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Is the IT Department Dead?

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the that-explains-the-smell-in-there dept.

IT 417

alphadogg writes "The IT department is dead, and it is a shift to utility computing that will kill this corporate career path. So predicts Nicholas Carr in his new book launched Monday, "The Big Switch: Rewiring the World from Edison to Google." Carr is best known for a provocative Harvard Business Review article entitled "Does IT Matter?" Published in 2003, the article asserted that IT investments didn't provide companies with strategic advantages because when one company adopted a new technology, its competitors did the same."

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Depends on the Market (1, Interesting)

jshriverWVU (810740) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942522)

If you work with PCI data then you can't outsource anything with PCI data in it, nor can you host your infrastructure on a shared system. So that market still requires you to be isolated rather than farming out to some bigger company. Just my $0.02

Re:Depends on the Market (4, Informative)

mrhandstand (233183) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942780)

I'm a QSA (PCI authorized auditor), and have done several PCI audits over the last year. I disagree with your statement; you can outsource whatever you like as long as you have the proper contractual language and the outsourcer takes appropriate action/care with the data. I have submitted multiple Reports On Compliance in which the business utilized outsourcing and had the report accepted by the card brands. Same thing for shared systems - its all a matter of doing so in the proper manner.

Re:Depends on the Market (3, Informative)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942818)

Funny I have clients what outsource there PCE to PCI certified hosting providers. Really it's not much different that the way paypal works they never know the customers card data they just get a UID from that provider and pass that back to them whenever they need to charge or credit anything. It makes it past a PCI audit and since the provider themselves has been independently audited and insured it makes the companies have a warm fuzzy that they don't have any direct exposure.

Re:Depends on the Market (1)

mrhandstand (233183) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942948)

Yep. I'm a QSA, and you are correct. Blanket statements like the parent are why /. shouldn't be used for advice.

Re:Depends on the Market (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21942940)

Of course PCI specs could change or your company/the industry decides to move away from PCI. Then the problem is right back.

Regardless, this guy is only partially correct.

Correct: Computing data is similar to electric power generation in that it will be increasingly centralized.

Incorrect: The jobs are just gonna disappear.

In his example, he forgot that there's not just one guy running the power plant up the street. He also forgot the need for power strips, backup generators, batteries for portable goods, stores to sell the batteries, power strips, etc, and of course, your friendly neighborhood electrician.

In other words, yes, there's a shitload of centralization, but it still takes a lot of jobs to get electricity into the consumer's hands. Computing will be no different.

Re:Depends on the Market (1)

mrhandstand (233183) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943112)

Your point is correct.

Some additional information that might be interesting even though slightly off-topic...

A company can't really "move away from PCI" as the cardbrands can require compliance as long as you use their system to process payments. I suppose you could go to cash only, or set up a PO / Accounts receivable system, but most businesses aren't willing to give up CC transactions.

Re:Depends on the Market (1)

Alpha830RulZ (939527) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942984)

I work for a fortune 200 company whose main business is outsourcing PCI data. So, sorry, please try again.

Re:Depends on the Market (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943072)

You're right in that it depends on the market. While, as others have pointed, PCI data handling can be outsourced readily, others are not so simple. Systems that deal with military classified or ITAR-controlled data can't be outsourced to foreign countries.

Re:Depends on the Market (1)

jshriverWVU (810740) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943080)

Let me rephrase then based on my recent experience. I might be wrong with outsourcing jobs in which people access PCI data, but there was a lot of steam about hosted servers with PCI data on them. So for my initial point is, that as long as you pretty much have to maintain your own servers and can't buy into a mainframe or some other shared system, IT can still be useful. Again I may stand corrected, I dont pretend to be a PCI expert just trying to learn as I go.

Is the IS Department Dead? (5, Funny)

RealErmine (621439) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942526)

Could be. Nobody's moved down there for weeks and the stink is awful.

Re:Is the IS Department Dead? (5, Funny)

BunnyClaws (753889) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942604)

The smell doesn't mean they are dead. That is a normal smell for I.T. folks. Especially the guys supporting the servers.

Re:Is the IS Department Dead? (1)

Doctor-Optimal (975263) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942744)

The smell doesn't mean they are dead. That is a normal smell for I.T. folks. Especially the guys supporting the servers.

"Anything tastes good if you deep fry it."
Best post-sig combo. Ever.

Re:Is the IS Department Dead? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21942702)

Is the IS Department Dead?

Well, that depends on what the definition of IS is.

lack of disadvantage is advantage (5, Insightful)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942528)

IT investments didn't provide companies with strategic advantages because when one company adopted a new technology, its competitors did the same.
So it seems that failing to invest in IT will provide companies with a strategic disadvantage...

Re:lack of disadvantage is advantage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21942714)

so true..

not too mention investing in an IT dept that does more than generic maintenance - like development and innovation gives the company a strategic advantage.

a degree from harvard is worth less and less.

Re:lack of disadvantage is advantage (4, Insightful)

cprael (215426) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942760)

This is called "table stakes". If you can't put in the table stakes, you aren't even in the game. He also ignores that first adopters of any given technology gain a marginal strategic advantage.

Hell, substitute "self-propelled vehicle" for "IT department". By his argument, horse-and-buggy delivery is strategically viable for most companies.

Re:lack of disadvantage is advantage (1)

umghhh (965931) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943062)

From my experience it is not that important whether the argument is valid or not. Whether something is qualified as stinkin horse-shit or as drops of wisdom depends mainly but not only on two factors:

1. authority of who is saying it - if my boss is saying it it is horse-shit only during conversation with my colleagues, if CEO of the company does that we do not talk about its it is too dangerous.

