2013: Year of IT as product manager

For years IT departments have been viewed as tyrants, forcing software and hardware decisions upon employees. Of course, IT managers have a legitimate reason to their madness, and focus on creating and protecting a secure corporate environment. However, with the rise of BYOD and cloud implementation many are wondering where IT stands. Now, IT managers are performing multiple roles, including that of a product manager in an effort to ensure that the technology they implement works company-wide and meets the needs of savvy employees.  

Just before Thanksgiving, Egnyte hosted it’s first annual conference - Egnyte Firestorm 2012, during which we explored a very important topic, is the cloud enough? There were analysts from Forrester and Enterprise Strategy Group, as well as speakers from a variety of different companies across the hardware, software and venture capital industries. While we covered many different topics, one that seemed to come up over and over was, what is the role of IT in cloud adoption and implementation?

As I’ve said many times, data is the lifeblood of an organization and if it’s not secure, easily accessible and controlled, it can lead to disasters of the worst kind. This confrontational and sometimes combative dynamic existed for the last few decades, until three stars aligned and created a shift in the power dynamic.

First came the mobile and tablet revolution, marked by dramatic price drops, powerful and usable devices, and increasingly better network connectivity. Demand and use drove an app frenzy, research from analysts Berg Insight estimates app downloads could even reach 98 Billion by 2015. Second, public cloud infrastructure matured allowing software vendors to create consumer cloud based solutions for use on any device. With their focus on usability, people were hooked on easy to use apps that could be used from anywhere on any device.

All of this is added to our last component of the trifecta, the BYOD revolution. This meant business users across the world began to ignore the IT department, bringing in consumer apps on their phones and tablets that helped them do their jobs more efficiently. No longer was an employee tethered to the decisions of their IT department, they just did what they needed to do in order to get their jobs done. Mostly done under the radar, IT departments were caught by surprise and by the time they realized the extent of the infiltration, they could only react. After all, people were getting their jobs done faster and more efficiently.

So while for many years IT dictated what programs users used, they were suddenly unable to control what was going on in their own house. Employees, getting things done faster and easier, were not being reprimanded, especially since execs were getting in on the action too. So what has this all meant?

For one, IT departments have realized that they are going to have to move faster. Where just a decade ago, an 18-month implementation cycle was not unheard of, today, 3-9 month cycles are becoming the norm. The cloud can potentially provide instant infrastructure with scale and flexibility, while SaaS solutions simplify roll out and revision cycles can address user concerns quickly.

More importantly, IT will have to shift towards a model that incorporates use-case analysis and a solid understanding of its business users. As opposed to simply applying technology to given problems, IT managers will need to think like product managers, determining business use, target user, pain points and creating solutions that will be adopted instead of simply tolerated. IT will no longer build it expecting they will come, instead, they will create purpose driven solutions that are built from the user’s perspective. 2013 is the year of the IT manager as product manager.

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