February 07, 2011, 12:54 PM — This week I saw two articles that captured the two visions of IT that will dominate the future. Both were interviews with senior IT leaders, one a CIO of a major technology company, the other a senior executive with a leading system integrator. One article depicted a vision of IT as a future of standardized, commodity offerings, while the other portrayed IT as a critical part of every company's business offerings. Two visions of ITs role in stark contrast to one another. Each seems to obviate the other. But is that really true? My take is that both views are true, and the CIO of the future has to push one to make room to achieve the other.
The first article, Cloud Computing: IT as Commodity, is based on an interview with Siki Giunta, vice president of cloud computing and software services at global IT consultancy CSC. The article describes the current Amazon offering as offering computing elements - virtual machines, etc., that require a great deal of resource assembling, system management, security monitoring, and the like. Rather than this approach, Giunta advocates IT leveraging an outside application provider (the article seems to imply it would be a firm like CSC, Giunta's employer) and delivering a service catalog of common applications, e.g., e-mail. With an approach like that, IT manages contracts and user relationships, and constructs a portfolio of offerings from specialist providers who can do a better job at scale than any single IT organization could do on its own. The implication is that IT should get out of the business of running applications on its own and become an integrator of other firms' offerings.
By contrast, the second article, A former "prissy girl" takes on tech, is an interview with Intel's CIO, Diane Bryant. One of her responses to a question portrays a very different perspective on the role of IT:
"I look across Intel's corporate strategy and I can directly tie each one of our pillars to the IT solution that's going to enable it. It's a remarkable time to be in IT. All of a sudden the CIO had better be at the table in the business strategy discussions because they can't launch a strategy without you."
The term I use to describe Bryant's viewpoint is that IT infuses the company's offerings and initiatives. It's not that IT is the offering, it's that the offering can't exist without functionality like capturing transactions and providing analytics, or enabling shared design sessions, or whatever. As I interpret Bryant's remarks, absent IT functionality, Intel can't achieve its business goals. IT is crucial to the future success of the company.