Feb 19, 2008

IT back to business

A recent ComputerWorld article describes a 'new trend' in IT towards having business savy 'IT' people working within business departments instead of centralized generic IT personnel. I think this is a trend that started a while ago with pragmatic companies focusing on operational efficiency. Unfortunately not all companies are pragmatic, but hopefully more start to follow this trend.

I had a gripe with the way IT was moving in two previous companies I worked for. In the first, the IT department was standardized across the very large international organization, and focused on the common low-tech user, which was completely unsuitable for our high-tech development site, dramatically restricting our efficiency. We had to do our own internal 'skunk-works' IT, and hide the costs, in order to operate efficiently. My worst case horror story was the time it took 6 months and 5 engineers in 4 countries to install a local printer! (previously we had one local IT tech who would do it in a couple of hours).

The second company was a start-up which meant it had good pragmatic IT for a while, but as it grew, the new management tried to increase operational efficiency by 'centralizing' and 'standardizing' IT. Sounds good on paper, but simply does not work in reality. Costs increased and performance decreased due to the separation of IT from the people actually doing the business. People working towards true operational efficiency were marginalized and often left the company. By the time I left it was well on the way to the level of operational inefficiency of the large multi-national I worked with before.

Over the years I've developed a very strong feeling that IT must be integrated into the business. I'm thrilled to see a prominent article claiming this as an industry trend! So I end this blog with a nice quote:

"I want them to think of themselves as people who work for this company, not people who work for this company's IT department," he says. "We have an energy supply business to manage. That's our business, and we want to do it as efficiently as possible. It doesn't really matter what the IT job is."