Does your department look like an IT department? It is an interesting topic. Yesterday, having completed a CIO podcast discussion with John Whiting and Owen Powell, the CIO of the Arts Council we began discussing the true shape of an IT department today and how they have radically changed in recent years.
During the podcast debate Powell explained how he has outsourced the less interesting side of IT, the mechanical processes and allowed his staff, with training, to progress within the organisation and become more project focussed and to do what IT people love to do the most, develop solutions at the cutting edge of technology that really help the organisation. As Powell said, "people don't want to be running around changing tapes."
The conversation led, as it often does, to alignment. I suggested that I haven't yet met a CIO who wasn't aligned with the business and completely business focussed. With two experts in the room, I quickly asked if alignment was more of a problem for the CIO's team and if outsourcing has helped IT teams become more embedded in the business as they no longer have to be in the basement with a huge set of servers to babysit. Powell and Whiting agreed.
The Arts Council is based in Westminster, but all of its servers are in Canary Wharf. Powell went on to explain how his department looks no different from the department they sit next to - HR. Perhaps the VDU screens are larger, but he explained that the days of IT desks being covered with bits of old machine and the staff all wearing Red Dwarf T-shirts are long gone.
Everyone nodded in agreement as we remembered those IT departments that had more in common with a back street car garage than the modern web enabled business.
So now I'd like to ask you the CIO audience if your department has adopted the business camouflage and looks akin to all the other areas of the organisation, or will we find a mass of circuit boards, cables and server racks all over the place being tinkered with by men with beards and an unhealthy knowledge of Star Trek? Send us some pictures of IT departments then and now and we'll create a Flickr gallery to share the changing look of IT.