Paul Ingevaldson from ComputerWorld just posted a great article discussing the future of IT operations within the enterprise. Does IT fade into obscurity as nothing more than a commodity that’s as canned and predictable as Campbell’s soup, or does it evolve into a key competitive advantage? Personally, I see this as one of, if not the, fundamental question that dictates the direction of the industry as a whole over the next 5 years.
Nicholas Carr's argument for IT fading away is that, to quote the post “companies can no longer gain competitive advantage from computer systems because most are using similar software and thus can’t differentiate themselves through technology.” (clarification - this is Carr's position, not Ingevaldson's, whose position is discussed in the next paragraph) While this may be true, to an extent, I would have to strongly disagree. Virtually every company has a web site, but that doesn’t mean that they all get the same results or value from their site. Virtually every company has a customer service system of some sort or another, but that doesn’t mean they all deliver the same level of satisfaction to their customers. As with every other aspect of a business, it’s the execution that determines the competitive advantage, and execution is more about the people behind the technology than the technology itself.
Mr. Ingevaldson’s position is that IT’s role must provide tactical support to the strategy of the business, in effect developing an internal strategy that supports the objectives of the business. In this, I definitely agree. However, it’s going to require a different mindset from IT operators, one where the focus is less about technology and keeping the lights on and more about how the technology is supporting the business. In other words, the dollar replaces the megabyte in IT discussions.
Some organizations will undoubtedly continue to run IT the way they’ve always run it, perceiving IT as nothing more than a commodity that they can’t live with, yet can’t live without. Their truly innovative competitors however, will steadily outperform them with superior execution, closely coupled to the strategy of the business.
This is exactly why Business Service Management will gain increasing adoption over the next five years.