2. how it is said - well presented horse shit may be sold for good money. This sometimes changes the stink of it into perfume. Alas until that happens care is needed.

Re:lack of disadvantage is advantage (1)

sammy baby (14909) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942786)

So it seems that failing to invest in IT will provide companies with a strategic disadvantage...

Hmm. Sounds familiar [] ...

Joshua: Greetings, Professor Falken.
Stephen Falken: Hello, Joshua.
Joshua: A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?

Re:lack of disadvantage is advantage (4, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942826)

So it seems that failing to invest in IT will provide companies with a strategic disadvantage...
While I won't presume to know more than the author of that book, on the face of it, it seems like a good thing to adopt new technology, even if everyone else does the same, if for no other reason than the increased efficiency it should bring.

I also should mention that I take issue with anyone that thinks "...the bulk of business computing shifts out of private data centers and into the cloud." Utilizing "the cloud" requires businesses to give up a lot of control over their data.

I can't imagine big business thinking that it'd be a good idea to put their information security in someone else's hands.

Re:lack of disadvantage is advantage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21943114)

Adopting new technology does not increase productivity on it's own. Poorly designed software, nonexistent backup/DR policies, poor business processes, etc will not be improved by "investment" in IT alone.

" I can't imagine big business thinking that it'd be a good idea to put their information security in someone else's hands."

Unless some bigger company like microsoft can convince them that all the other "big" Fortune XX companies are doing so, and therefore it should not be a concern.

Re:lack of disadvantage is advantage (1)

s4m7 (519684) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943024)

So it seems that failing to invest in IT will provide companies with a strategic disadvantage...
Well said, but it can even be considered without looking at the competition. If a technology offers a positive ROI on deployment in terms of worker productivity per IT dollar spent, then it would be irresponsible not to deploy. If it does not offer a net positive ROI, then there's no advantage to deploying the technology even if your competition does

Obviously (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21942530)

Utility computing means that computers will run themselves. Your LAN will wire itself, hardware will never fail, no one will ever need to make any changes to the configuration (which configured itself to begin with) and new terminals will magically materialise on peoples desk overnight, whenever one is needed. Users will never have any trouble what so ever and will never need to ask questions. Bugs will be eliminated.

Re:Obviously (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942624)

Printers and copiers will magically clear their own jams. Corrupted and damaged files will never happen.

Actually, a lot of these imply people closer to the coal face. I can see the big centralized IT departments getting smaller and organizations moving to a decentralized IT staff. That could be interesting.

No. (1)

lonesome_coder (1166023) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942532)

Next question.

oh noes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21942536)

how will idiots make money with computers?

j/k thx it. have a fish.

ITs resting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21942540)

Its tired and shagged ouyt after a long squawk

and pining for the fjords.

Pasteurization is dead. (5, Insightful)

Peter Trepan (572016) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942554)

Now that all dairies use it, pasteurization doesn't give any dairy an advantage over any other. Clearly, pasteurization is dead.

Anti-Pasteurization (1, Insightful)

EgoWumpus (638704) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942868)

There are actually people who are into raw milk [] , suggesting that the analogy is perhaps not quite appropriate - unless you're suggesting that society is likely to develop an energetic Luddite business community.

Re:Pasteurization is dead. (1)

jayhawk88 (160512) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943120)

THANK YOU! I knew someone would crystallize my thoughts on this. I'd really like to meet the "competitive" company that didn't have an IT shop (formal or otherwise).

Nope! (3, Funny)

eck011219 (851729) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942568)

All of us down here in IT are alive and kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii

Re:Nope! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21942752)

No there will always be blonde secretaries!!!!!

Missing The Point (1)

Unkemptwolf (915070) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942570)

IT investments didn't provide companies with strategic advantages because when one company adopted a new technology, its competitors did the same.
And if they don't adopt a new technology, all your competitors will abide by your decision and not adopt it either? Yea, right. IT departments may not provide a competitive advantage, but you still have to have them because if you don't you give your competitors an advantage.

HEEEELLLLLLL NO! (3, Insightful)

spikedvodka (188722) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942576)

I'd like to see google services fix the computer that "Joe in accounting" just "updated"

seriously though... There is something to be said for physical presence. I can remote control computers, yes, but when the network connection isn't working, I have to physically get my hands on it. "just ship it out"... 9 times out of 10, it's a silly setting that an even sillier user changed, that they shouldn't have


The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942602)

You could very well have some sort of a failsafe serial line connected to every machine. I'm sure that the black hats would loooove that.


Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21942806)

Damn users always getting in the way. Don't spend time making things easier to use and understand, get rid of the real problem.

Re:HEEEELLLLLLL NO! (4, Insightful)

zymurgyboy (532799) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943034)

Exactly. The title of this is misleading. IT is not going away as we know anytime soon. Mr. Carr may be onto something with the idea that storage (in particular), data processing, and indexing may be on their way to the cloud and out of the hands of your local "Bob, NAS administrator." It is hard to justify the costs of temporary and HUGE amounts of disk space that may not be needed in a few months. And they are insanely expensive, even before you consider redundant systems, disaster recovery, etc.

However, support functions and basic networking would be a lot harder to ship off to a third party with marginal personal interest in the multitude of operations they would be supporting. Disagree? Then I give you EDS and their infamous Navy IT services contract, and countless other examples.


kripkenstein (913150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943104)

I'd like to see google services fix the computer that "Joe in accounting" just "updated"

seriously though... There is something to be said for physical presence.
Of course there is something to be said for physical presence. There is also something to be said for running your own on-location power plant (to use his example). The question is, is it worth it. For 99% of corporations it doesn't make sense to run their own power plant. Likewise, I think he's right about it not making sense for 99% of corporations to have their own IT department - the costs are high, centralized computing as a utility is getting cheap and effective. Only a matter of time.

