offshoring is part of this argument I think we can all demonstrate that departments have shrunk - in some cases drastically - all too much over the past few years. But in reality organisations are just moving the pieces around for tax breaks and headcount perception and a hollow justification of cost reduction, of which I am certainly sceptical.

So while I respect my fellow colleagues on the CIO Jury, I believe their assessment in this case was incorrect. More attention - especially at the CIO level - needs to centre on reinventing the role of the IT department, not demeaning it. We shouldn't be saying that because cloud exists our valuable employees shouldn't.