Every decade has its burning question. In the 70s it was: Is God dead? In the 80s it was: Is disco dead? (Yes, thank God - who apparently wasn't dead after all, and had the exquisite good taste to speed the extinction of this especially loathsome music genre.) In the 90s it was: Is greed dead? (No, actually it was hibernating, awaiting the share market feeding frenzy of the 00s.) Now, thanks to a Forrester Research report, we have a burning question for the 00s: Is IT dead?
The report, The Death of IT (notice a quantum leap wasn't required on my part to phrase the big question) predicts that within three years, "the IT organisation will disappear in successful e-businesses". As will the CIO role in some organisations.
Pull-eeease. Just a few years ago the pundits were saying CIO stood for "career is over". I'm sure more than a few of you would agree that was a miss. Now Forrester has the bell tolling for IT department and you're moving on - or out.
In its "Action" section of the report Forrester says: "Each member of the executive team must play a key role in a successful shift from a technology management environment to an exT (external technology) environment." The CIO must "drive the creation of an exT transition plan". The CFO must "measure and report e-business - and exT - results". The CEO must "sell exT's importance - up and down the organisation". Included in the three mandatories for a successful sell is this little gem: "Ensure that the CIO lets go of IT, enticing the CIO with senior operational roles like process owner or COO - or removing the CIO altogether."
Oops. Key the opening sequence music from Jaws.
But here's an interesting bit of information. To research the report Forrester interviewed CIOs and CFOs at 20 global 2500 companies. Well gee, we'd all agree that those two roles are traditionally in lock-step with each, wouldn't we? But there's more. Forrester also interviewed vendors to "gain a perspective on the move to exT". Among the companies interviewed were Andersen Consulting, CSC, PricewaterhouseCoopers and EDS. Well double gee, those organisations wouldn't be pushing any particular barrows, would they?
So, should we pity the poor embattled CIO? I don't think so. I also don't believe that the CIO should be put on any endangered species list any time soon; it's been a pretty adaptable creature over time. Even Forrester admits that the role is evolving. But it's not for me to have the final say. I prefer the attitude that "CIOs are doing it for themselves". Check out Sue Bushell's story on page 28. The bell ain't tolling for the IT department any time soon, according to you ladies and gentlemen.