Of course, when you use utility computing and your network connection goes down, you're screwed. Likewise when the power goes down you're screwed - it's really no different (actually losing power is worse). So there might be backup systems for some corporations - generators for power, on-site servers and personnel for IT. In fact the capability to have such backup systems is a requirement for utility computing to take off, and I am sure the big players are either working hard on developing such a thing or will soon start to do so.

Note that these backup systems will be far smaller than the size they would be if they were meant for constant use, as they currently are with IT. So this won't save run-of-the-mill IT as a career path.

IT is as dead as the mainframe supercomputer (0, Troll)

falcon5768 (629591) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942586)

your heard it here first!

Sure? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21942588)

Who is gonna clean the wheel of the mouse? Oh, it is optical now!!!

Respect. (4, Insightful)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942594)

As long as IT is considered a mystic black-art that anybody who 'knows-computers' can do then it will never receive the respect that it deserves. All IT jobs should be considered on the same "Skilled Trade" tier as plumbers, welders, electricians, etc. As long as the PHB thinks that his son Johnny has a computer so anybody can do this job, then it will always be a dead-end position.

There should be a registered apprenticeship, and it should take years to finish. The Certification schools should all be closed down and only true colleges and universities be registered to offer the courses.

If any boss thinks that you could be replaced by a student for $10.00/hr, then there is no respect.


Re:Respect. (1, Flamebait)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942712)

All you are saying is that helpdesk folks are replaceable by 10.00/hr kids, and guess what? They are.

Linux/Unix Sysadmins do not have this problem. We get plenty of respect and are treated as skilled white collar workers like accountants and the like. Windows admins are probably the same way.

All that has changed is that PHBs are realizing that helpdesk is replaceable by high school kids and dropouts. IT like every other field has levels, both a CNAs and a neurosurgeons are medical professionals, but one is a lot more respected then the other.

Re:Respect. (4, Insightful)

BunnyClaws (753889) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942722)

You say IT jobs should be treated as a "Skilled Trade" like plumbers, welders, electricians, etc... However, you only want Universities/Colleges to be allowed to teach this trade? Are you pushing for a University provided vocational program? Kind of like the B.A. in Plumbing the University of California system offers?

Re:Respect. (1)

EW87 (951411) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942982)

I just got hired for an IT spot for 10$ an hour I guess I am that bad end-game scenario.

Spurious logic (3, Insightful)

Caspian (99221) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942600)

I take issue with the claim that investments in IT do not create a strategic advantage because when one company starts using a new technology, so will its competitors. Isn't the same true of, oh, business strategies? Humans are, after all, primates-- and, as they say, "monkey see, monkey do". Anyone who hasn't noticed that large companies tend to emulate each others' strategies isn't paying much attention. So is the C[EIF]O career path dead too? How about the janitorial career path? After all, every company's janitor cleans shit stains out of the toilet in the same exact ways... so should companies stop investing in janitors?

Re:Spurious logic (4, Insightful)

Xiaran (836924) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943016)

Good point. One thing that also bugs me a little after reading TFA is that even tho a new technology may be adopted by all competitors it is not always evenly and consistently adopted. Some competitors utilise new technologies better than others. The IT world is full of examples of this. Technology is not the key... it is how *people* *use* and *implement* technology that drives up productivity.

Re:Spurious logic (1)

Alpha830RulZ (939527) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943070)

Actually, the same is true of, say, electricity and indoor plumbing. Joseph Schumpeter wrote about this phenomenon, oh, 80 years or so ago. Basically, any given technology gives diminishing returns after it's introduction, and ultimately becomes a necessity rather than a differentiator if it provides value to the business. To the article's point, while IT is providing less of a differentiator, that doesn't mean it's less important. It also doesn't mean that a company will cease to need people who know how to get IT done, whether through internal means or external means. Last I checked, it was hard to get to gmail without functioning PCs and network gear. Sure, EDS has a new competitor in Google and various ASP/SAS providers, but it's not like outsourcing is new. Certain companies still seem to manage to provide a competitive advantage through internal provision of IT. Can you say, "Amazon", or "Bank Of America"?

Re:Spurious logic (1)

MicktheMech (697533) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943094)

I suggest you read something by Michael Porter. Basically, doing something that everyone can do and would want to do is not a strategy. A good business strategy should be valuable, rare, inimitable and suit your organization. [] In other words the other players can't do it or don't want to do it. For example, Southwest is profitable because the major airlines can't copy their cost structure without losing their variety of destinations. So, the airlines don't want to copy them (continental tried by failed miserably because the business model just didn't mesh with their organization).

Seriously, if you've ever wondered what business strategy is really about, read some Porter. I strongly recommend his article in the Harvard Business Review title "What is Strategy?" in volume 74 issue 6 (Nov/Dec 1996).

Reports of IT's death are greatly exagerated (4, Interesting)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942612)

They predicted the death of the IT department twenty years ago when the PC became widespread. It didn't happen, and it won't now.

Back then it actually looked like it might. Now it doesn't. Who's going to replace that hardware router when it fails? Upgrade the equipment?

Perhaps the "IT department" will become for most companies what the post office is to the mail department; i.e. hired out to a specialty firm. But that hardly matters to the geeks in the IT department, they'll still get their paychecks. Their checks will just have a different company's name on them, that's all.

Good luck offshoring hardware replacement, or doing more than a script-based "help" desk.

I know my users are all so skilled.... (5, Insightful)

jjm496 (1004054) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942614)

"Business units and even individual employees will be able to control the processing of information directly, without the need for legions of technical people." Sure, Users are really likely to be picking up those skills themselves real soon. It will happen the same day they all remember ctrl-c is copy, and ctrl-v is paste. I won't hang up my pocket protector anytime soon.

