Thought for the day:Internet killed the IT star

Outsourcing and communications expert Martyn Hart looks at a hot issue of the day. Is it curtains for the IT/IS director? Has...

Outsourcing and communications expert Martyn Hart looks at a hot issue of the day. Is it curtains for the IT/IS director? Has Internet really killed the IT star?

It can certainly look like it, and that was the conclusion of a recent National Outsourcing Association meeting following a presentation by Jeremy Acklam, Virgin Rail IS director.

The argument went that the Internet has shown business management that IS/IT doesn't have to be delivered via a group of wizards in the basement. Nowadays companies have got used to matrix management where products and service are delivered through virtual teams, which may consist of a mix of their own staff and suppliers.

The dotcom revolution showed that whole businesses could be set up from scratch without any of the paraphernalia that "big" companies take for granted. When a dotcom starts up, it is usually cash rich but short on skills and technology. Management buys in skills, or more commonly outsources them and buys outsourced services to supply the technology.

So why shouldn't this model work for any company?

The mantra today is business transformation, identify where you want to be and go there. Business transformation is possible, but you don't have to take your legacy systems (and departments?) with you.

Transformation involves a mix of existing staff and processes with the strategic outsourcing of parts of the new business you either haven't the skills, time or capital to cater for.

Virgin has deployed strategic outsourcing to successfully achieve many of its objectives, such as online ticketing, kiosk ticketing or lost property management (via an ASP service).

So, if lots of other companies take a similar route, what will the IS/IT director do in the future?

There will be two major changes. First, they will move closer to the business, understand the business drivers and help offer the IT-based strategic solutions that will achieve the organisation's objectives.

Second, they will manage the outsourced relationships, understand what current and potential partner suppliers can offer and build on those relationships.

"So what is this like in reality?" Jeremy was asked. "Fun" was the reply!

So maybe Internet hasn't killed the IT star. The IT/IS director isn't dead, just undergoing transformation.

How do you see the future role of the IT director? >> reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the Web site. Please state if your answer is not for publication

Martyn Hart is chairman of the National Outsourcing Association and practice director at Mantix, a consultancy that delivers value from complex programmes.

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