Business intelligence systems stand this on its head. Managers and analysts will have different questions at different times, and fixed reports will only answer these queries by accident. Business intelligence systems let them ask whatever questions of the data occur to them and get answers right away.
IT's new job: Being the steward of technology use
These three trends -- IT's expanding sphere of responsibility, business users' greatly increased sophistication in the use of computing tools, and the move from standard, multiperson business processes to fluidly changing single-person responsibilities -- mean IT's habitual control-based approach to managing a company's information resources must change as well.
It has, in light of the circumstances. IT's expansion means there's too much to control. Business-user sophistication means there's less need to control it. And the rise of single-actor and one-time processes means control inflicts more harm than good, by preventing employees from being as effective as possible.
IT's new job is to support the portal view of computing, whenever and wherever it makes sense. That brands us as stewards, not owners: We take care of resources so as to ensure they're available to whomever needs them, wherever they need them, and in whatever form they're needed. We also help people get to whatever other resources they'll find helpful (not simply that they need -- that's too tight a constraint), whether or not they're within IT's sphere of responsibility.
What will this new version of IT look like? If experience has shown us anything, it's that when the subject is big change, predicting anything beyond the first few baby steps is an exercise in futility. What we don't know far exceeds what we do know. Still, here are two baby steps you'll definitely need to take if you want to head down the opportunity-based fork in the road.
Baby step 1: Syndicate the risks. Everyone who works in information security knows this game: The company doesn't establish a clear security policy. With no business-driven statement of the ideal balance between risk and opportunity, the CSO's group has no choice but to go into full prevention mode, whether or not it makes business sense, because it will be blamed for any intrusions or malware outbreaks that occur.
It's the same deal in the new world of stewardship, only it's bigger. CIOs who want to move beyond a control-driven model of information technology will have to obtain a broad and deep consensus in the executive suite that the benefits warrant the risks.