Re:I know my users are all so skilled.... (1)

Cirga (1200625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942734)

I cannot agree more completely. The 1,000 end users at my company will always need help with the simplest tasks on a PC. Unless companies start testing employees on computer usage before hiring them; there will always be a need for an IT department at a large company. A good example is one of the users who has called me 3 times in the past 2 weeks stating that her printer was not working; when all it needed was more paper. Retaining what you tell them will not always be reliable.

Re:I know my users are all so skilled.... (1)

Mongoose Disciple (722373) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942848)

I cannot agree more completely. The 1,000 end users at my company will always need help with the simplest tasks on a PC. Unless companies start testing employees on computer usage before hiring them; there will always be a need for an IT department at a large company.

I agree... and further, while of course as a business owner you'd love for every person in your company to be able to do everything, the reality is that those people are going to be rare and expensive. If my company can hire accountants without regard (within reason) to how technically retarded they are, and someone else's company must hire accountants that can troubleshoot and fix all of their computer problems themselves, I'm going to get way better people for the money -- and my people are going to spend more time actually doing their job.

Pretty much everyone knows how to clean to some minimum standard, but most companies I know still hire a cleaning/housekeeping service. It doesn't make sense to pay your normal employees to spend time doing something that someone else can do more cost effectively (even, in the case of IT, if the IT people cost more than your 'normal' employees) and better.

Just like.. (4, Insightful)

malkavian (9512) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942616)

Engineering didn't matter, because, hell.. Once one person started using the wheel, everyone did, so what was the advantage in anyone having it?
Though really, it's more like the public transport system. By rights, it should be cheaper and more efficient if everyone used the mass transit system, and we all hopped on busses and trains run by large commercial entities with a monopoly on all transport.

Reality, on the other hand doesn't quite work that way. There are a lot of places that will simply want their own stuff (hey, you control your building and your servers a lot more closely than putting them in a big datacenter, and hey.. What about when your building loses external network connections?).
The world is a diverse place with a lot of different cases. And any company that trusts their lifeblood to another (storing in one datacenter) trusts a little more than they really should.

The IT department, even in the world of datacenters, will still be there. Same as facilities departments, same as every other department, just the role may shift a little.

IT Career Path? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21942620)

The IT Career path is a mis-nomer, more like a dead end.

Do you like pulling cable? Reinstalling Windows? Lugging hardware around? Crawling under desks?

If you do that for 5-10 years, you eventually move up to a glorified number cruncher, or putting together some 'mashup' that hopefully somebody will use.

IT has long since been dead, it's now just starting to stink.

Re:IT Career Path? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21942852)

Oh really? That's interesting that you think that, considering that many of the richest people in the world are tried and true IT geeks. I'm sure many people would consider Bill Gates 50+ billion dollars amassed fortune a complete waste of a high-school diploma. Steve Jobs is another example of a college drop-out who went down that dead-end route.

Yeah, getting CISA certified while working with a company that pays well over $100,000 a year that also provides travel all over the world has certainly been a huge mistake on my part. I probably should have gone into law school where I could have concentrated my efforts on frivilous corporate lawsuits while working for the RIAA.

Yes, IT is dead -- please think that. The demand will only increase while the supply of able candidates dwindles thereby pushing up my salary.

Re:IT Career Path? (2, Informative)

Bandman (86149) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943004)

Interesting, but the two people you mention were both the business geniuses rather than the technical people in those companies. If it weren't for Paul Allen, we'd probably never have heard of Bill Gates, and the same goes for Woz.

Re:IT Career Path? (1)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942978)

The IT Career path is a mis-nomer, more like a dead end.

Do you like pulling cable? Reinstalling Windows? Lugging hardware around? Crawling under desks?

Excellent point. The IT Career path teaches a fairly limited set of computational expertise. Most people in IT would laugh at anybody who claimed to be a career Waiter. Each position requires a basic set of skills (more so for IT), but limited growth potential. A waiter can become a staff manager or even endevour to start his own restaurant, but that would be the exception. Most likely, he would get bored and go to school to do something different. An occasional few who truly enjoy waitering will do the job until retirement.

I think this comparison for an IT Professional is more or less true. After ten years... is it really still enjoyable for all that many people? And aren't the people who it really is enjoyable for going to be there for the next 30 years, until they retire? That is very limiting to the growth potential for the younger generation.

Nobody is saying "IT is Dead". The function of managing complex company networks will always be necessary to run a modern business. What is dead is the notion of a career IT staff member.

In a word, NO (1)

Chanc_Gorkon (94133) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942622)

First, outsourcing IT is a bad idea. First, there's always something you don't and shouldn't trust to someone else. Data security can only be 100 percent assured if you know where it is. Storing data in Google's cloud and only relying on it is a recipe for disaster.

Outsourcing by another name (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21942646)

Nothing to see here... move along.

Just outsourcing with a different name, and instead to India, its to some random ASP.

This idea of utility computing fails to take in account of one thing: Security. Thanks to laws like SOX, HIPAA, and others, it can be considered breaching "due diligence" if a company outsources their IT to some "CPU warehouse", and the data gets breached.

Some things can be moved outside a company similar to power or utilities. IT and computing resources is not one of these items that can be passed to a utility company any more than a utility company providing office space or file cabinets.

