IT departments risk becoming irrelevant unless they focus on improving business performance – and learn to cope with the increasing role of consumers in driving new technology, analyst firm Gartner has warned.
IT is evolving into a specialised discipline in business, as it becomes an established element of most business processes and activities, Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president of global research, told delegates at the Gartner Symposium ITXPO 2007 in San Francisco.
"Certain functions may be taken as aspects of the business, so the remaining traditional IT functions will have to focus increasingly on efficiency and well defined levels of service," he said.
Sondergaard warned that IT managers will quickly become irrelevant unless they select and purchase IT technology on the basis of improving business performance.
In his keynote address, Sondergaard also pointed to the fact that most high-technology products are now purchased by consumers rather than IT departments. "Consumers influence the price point and the design of technology," he said.
Over time, this trend would find its way into the heart of the enterprise and influence IT infrastructure and architecture, with consumer views influencing business decisions about storage, processing power and bandwidth.
In a reversal of traditional roles, the consumer had gained more computer power than the enterprise, Sondergaard said. He noted that affordable access to technology and content would increase the power of individuals and affect the way they interact with enterprises, either as customers or staff.
"This will cause significant disruption in the technology sector," Sondergaard said, adding that low cost and easy to use devices and content would destabilise the balance between the enterprise, consumers and the state.
"By 2009, organisations will be required to deliver scaled down versions of applications, content and value added services to a customer's personal, virtual or home computing environment," Sondergaard said.
Gartner was also looking at the trend towards alternative delivery models that give users new options for acquiring technologies and creating new business models, the vice president added.
"There is a growing desire to pay for access to technology and business outcome, not for use of technology," he said. This in turn would engender new hardware and software licensing models as users increasingly bought a service rather than a product.
"These new options and models will cannibalise or eliminate markets and vendors, and new purchase options will create major financial consequences for all of us."
Sondergaard warned that strong public and political interest in the environmental impact of IT would affect all suppliers and users. "IT directly impacts the amount of CO2 emissions and can impact the reduction of CO2 emissions," he said.