IT departments are set to become smaller. In addition, the role of IT will transform into that of an integrator of services, a driver of innovation and a manager of systems and processes.

These changes are being driven by the widespread use of cloud computing and the increased prevalence of ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD).

New cloud computing implementations typically use IT resources much more efficiently and effectively than was the case before. Indeed, this model of computing leads to much greater sharing of IT resources, not just within enterprises, but also among enterprises.

Cloud computing offers greater automation of IT activities, such as service provisioning, updates and upgrades. It also reduces the amount of time required to provision new IT resources dramatically, and engenders self service.

Soon, most employees can be expected to procure and manage the devices that they use at work. This also removes a huge amount of work from IT departments.

For these reasons, demand for IT professionals is unlikely to grow, In fact, IT departments will inevitably become smaller.

By how much will IT departments shrink? Indeed, how will the role of the CIO and the IT department change over time?

It is hard to tell how much IT departments will shrink. However, there is evidence of IT departments shrinking as a proportion of the organization being served. At a recent CIO event in Perth, Australia, Vito Forte, CIO of mining firm Fortescue, explained that his company is currently growing at a very fast rate. But, there are no plans to grow the IT department.  Other CIOs have made similar comments.

More importantly, the move to cloud computing and BYOD will transform the role of the CIO and IT departments. Traditional IT tasks such as software support, upgrades, and procurement will not be required to the same extent as in on premise IT deployments. Nevertheless, the use of cloud services and BYOD present new challenges. Presently, cloud computing resources are often adopted by business units without any involvement of IT departments. The same applies to BYOD. Some IT departments have resisted these changes and sought to prohibit these activities. This is an unsustainable approach. The IT department of the future will act as a provider of cloud services and an enabler of BYOD. It will focus to a much greater extent on ensuring compliance to company policy and legislation.

Many analysts argue that IT departments will act as brokers of cloud services to their internal customers. This offers limited business value. As app stores are built up internally, this approach will likely accelerate the reduction in the size of IT departments. It will also inhibit the transformation of the IT function into a role that offers significant business value.

Instead, forward thinking IT departments can be expected to position themselves as service integrators within the organization. In other words, they will focus on procuring and integrating cloud services that can add value to specific business activities. They will then seek to ensure that these services are implemented successfully.  Once implemented, the transformed business function will manage the systems and processes that the new technology underpins.

While managing systems and processes, the new function will drive innovation within the organization by continually introducing new ways of enhancing business processes using the latest services that are provided from the cloud. The forward thinking CIO’s role will, in many cases, change to Chief Innovation Officer.

IT departments that do not embrace the changes taking place around them, will find themselves becoming less relevant to the organization.

In summary, the IT department will inevitably shrink as a proportion of the overall organization that it serves. But, for forward thinking IT departments, the role will change to that of a service integrator, innovator, and manager of systems and processes. Its value to the business can increase substantially.