Re:Outsourcing by another name (1)

ClarifyAmbiguity (683603) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942974)

Much like the QSA citation in one of the earlier comments, a company can outsource IT functions if it can demonstrate that its service providers have adequate data security practices, just as if it were an internal part of the organization. For example, a SAS 70 document can be provided for some assurance that the service provider has adequate documentation of its controls. Now, it's another thing if all kinds of data are sent unsecurely to a third party without having any assurances of data security - but contractual agreements and things like a SAS 70 exist for this purpose. It's the same with backup data centers, or with sending tapes and papers to places like Iron Mountain - you're given assurances that the data will be protected.

As a layman... (1)

Bullfish (858648) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942650)

Not in IT..., the notion that if you adopt a competitive advantage in terms of a technology, others will too is a universal. So, in the 2003 article, am I to understand that this guy suggested essentially that no one should do R&D because others will benefit from it eventually? Strange... why should anyone believe this guy now?

Obligatory car analogy (0, Redundant)

ktappe (747125) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942662)

(Someone has to mention cars...)

So Toyota should do away with its R&D division because anything they innovate will simply be copied by Honda, GM, and VW?

Re:Obligatory car analogy (1)

Doctor-Optimal (975263) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943008)

It worked so well for GM!

Re:Obligatory car analogy (1)

jojo1835 (470854) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943146)

Heck... these days GM and Ford won't bother to copy it. They'll just license it from Toyota and stick their brand on it.


It's only Resting ... (1)

rrhal (88665) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942670)

... in Hyderabad.

Don't believe it. (4, Interesting)

MrCrassic (994046) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942676)

So IT in corporate America is going to be run completely by external companies, which I would assume are the companies that provide the hardware to us, according to this author.

I consider this flawed in two ways:

1. IT services are not dead: Even if no IT department existed, some company, person or entity will have to be responsible for upkeeping the hardware and software implemented, as well as ensuring that the network components and business computers are all functioning properly. You could change the name, slice and dice it a thousand ways, but in the end, the premise is the same: managaing the spread of information in an environment, which from what I understand is information technology.

2. IT departments are not dead: If businesses knew that outsourcing services to other companies were cheaper, this would have happened a long time ago. Not like the IT department people wouldn't have jobs; they would just be working for the companies supported by the corporations. So far as I know, it is by far less expensive to maintain an in-house staff that takes care of all of that then pay three-digit-per-hour services to do the same job, and not have adequate knowledge of the business network.

I am pretty new to the corporate aspect of the field, so I might be missing something that this author saw that prompted him to write his diatribe; if I did, please fill me in.

Re:Don't believe it. (2, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943068)

If businesses knew that outsourcing services to other companies were cheaper, this would have happened a long time ago.

Depending entirely on the nature of the business, a lot of companies in some industries have done exactly this.

It makes sense for an organisation with very little requirements in terms of technology - £5,000-10,000 per year will provide a fair bit of consultancy as long as your requirements aren't that complicated, but won't pay much in the way of fulltime IT support staff.

It can also make sense in an industry where every IT-oriented aspect of your business is much the same as any other in your industry and more or less every IT problem has already been solved.

However, for large organisations it's always worth questioning the benefit. Unless your organisation is way overstaffed/overpaid, the outsourcer will require a similar number of staff at similar wages to do essentially the same job. And staff wages are far and away the greatest cost. So unless your outsourcer takes the jobs to a drastically cheaper country, they'll have the exact same costs - that's before you even consider that they need to make a profit.

Re:Don't believe it. (1)

infosinger (769408) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943130)

I went to school where electrical engineering with power speciality was taught. The program was going strong and there were plenty of jobs for power engineers. It is true, however, that 90% of the jobs were for the power utilities. Bottom line, IT departments might be dying but the IT discipline lives on in other organizations. Google was cited as an example of a utlility. Last time I looked they had several openings for IT related position.

I'm not dead yet! (1)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942692)

In fact, I feel much better... I think I'll go for a walk now...

As long as there is a PEBKAC there will be a need for IT and I don't believe the users will get any better anytime soon...

Not as long as (1)

Lucas123 (935744) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942730)

Vendors continue to make proprietary software and firmware that refuse to work with competing and complimentary vendor products (and that will be forever), so I think it's safe to say IT shops will be around a very long time.

Yeah - electricians are dead too (4, Insightful)

howlinmonkey (548055) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942750)

I think the book's author missed a step in his logic. The centralization of power utilities didn't obsolete electricians. IT departments will become more like electricians, helping companies deal with localized problems and building local infrastructure. Application service providers will not take over all datacenter functions, and as long as end users are proud of their technological ignorance, local support will be absolutely necessary. Now, this may mean opportunities for more independent service providers and a new round of technological entrepreneurialism, but not the death of the IT professional.

Did this guy ever work in IT (1)

Migizi (1004526) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942762)

I didn't read the whole article but I didn't think I had to after the first page. The companies I have worked for would never outsource the IT department or the data center. They would feel they would lose control over it. Also IT will always be around, 90% of end users don't want to fix anything they just want to call someone and have them do it for them.

Re:Did this guy ever work in IT (1)

darthflo (1095225) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942944)

Also IT will always be around, 90% of end users don't want to fix anything they just want to call someone and have them do it for them.
No need for an IT department to do that. I used to work for a government organization providing IT services to other GOs who outsourced their office IT. We'd take care of our and our customers servers while IBM GS took care of our workstations, printers and so on. The fact that this is happening in a GO (who'd usually be late-adopters of novel business tactics and most anything) demonstrates that this part of IT doesn't need an own IT dept anymore.

Idiotic (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942770)

From the sounds of it, this author pays his bills by coming up with sensational, baseless titles. I'm going to now write a book declaring the gasoline-powered car DEAD since gas is now $3/gallon. Sure, we still need them and they'll be around for at least another 20 years, but can't you just imagine some hypothetical scenario where people wouldn't drive cars anymore?

