Shaping the Future of Enterprise IT

Michael Vizard

Probably the biggest single long-term enterprise IT challenge facing organizations today is that the majority of executives both inside and outside of IT want to transform it, but no one is exactly sure into what.

A recent survey of 152 IT executives and 162 non-IT executives conducted by the Accenture Institute for High Performance found that while 50 percent of the executives in the survey plan to transform the IT function within the next 12 months, 68 percent of them said they don’t have a clear idea what the IT function in their organization will look like by 2016. At the same time, 72 percent of them said they didn’t know what the role of the CIO will be by then, either.

Allan Alter, an Accenture research fellow, says the future of enterprise IT is likely to be shaped more by forces outside the control of the IT organization than IT, especially when it comes to assessing the impact of trends such as globalization and government policies. But Alter says other factors, such as the consumerization of IT in the guise of mobile and cloud computing, to the rise of data analytics, are also going to be huge factors.

Ultimately, Alter sees four major themes emerging that he defines as:

  • Race to Innovate: A period of intense global competition driven in large measure by IT
  • Lumpy and Local: A period of localized competition marked by decentralized IT
  • Wary Retrenchment: A period of fear that drives retrenchment based mainly on security concerns
  • World Wide Shred: A future dominated by cyber warfare and crisis management

In all probability, companies will experience all four of these scenarios to one degree or another. What’s unknown is to what degree any of these scenarios may actually come to dominate, which in turn would define the role of IT within the organization.

Rather than rushing headlong to reinvent enterprise IT, Alter says organizations should evaluate their long-term IT strategies with the context of these four overarching scenarios on the assumption that being forewarned is to be forearmed. After all, taking that approach will probably make the difference between organizations that have an IT future they shape versus organizations that simply have a future that happens to them.

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