Getting to grips with the democratization of IT

As the world forcibly shifts towards working from home (WFH), the pressure on IT infrastructure is building. Regardless of how they feel about it, employees have woken up to a new way of carrying out their jobs virtually, meaning that the importance of having sound distributed IT infrastructure and practices isn’t just temporary, but a long-lasting requirement for organizations globally. In light of this, IT leaders have a responsibility to both ensure businesses can continue as usual in the short-term, and utilize the current situation to focus on how to evolve their processes on a longer-term basis.

These changes have come at a time when the IT industry is already facing a significant shake-up thanks to the ongoing democratization of IT – a trend which refers to the decentralization of IT systems as new technologies hand power to anyone with a smartphone or laptop and an internet connection.

Traditional IT

Traditionally, businesses’ IT systems have been driven by strong IT leadership, however, the pace of change has meant relying on a centralized authority is no longer sufficient. Innovation in the workplace is now increasingly distributed and teams are becoming ever-more self-organizing and comfortable in disruption and chaos models. 

For example, the use of video conferencing software such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom – which can easily be self-installed without the need for a central IT authority – has empowered individuals to bypass traditional means of inter-colleague communication. 

But how can IT teams identify the extent to which the IT within their organisation has already been democratized? And how can they get a handle on it once they’ve established the impact? Navigating the waves of the democratization of IT We believe there are three key waves which are converging to drive the democratization of IT.

Wave One: Democratizing innovation

Change driven by software innovation is now pervasive and is increasingly taking place at the “edge” – carried out by actual business or client resources that can access the necessary capabilities and platforms with a swipe of a credit card. Innovation has also become more democratized through the acceptance of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) packages, the emergence of low-code platforms, and the commoditization and mass adoption of cloud computing power. 

In evidence of this, last year Forrester Research highlighted the growing number of developers working outside of central IT organisations – finding that 24% reported into a business unit instead of the CIO or IT.

Wave Two: Intelligent automation & AI

Investment in intelligent automation for the delivery of new business services and their underlying business processes is not only bringing explosive growth, but also underpinning a massive change in how these services are created. Automation is now opening traditional IT services to business users through simple self-service IT, digital assistants, as well as native monitoring and self-healing capabilities. 

Meanwhile, business users are moving rapidly to enrich their business services using artificial intelligence (AI) – driven in large part by the maturation of “so-called” easily deployable AI offers from many leading market platforms.

Wave Three: Scaled agile, DevOps, and enterprise architecture

All this decentralization means that there is even more pressure on businesses to drive innovation within an antifragile enterprise architecture, along with the need for a scaled agile approach across diverse and distributed drivers of innovation, and a mature set of DevOps practices. The increased adoption of scaled agile frameworks (e.g. SAFe, Nexus, etc.) and the use of DevOps automation practices are removing these barriers. Edge innovation can now occur at scale as IT leaders adapt, orchestrate, and accelerate innovation via Automation-as-a-Service to these business and client teams.

Where should IT teams go from here?

Faced with the risk of becoming surplus to requirements if they do not react quickly enough, adapting to these changing situations requires IT teams to take initiative. But how can they control, drive and support innovation within the business, while remaining relevant? Although there’s an infinite set of possible approaches to capitalize on this disruption, here are a few of the key ways IT teams can shift these changes to their favor:

  • Act as a fast mover to finesse an innovative and agile enterprise architecture that unites everyone and keeps everything together. 
  • Rapidly adopt an intelligent automation framework and open it up to your business and clients via a self-service and as-a-Service model. 
  • Scale agile throughout your business and orchestrate value creation while not impeding your operations. 
  • Implement DevOps and make sure that you’ve got an organisation that’s neatly structured and operating with practices that enable efficient collaboration and trust to occur.

In summary

I believe it is possible to effectively navigate the waves of the democratization of IT – finding ways to take back some of the control as well as capitalizing on the ongoing disruption. But action must start now. While the challenges they face may seem vast, especially due to the unprecedented current shift to virtual working, IT teams need to get a handle on the situation quickly or risk it having an even more profound impact on the way businesses organize their teams, and interact with IT.

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