This guy is off his rocker (3, Funny)

wizkid (13692) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942782)

But there are some CEO's and CTO's that will read this, and cut more funding from IT departments, making life even worse for people going into and working in IT. More skilled people will leave, and then with less manpower, more crackers will be breaking into the companies that are stupid enough to listen to this moron, causing more tort lawsuits, more credit card and personal financial profiles will be stolen by russians, thereby causing the total collapse of western civilization as we know it.

Or maybe not.

Just the opposite is happening (2, Insightful)

br00tus (528477) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942796)

In the past few years at Fortune 1000 companies I have seen just the opposite happening. I have seen centralized IT for the corporation starved, while divisions built up their own IT departments. This has been happening at the IT departments my friends work at as well. Things are not becoming centralized, but decentralized. This person has the opposite happening - instead of centralized corporate IT being decentralized to divisions, centralized corporate IT is being super-centralized so a utility is the center of IT for multiple corporations. This is not what is happening on the ground, the opposite is happening.

If it was, Marc Andreessen would have struck lucky with not only Netscape but Loudcloud. But he didn't, Loudcloud wasn't successful because corporations are not doing this. I can see how it makes sense to Andreessen and this fellow that this should happen. But corporations do not follow this logic, nor the logic of a Scott Adams or other techies who often puzzle at why corporations do things in a way that appears so peculiar to them. IMHO, it does make sense what corporations are doing, the problem is the Andreessens and Carrs and Adams of the world don't fully understand what the purpose of a corporation is.

Compartimentalization (1)

LightPhoenix7 (1070028) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942800)

The clear answer is no. The reason for this is that in a perfect world, people would be able to pick up multiple proficiencies easily. However, that simply isn't the case in real life - a relatively small amount of people have this trait. Rather than weed out everyone capable of doing a job (say, data entry) because they can't handle even rudimentary IT, it is much more efficient to keep all the people capable of doing a job (data entry in this case), then hire an IT staff. You get all the people capable of data entry doing data entry, and the people capable at IT doing IT, and no one doing a job with rudimentary skill. Plus, you don't have to pay your non-IT staff more for a broader knowledge base.

Electricity is a flawed analogy (3, Interesting)

boyfaceddog (788041) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942804)

I love that line about 'corporations used to generate their own electricity, but then the utilities took over'. Yeah right. If the corpation was a big enough consumer of electricity the utility company couldn't generate the amount of power consumed and the company had to generate its own power. Even today U.S. Steel owns and operates electrical production plants and is working to increase the ouput, not decrease it.

If this is his best analogy, I think IT is safe.

Real World Experience (3, Interesting)

Tom (822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942814)

I know one large corporation from the inside that has, more or less, abandoned the IT department: Telecom Italia. Here, IT is considered an "add on" and what's there of IT is tacked on to the departments it is supposed to support, or is outsourced (usually to Acenture).

TI has the worst IT that I have ever seen, by a wide margin. I have never met so many so incompetent fools before. I have never seen such a shoddy network, such crappy software, and such a low quality in general. Run an IT project within TI and you have dozens of consultants running around, most producing work that is so shitty you have to completely rewrite it from scratch before you can use it.

This is a long story put very short, but it's taught me one thing: If you think that IT doesn't matter, that you don't need an IT department, that you can run IT as an afterthought, you will pay threefold for every buck you save in overhead, quality, availability, security and everything else that takes someone who knows what the fuck he's doing to get it done right.

Servers vs Network (1)

Sniper98G (1078397) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942828)

Most corporate IT is composed of two parts Servers/Applications and Networks. Although applications could be restructured to use a centralized model; users still need: switches, routers and access points to connect to those applications. To continue the electric power analogy, just because you buy your power from a utility doesn't mean you won't still need electricians on staff to fix your wiring and junction boxes.

it is changing (1)

Grampaw Willie (631616) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942838)

"it" certainly isn't "dead" but it is in a state of change. but nothing new there, it has always been in a state of change: from "tabulating", to "data processing", to "information technology"

and in the "information technology" phase the IT specialists provide assistance to the myriad of users who have now spread throughout the organization and into every department

Business strategy alignment (1)

mrhandstand (233183) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942850)

I perform consulting services for fortune 500 companies; I see an amazing amount of businesses where IT drives the business, instead of business driving IT decisions i.e "tail wagging the dog".

GOOD business leadership determines the needs of the business and the market, defines and delivers a set of service requirements, and then works with IT to buy/build system(s) to deliver the required services. (On time and budget is a whole 'nother story) If IT is failing to deliver, then its poor management of the business and and IT dept that is in the wrong place in the decision making cycle.

Spoken like a true consultant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21943108)

Sure, IT should be aligned with business goals and processes. But on the other hand, the IT people coming up with the strategies for the business might be doing so because the rest of the company can't pull it off. Seriously, when was the last time that you saw any innovation coming out of accounting? Or HR? Or for that matter, the executive suite? In most of the companies that I've worked at the IT department is far more creative, logical and procedural than any of the departments that were being supported.

If you need to drive change in a business, you need to look to the creative people to do it, regardless of where they live in the building. If you can only see changes that come from executive row and their closest pals in finance and accounting as being worthwhile then you suffer from the same blinders that drive most companies, especially those that are past the point of having the founders be the senior management team and have moved into the "Let's hire as many MBA's as we can" stage. Or they aren't looking for internal growth, just to buy other companies or outside products for growth.

Having worked at both, I know where I'd rather be working (if I wasn't doing it on my own now).

balderdash. IT will scale back, but never vanish (4, Interesting)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942856)


"In the long run, the IT department is unlikely to survive, at least not in its familiar form," Carr writes. "It will have little left to do once the bulk of business computing shifts out of private data centers and into the cloud. Business units and even individual employees will be able to control the processing of information directly, without the need for legions of technical people."

