IT’s Place In a Modern Organization
If there is any truth in the IT industry, it’s that change is constant. The challenge or threat of today is not necessarily the same a year, 6 months or even 3 months from now. In the pandemic, we were focused on scaling remote work. Depending on where you were at in your technology stack evolution, that was either a somewhat natural, or conversely, a nightmarish undertaking. This year, economic headwinds have forced many IT teams to heed the call for “cost management” and—in some cases—deal with the implications of layoffs.
There is a larger impact on business that IT can make, and a more central role it can take.
These are not small problems. And it is difficult not to be reactive as a modus operandi—feeling like your team is in catch-up mode most of the time. That’s not what most IT professionals think they are signing up for at the beginning of their careers or hope they’ll be tied to by the end of it.
What IT is today is far from its potential, particularly at this time in history when how we work and what we work with has changed. There is a larger impact on business that IT can make, and a more central role it can take. Let’s dig in.
The Way Back Machine and Today
You may have forgotten, but most IT teams used to be the glue within an organization. Literally all the decisions about what technology is used and implemented went through it, as did all the budget. When there were data needs, IT was often the first stopping point. Who knew the systems and how they operated better? Business problems were solved with IT’s help.
But IT lost that control with the rise of SaaS, app sprawl, and the inevitability of shadow IT. Other business units defined their own needs because the pace of innovation meant they would fall behind if they didn’t adapt to using new tools quickly.
Consequently, 36% of CIOs feel left out in the cold today, saying they don’t fully understand what internal customers need and therefore have an inability to maximize the value of IT. “Operations” roles within teams like Sales and Marketing have come into being because IT has not been able to adapt to the decentralization of app control.
Slow Burn to Nothing
The shift from on-prem to SaaS in the last 2+ decades—and what we generally do around least privilege and PAM—have in effect been slowing mechanisms, but not real adaptations to new business realities. In effect, a slow burn to nothing. IT is not in a better position organizationally than it was two decades ago. And with AI and other technologies coming into mainstream use, the pace of change shows no sign of relenting. So, how does IT as industry and as a function within an organization provide more value?
Value comes through being able to wrap your team’s arms around decentralized app management.
Going back to the idea of centralized control is a fairy tale. You can’t put that rabbit back in the hat. The proliferation of SaaS equates to an arms race for various teams in producing results faster. So what do you do? The first tangible step here may be visibility.
Seeing, Believing and Becoming the Glue (again)
There are micro shifts within industries just as there are with larger business trends. The rise of design tool Figma is a great example of this. The real magic—and reason for the design industry shift around it—is that it opens up design to other parts of the company in terms of communication and process. If a marketing team can leverage a template a designer did in Figma to create ad iterations, the work of a designer is reduced, but they are able to accomplish and collaborate more. Visibility in this case equates to more real value felt across an organization.
A similar shift is happening in IT. There is a collapsing of point solutions around SaaS management, identity governance and compliance. If a new person comes into a company for example, and is able to self-serve getting pre-approved access to apps they need in an app store, and those departmental approvals happen through existing systems everyone uses like Slack, then IT has provided real, measurable value across the organization. At the same time, you remove some of the operational workload of IT. Couple that with shadow IT discovery, and you get a clearer picture of what technology is really being used in an organization. Visibility.
What happens when you layer controllable identity governance on top of this? What if you can see inactive users, terminated employees and changes to roles? How does that affect your ability to protect your company, while at the same time being able to identify areas to save on SaaS license costs? What if you can go through a security audit for SOC 2 weeks faster because you can see all this activity and coordinate compliance with app owners?
Visibility in this context allows IT to become the glue again. Value comes through being able to wrap your team’s arms around decentralized app management. That’s a very different approach than centralized control, but an infinitely more scalable one in today’s world.
Taking IT a Step Further
What is the next step here? IT should, given what you just read, have a clearer idea of the value it can produce through cost management and better collaboration. But what about the data? There is a context here that only IT can provide because of this kind of visibility.
Rewind. IT teams today are very often reactive in nature. The value before the era of out-of-control app sprawl was that IT knew. They knew the systems, what they were used for, how they connect and, most importantly, how to contribute to solving ever changing business problems.
With new visibility in hand again, it may not be too big a leap to suggest working more cross-functionally and proactively. A full 75% of CEOs today don’t trust data produced internally. That’s alarming and points to a real business need. How do you connect new-found visibility and this need? It’s really about discovery and application. If you interviewed various operations people within your organization, what business problems would you find? With your new perspective, how can you facilitate interpersonal and data connection, and resolutions to those business problems?
IT should have an important seat at the C-suite table. In reality, there is now—more than in years past—an opportunity for IT to become the heroes again. IT can be better positioned to address the business problems of today. It just takes reclaiming what was lost by rethinking how app sprawl is managed and how to better connect across an organization.