Gartner kicked off its annual Symposium ITxpo conference Monday with a wake-up call from its top analysts to CIOs who may be sleeping at the wheel.
Citing four major emerging technology trends, Gartner analyst Jennifer Beck predicted "the demise of the conventional IT organization," which she said is too often "fundamentally about control" and not well-aligned with business goals.
The goal, she said, is to revamp IT operations so there is a sharper focus on delivering services, not managing products. IT departments should also be staffed with people who believe technology is an enabler of business and should have their own "office of transformation" to track consumer trends that indicate coming IT changes.
How to change IT is an issue that should be dealt with by all corporate managers, Beck said, not just by "leadership teams who've had too much wine and just spent four days with a change management consultant."
The trends causing this revolution, according to Peter Sondergaard, head of research for the research firm, include the consumerization of IT, the "greening" of IT, alternative delivery models such as Software as a Service (SaaS), and the changing shape of IT itself.
Warning that users need to have the freedom to add productivity-enhancing tools ad hoc, CIOs who "see themselves as managing IT can become irrelevant if the notion of what constitutes IT changes," Sondergaard said.
For instance, mainstream consumer gear such as music players or smartphones are no longer considered high-tech devices, but have, in the case of teenagers with their iPods, become a "basic human right," joked Steve Prentice, another Gartner analyst.
Prentice also said the mindset of IT vendors needed to change. "Driving on Highway 101, I saw the Cingular ad - 'fewest dropped calls.' What kind of message is that?"
Not that the CIO mindset is much better, according to Daryl Plummer, a Gartner analyst, noting that IT operations "spent the last 50 years piling complexity on top of complexity in order to try to make things simpler for users."
"The more flexible architectures get, the more complicated they get," he said. "That's why though I like the promise of [service-oriented architecture], I think we spend way too much on the 'A' and not enough on the 'SO'."