Sheeeyeah- RIIIIGHT.

Wrong on SO many levels.

Little miss dolly dots who can barely operate MSWord and her email client is going to have the expertise to "Control the processing of information directly"? Fuck no. People like that couldn't spill pee out of a boot if the instructions were on the heel.

I'm in an academic environment. I work with a lot of really smart and VERY accomplished people, but that doesn't mean they know jackshit about computers. They need Mike (our I.T. god) on an almost daily basis.

A friend of mine works for a Well Known Thinktank. Nobel prize winners, genius types. Most of them wouldn't be able to distinguish a USB cable from Firewire if their lives depended on it. you could give them tutorials all day long - and all you'd be doing is wasting their time, which is REALLY expensive.

And setting up these networks? And troubleshooting it all? When the print server's on windows, but the file server's on linux and I'm on a Mac and need something to print NOW? I am I going to "Control the processing of information directly"? I could, but in fact: Fuck No. I'm gonna call Mike, the IT deity for our department and he will fix it. IT will never go away, because (not to sound snobby, just acknowledging reality) some of us have better things to do with our time.


I foresee some movement but.. (2, Insightful)

JerryLove (1158461) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942858)

It does make sense for some companies to focus on provided resources, and some very good examples are given. Further, it makes sense for many comanies to outsorce their datacenters (IBM has been a major provider of dedicate, vendor-run, datacenters, as is EDS).

Of course, these providers will still need employees (the electric company has employees running their power plants), though there's an effeciency that should mean less are neccessairy.

Also, data isn't electricity. It doesn't make sense for all companies to move to such vendor-supplied computing power. Firstly, there's already a decent amount of efficiency in large companies IT / datacenters (it would take as many people from a vendor). A more important consideration from a company standpoint includes control of data security, disaster recovery, etc.

Then there's the need for end-user support and oversight. Sure, the business units could control their directories, and user accesses... indeed they *should*; but illiteracy and simple idiocy is still rampant. They don't. They need their hands held, and they need someone who can protect the company from the results of stupid mistakes.

And with all this we still are only discussing the server-storage side of things. Computers will not be in use in 20 years?!? OK. What will we access Google Apps on? Smart Terminals? I've heard that pefor. You won't need people to install and maintain the computers/smart terminals? There are people here who maintain the lights, and power outlets, and desks; why would these be better/more reliable?

Then there's the networking infrastructure (routers/switches/etc), the actual vendor interation, Auditing (Sorbains-Oxley anyone?). Can a business manager just add anyone to the network? What about cross-unit accesses?

Costs and licensing still needs to be managed. My depatment prints more than a million pages a month. We have two people just to run the printers. Then there's the reliability question inherent in any online software/access.

In the end, for large comanies, at best, we are discussing contracting out data-centers. That's beeen going on for decades.

In the long run, yes (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942864)

Ive been predicting this for a while now.

While IT wont totally dry up, especially in huge shops, i do see a large part of the market for IT in the SMB world disappearing. The trend is already there.

We have pretty much 'technologied' ourselves out of a job.

Sounds like programming in the 1980's (1)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942866)

During the early '80's all I heard was not to go into programming because computers will soon be able to program themselves. Still waiting for that one to happen...

Confirmation Bias (1)

WaZiX (766733) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942884) []

And I'm not even going to bother debating the absurdity of his electricity-computer power comparison...

If it's not dead yet, it will be soon... (1)

gillbates (106458) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942898)

My company insists on thinking of IT as a cost center rather than a strategic advantage. They would sacrifice millions of dollars in engineering productivity for the sake of saving a few thousand in the IT budget.

What's his deal? (1)

bondjamesbond (99019) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942914)

Why such a beef with IT in general?? Oh, I know - he didn't realize that his IT department was monitoring him with Websense and he was BUSTED surfing pr0n. Since then, he's been on a crusade. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Someday I suppose... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21942920)

Heh, I remember when vitrual terminals were going to replace PCs. Except it turned out that once you buy a monitor, keyboard, basic pc the additional cost of putting an OK processor and memory in it is less than a giant virtual server farm. And it works if your network is down.

Others have said one day we will not be needed because computers will become so easy to use and trouble free. That is true, so long as you never want your PC to do any thing new! The moment you want something new, welcome back to the IT department.

It is hard to imagine, based on engineering limits, that WAN bandwidth will ever be as cheap for the same speed as LAN bandwidth. So a WAN based service works great, if files never get bigger!

Will IT departments change? Sure, more specialization, and horray for that. But there is infinite working in cyberspace available, people will always want more!

There are lots of jobs like that, computers change them, but in the end they let up do new things and offer new services we couldn't before.

Never! (1)

MikeDirnt69 (1105185) | more than 6 years ago | (#21942936)

On my last job, I used to BE the 'IT Department'. No meter if you outsource your IT Dept to IBM or pay a low budget nerd to do your stuff, you will always have a TI Dept.

Dead? Only if you don't evolve! (1)

RockedMan40 (1130729) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943006)

Darwinism doesn't just affect critters. Now - if you happen to be in an IT department, doing things the same exact way you did 10 years ago, using the same skill sets you had 10 years ago, because you haven't seen fit to expand them, are heading for the career dirt nap. Same as the critter world, evolve or face extinction. However - if you keep current with your skill sets, learn new methods, push new ideas, *LISTEN TO NEW IDEAS*, there will ALWAYS be a place for you in the IT field. I would argue the sheer speed of technology evolution guarantees those that can adapt will have secure employment for a lifetime. I find I have learned more "new" ideas and methods over the last 1.5 years, than I did the previous 8.5. Many of which allowed me to bring a new or better service to those who depend upon me doing a good job. Which in turns...solidifies my position. I truly do not worry about 'future' tech, or having a way to pay for my retirement.

