Collaborative IT is the way forward

Capgemini global chief technology officer, Andy Mulholland, talks about his vision for where IT is heading, and the need to move away from centralised IT

Capgemini global chief technology officer, Andy Mulholland, talks about his vision for where IT is heading, and the need to move away from centralised IT

IT is now everywhere. Looking back from how IT was in the early days to where it stands today, Andy Mulholland, global chief technology officer at services firm Capgemini, a 23-year industry veteran, has observed what he describes as “a very strong move to a ubiquitousness of IT”.

One generation at a time, hardware has moved away from a centralised model. “We began with the mainframe as the corporate centre and the mini was the departmental computer. Then we had the PC as the end-user desktop and we are now moving out to mobility and other computing devices,” he said.

“With each jump in hardware, the software we use has become much more network aware.”

Mulholland predicts the centralised model of business, and as a consequence centralised IT control, will fade away. “IT is [no longer] the right word to describe where we are today. IT is related to the way applications are used within the central roles of the business.

“Yet at the edge of the business what we are getting is a different approach to the way people do their jobs and the way they interact with people outside the company, who may be at home or in other organisations.”

Mulholland believes the future of IT as a business function is set for a radical makeover. “I do not see a future for IT. I see a future in doing business differently,” he said.

Today, it is not about information technology and number crunching, Mulholland said. “What we are now moving to is interaction taking place on a global scale.” To be successful here, people need to think differently about what they want from collaborative technologies, used globally, he added.

As an example, Mulholland pointed to the success of low-cost airlines, which worked out early on that consumers at home with an internet connection and a browser had the same IT capability as a travel agent and a call centre.

“They realised that if they redesigned the process to include you, the end-user, you and the airline could collaborate to find the best deal, which was good for the airline on load factors and good for you on price.”

Both sides traded off advantages to find the most mutually advantageous position. Now people are able to print their own boarding passes. “Collaboration is not a model driven from the centre out; it is a model between many groups of people to optimise an issue.”

One of the areas that interests Mulholland currently is how business models will change. Today business models follow the pattern of a period of a steady state, then a period of change followed by a period of steady state. But in the future, Mulholland expects businesses will adopt the approach used in the financial market, eBay or that of a low-cost airline.

“There will be a ‘price of the moment’ and the model of collaboration for optimisation,” he said. “This is already happening in a number of industries and pricing and availability is becoming far more fluid.”

He said that more and more people are blurring the line between work and home. “As the UK moves to a service-based economy, people will have more changes in their careers and take more responsibility for their training.

“We are beginning to see knowledge workers providing their own technologies. For instance, BP is allowing end-users to choose their own devices.” In such an environment, end-users would choose the right IT to do their job, rather than accept a policy dictated by the IT department.

This is what Mulholland describes as shadow IT. People are choosing their own software tools, web search engines, Google Map, etc, in order to perform business functions and share information with colleagues or business partners.

“This is standards-based, user driven and architected in a way that people understand the business flow,” he said. In fact, Mulholland’s shadow IT is actually the latest industry craze: service oriented architecture.

He considers that all the significant changes in IT have been end-user driven, from the mobile phone to the PC and the internet. As for the next wave, it is now people’s use of search engines and Wikipedia that is running ahead of knowledge management in business, according to Mulholland.

In his view of the world, chief technology officers would advise business leaders on how to use technology or create architectural standards at the so-called edge of the company.

There still is a role for IT directors and CIOs in Mulholland’s grand vision. “The CIO will continue to work with the chief financial officer in maintaining centralised IT to cost, to budget and to very exacting standards of compliance.”

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