Forrester: Time to reinvent the role of IT

Business technology is the main focus at this year's Forrester IT Forum EMEA. Cliff Saran reports from the conference on what it all means.

The IT department can no longer control the IT strategy. IT analyst Forrester reports that 40% of Y-generation users regularly download unauthorised software at work to get their job done, and business managers can easily purchase software-as-a-service products to support ever-changing business requirements, and regularly circumvent IT to do so.

While the IT department was previously the custodian of major transformation programmes such as ERP, today, the IT strategy is driven by demand from tech-savvy staff, who want to use their iPads, Facebook and have Wi-Fi access while in the office.

Addressing delegates at the European conference in Barcelona, Marc Cecere, a principal analyst at Forrester, said the role of IT is becoming one of a business consultant, yet "75 of IT time is spent maintaining existing technology".

For IT to become more strategic, this must change. Traditional IT roles need to be redefined. For instance, the application development team can guide project teams, who may well be from outsourcers.

Cecere believes enterprise architects are well-placed to facilitate innovation, by recognising not only which bits of the business require innovation, but also understanding the sources of innovation. The architects themselves will not necessarily be innovators, according to Cecere, but they will know who to call on for innovation and where this innovation can be applied.


Specialist areas for IT 

Forrester identifies four key areas where IT will specialise.


IT will need data expertise to cope with the massive amounts of data that will be processed by the business.


A firewall cannot protect everything so IT will need security specialisation in what Forrester describes as "reflex systems", which can cope with the ever-changing threat landscape.


IT will need to specialise in meeting the scalability and security requirements of mobile devices.


IT will also need process design expertise.


Case study: Statoil 


Statoil, the multinational oil and gas company, is an example of an organisation that is reinventing IT. In his keynote presentation at the Forrester IT Forum, Statoil CIO Magne Frantsen said: "I am an executive in an energy company, not an IT executive."

IT at Statoil is split into a number of business areas, each with its own management. The corporate IT function is responsible for strategic governance. The IT shared service division is part of the company's overall shared service arm, which delivers services such as finance and human resources systems, while each business unit has an IT manager, responsible for IT delivery within that business.

He says that a successful IT strategy requires commitment from business stakeholders. "To be successful requires a lot of joint effort." Along with business buy-in, the strategy is refined with the stakeholders through a six-month iterative process, after which time the business approves the strategy.

"We spread IT too much," he said. Given that IT cannot be expected to do everything, Frantsen aims to narrow IT's primary focus to a few selected areas. "We need to focus IT on where it matters and where it gives us a competitive advantage," he said.

As an example of where IT can make a difference, Frantsen points to the Statoil Brazilian Peregrino field, an offshore platform which is drilling 37 wells.

IT is being used there to monitor drilling activity. The drills are packed with sensors that monitor numerous environmental factors, such as pressure and temperature. This information is fed in real-time from the platform to an on-shore operations centre where it can be transmitted to anywhere in the world, allowing engineers to make live decisions during the drilling process.

Another example is in videoconferencing. "Over 30 months we have seen a 1,000% increase in the use of videoconferencing. There is a tremendous business case for videoconferencing. Travel costs are 25% lower. It makes sense for a global business so we are implementing unified communications globally.

If this is where IT is innovating at Statoil, Frantsen frees up existing IT resources by using off-the-shelf products, processes and services instead of developing applications. "We don't have any special needs for email or accounting. We just need a standard solution," he said.

To use standard software, Statoil has needed to deploy standard processes.

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