Time-Sharing, the Wave of the Future (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943028)

We've heard this before. There's a presentation in AFIPS 1966 in which someone from Control Data was saying that each metropolitan area would have one giant, shared supercomputer.

"Grid computing" was a flop commercially, once the vendors started charging for it. Sun's service [] is still around, but they don't talk about it much any more. That was more like an effort to find something to do with their unsold server inventory. ResPower Render Farm [] has a real but very specialized business, quietly rendering 3D frames for the film industry.

Amazon has been making some noise lately, but they don't promise much [] : "Without limitation to Section 11.5, we shall have no liability whatsoever for any damage, liabilities, losses (including any loss of data or profits) or any other consequences that you may incur as a result of any Service Suspension." Clearly they're not serious about offering a service to businesses.

There are successful services, like Salesforce, but those offer more than raw compute power.

He's saying IT isn't strategic (1)

blurryrunner (524305) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943042)

He isn't saying that companies shouldn't invest in IT, he's saying that a company cannot create a long term strategic advantage over another company simply through IT infrastructure. He feels that the nature of IT makes it very to replicate things between companies.

Consider technology companies and you will see this is true. Apple for example, is well known for their high quality technology products. However, it seems that within months of them releasing their next hot product, some company has made some kind of knock off. Apple is successful afterward because of their brand. It has a certain image that people buy into that can't be replicated. So Apple's strategic advantage is in their brand, not in their technologies. They maintain their brand by continually releasing hot new products.

Google is similar. After Google became successful, everyone and their dog started copying their advertising model and their cool apps. Google remains a leader because of the brand it built and the following it created. While Google's products are cool, they are not the most superior out there. I argue that for them, it is also the brand that gives them most of their value.

Now, if you consider this idea in light of the open source software movement, his opinion is even more compelling. In the long run, the cost of software will approach $0. This doesn't mean that it will cost $0 to run and maintain it, just that the costs will become very uniform throughout different industries.

There will always be needs for custom software, but if that need exists, it will be throughout the industry you are competing in. This makes it a matter of operational effectiveness and less about strategy.

I wouldn't go as far as he does in saying that the IT department isn't necessary, but I think that many companies do things in-house when they should really be outsourced. /br

Sorry for this (1)

spleen_blender (949762) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943076)

Every time I see anyone reference Edison in any kind of positive way, I just feel morally obligated to point out that him along with JP Morgan were some of the biggest assholes in science.

The real name we should remember with awe and praise is Nikolai Tesla. He deserves the spot in history that Edison unjustly occupies and he deserves at least me trying to make the effort to point this out to you all, even if I get modded down for being off topic. He deserves better.

I highly doubt it... (1)

foxalopex (522681) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943078)

Local IT divisions will always exist for a few good reasons:
1. As much as remote access is convenient, people still have a love and preference to socialize with people. After all that's what makes us human. Besides, my experience in support is that personally being there and helping out is far better than trying to give out instructions over the phone. It also takes a bit of the mystery out of what you actually do for management.
2. External Contractors don't always care about your company's well being. They'll do the bare minimal to ensure they can get more work out of you in the future. Local IT staff (at least good IT) tend to prefer to get everything working perfectly because that means less work for them or time to work on more interesting things. There's a joke that good administrators tend to look like they're doing nothing which has more truth to it than you would think.
3. Many companies use customized systems and configurations that benefit from someone being locally there and experienced. Centralized systems tend not be as loved due to the fact that staff can quickly run into limitations.

Don't do what you're bad at, outsource (1)

gelfling (6534) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943090)

Just like payroll goes to ADP, security guards come from Briggs, HR/Benefits are outsourced to Fidelity, the cafeteria is run by Sedexo, toss your IT to IBM or Accenture or CSC or HP or someone. If it's not something you see a strategic advantage in doing then don't do it. Why would you?

Not the "cloud" AGAIN... (1)

cliffiecee (136220) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943116)

the IT department ... will have little left to do once the bulk of business computing shifts out of private data centers and into the cloud

I'm sick of this love affair with "the cloud" (which I understand to mean " on the internet"). The cloud is neither reliable nor secure, and storing your sensitive data in it is suicidal. By the time you make the effort to secure your data (and secure access to it as well), you might as well have kept it on-site.

The IT dept might be on the way out, however ... (1)

Peter_JS_Blue (801871) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943124)

.. I suspect a lot of business men, Venture Capitalists and middle managers are also on the way out too.

As the cost of creating and running online ventures plummets the need for large groups of 'suits' to fund and manage said ventures will diminish with many 'suites' being replaced by smart automation.

A lot of the innovative businesses were created by techies. Example: Google (Page & Brin), Craigslist (Newmark), Yahoo (Filo & Yang), YouTube (Hurley & Chen). And these days even more ventures are being self funded - no VCs needed. This article by Paul Graham The Venture Capital Squeeze [] sums it up quite well.

The meek don't need to inherit the Earth - they already own it !!

LOL and sensationalism. (1)

mnslinky (1105103) | more than 6 years ago | (#21943132)

LOL - that pretty much sums up this article.

Now I know why so many people 'quit' Slashdot on a regular basis. Give me news, not over-hyped B.S.

I can see it now:

cried_wolf writes "After getting hit in the head by something mysterious from above, Chicken Little (wikipedia: Chicken Little ) has proclaimed the sky, is indeed, falling."
[+] chicken, troll, no, attentionwhore, bullshit (tagging beta)
Cue hysteria and otherwise undue attention.
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