Vanishing IT Departments – Reducing the Technologist Pool or Just a Population Shift?

An article on ZDNet was both saddening and encouraging at the same time. “The Vanishing IT Department” summarizes a Corporate Executive Board report that predicts that corporate IT departments will have shrunk by 75% by the year 2015.

The article makes perfect sense to me. IT is no longer an advantage in and of itself for a business to have; it’s just par for the course. The emphasis is now on refining IT services to specific business units’ specifications. That means that not only will IT become more decentralized by aligning itself with individual business units, portions of IT  will also be outsourced to external specialist service providers that have refined their specialist offerings.

The overall population of technologists won’t be reduced, the population’s distribution will simply shift.

The standalone, distinct IT department is becoming obsolete and inflexible and its monolithic days are numbered. That makes me a little sad. I’ve had the privilege of working part time in an IT department at a mid-sized organization. I know first-hand the camaraderie and just plain fun that a centralized IT department can have designing and implementing technology for various departments.

I also know the difficulty that is inherent in one team attempting to see, feel and meet the needs of widely disparate departments. I see the need for IT to be less monolithic, but part of me doesn’t like it. Why? Because I’m hideously selfish. However, IT isn’t there for it’s own (or my own) enjoyment.

I’ve also done a lot of “Standalone / Lone Sysadmin-ing” (apologies to Matt Simmons and Bob Plankers) from an outside contractor perspective. It’s not as fun to be an outsider. I have been hoping to find employment with an internal IT department (or becoming a small business’s IT department) and leave my days of an informal consultant/contractor role behind. It feels cold and lonely sometimes and I don’t particularly like it. :’(

Stop Crying Your Crying is Making Dawson CryOkay, I’m better now. So what was the encouraging part to me in all of this? In case you haven’t seen any previous blog posts about my endeavors, I’m starting a business. My intent is to become an LLC so that a friend can contract me for a specific job he needs done. However, I started getting this crazy notion to run further with the business and become a managed and/or hosted services provider.

While IT isn’t for it’s own enjoyment, I believe that you can’t persist at doing something that you don’t like. I don’t like constantly doing help desk work or installing LinkSys routers. I want to work on WAN optimization projects, multi-site software deployment strategies and servers that are so powerful the earth’s magnetic field is warped just from turning it on.

When I think “MSP” I think of a whole lot of printer jockeying and hard drive swapping. Yuck. However, as things stand right now, MSPs can service much larger organizations in the form of specialized services. Examples include designing storage solutions, database clusters, high availability, backup and disaster recovery strategies, and more.

The above ZDNet article encourages me that the outsourced IT industry will only continue to grow and the projects that will be outsourced are larger and more exciting than was previously common.

In fact, I’m thinking less “MSP” and more “IT Solutions Provider”. Add some hosted services to the portfolio and you’ve got more fun than a box full of ADHD puppies on Red Bull. I’m drawing some inspiration on the business offerings of OmniTI. There’s plenty of pie to go around, so Theo has nothing to worry about from me. Plus… I’m nubby so he’s got that advantage going for him. Oh, and he employs 40+ embodied brains that write books and speak at conferences and things.

What have you experienced in your own IT department? Increased outsourcing? Or are you a contractor, MSP, ISV, etc. that is seeing an increase in business? Do you welcome this or rue the day when you’re IT department needs only two pizzas to feed it? Most importantly: Are you ready for the shift? (I.e. Would you work for me? =) )

(Post updated on May 17 for spelling and grammar refinement)

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