Turning the IT Organization on its Side

Michael Vizard

As virtualization technology continues to evolve and IT organizations gain a greater appreciation for how a business process works end-to-end, you can't help but wonder if we're on the cusp of a major reorganization of the way IT organizations are aligned.

That subject came up during my recent podcast interview with Donald Ferguson, the newly installed CTO of CA. The basic idea is that as more lower level IT processes get automated, it allows the IT organization to spend a lot less time doing basic maintenance work. That in turn should give the IT organization the necessary breathing room it needs to rethink its relationship with the business.

Today's IT organization is pretty much organized around the way companies acquire IT products. They have people dedicated to managing various hardware systems, while another group focuses on the networks and yet another group focuses on the applications. But the business itself doesn't operate that way. The business is aligned around a set of business processes that span multiple applications and systems. So the question is, shouldn't the IT organization also be organized around the same processes as the business. That would mean that a team of IT people with system, network and application expertise would be assigned as a group to support a business process. Not only would they gain expertise in that business process, we would also finally see much tighter alignment between the business and IT.

Aligning IT with the business has been the number-one goal of CIOs in every annual survey as far back as anybody can remember. And yet, we never actually seem to get there. One of the primary reasons for that lack of alignment is that the IT department is fundamentally built around a model that reflects more of the interests of the vendor community that serves IT, rather than the interests of the business customers that IT is suppose to serve.

As more automation works its way through the IT process, the opportunity to rethink how the IT department is organized is definitely at hand. And just maybe, instead of thinking about IT has a hierarchical set of technologies that need to be managed from the bottom up or the top down, the time has come to turn the IT organization on its side in order to start managing IT according to a set of integrated technologies tied to distinct sets of business processes.

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