The Last Supper: UK IT Awards 2010

Last week was gala event for nearly 1,500 guests in black tie in probably the most up-market marquee in the city – Battersea Park Event. It was the “Oscars for the IT industry” – the 2010 UK IT Industry Awards sponsored by BCS and computing. A staggering number of entries were sifted through by judges to whittle it down to a shortlist of 10 companies in each category. Face to face interviews with each shortlisted company determine the winner and Silver and Bronze medallists which were announced on the night.

So why the title ”The Last Supper?

The IT industry that goes through dramatic paradigm shifts every 10 years. Mainframe to client server. Client server to web. The next cycle is upon us. But this time it is more than just someone with a technical interest is concerned with.

It is touching every areas of the business and reaching up to the Board room. At a time when IT is even more critical to running the business, it is questioning the credibility and value of the IT Department.

It is changing the relationship between the business and IT. But more fundamentally it is going to change the structure and skill set of the IT Department and CIO. This could turn career paths on their head. The CIO may not be promoted based on a strong technical background, but on their business, commercial and programme management track record.

And could spell the end to the current IT Department as we know it.

So what is so disruptive? In a word CLOUD. The cloud is a concept that has been around for years as hosting and ASP but the term “Cloud” as struck a chord at every level and area of business and into the consumer world. Combine the ease of access via the web on PCs, laptops, tablets and phones with rapid development platforms and you have really compelling cloud applications launched every day:

  • Want something to manage your passwords: tick.
  • Track your corporate assets: tick
  • Constantly sync your most important files between all your devices at work and home: tick

What we are seeing is the second Dot Com boom. The first was primarily around consumer eCommerce and spawned $billlion revenue companies like Google, Amazon, eBay. This time around is about corporate applications and the first $billlion revenue company to emerge is probably Salesforce.com, but others are not far behind.

So the IT department cannot afford to spend 70%+ running current applications. It cannot afford to ignore the impact the cloud will have on corporate IT strategy, yet a staggering 95% of companies do not have a cloud strategy and only 20% say they have the resources to put it in place. It cannot afford to let the business users drive corporate IT strategy.

If IT do not take the lead business users will vote with their browsers and start using 3rd party cloud based applications. Forrester Research’s recent view is that already 1 in 3 are downloading apps or using cloud apps without the mandate of the IT department. We are calling it the Stealth Cloud.

Businesses are becoming used to a great user experience, ease of access, rapid innovation cycles and rapid ROI from these apps. They do not realise or put a value on the security, scalability and robustness of the corporate applications provided by the IT department. The cloud, to their mind’ is underlining the poor performance by IT. This is not fair.

But, the cloud could be a way of building a bridge with the business, providing non-core apps more quickly and reducing the development backlog. With a platform like Force.com from Salesforce.com you could even get end users developing their own applications.

So the IT department will have to change from being developers, owners and defenders of technology solutions. They will become business advisors, architects, procurers, integrators and managers of IT vendors.

Ian Gotts is CEO and Chairman of Nimbus Partners, an established and rapidly growing global software company, headquartered in the UK. He is a very experienced senior executive and serial entrepreneur, with a career spanning 25 years. Ian has co-authored a number of books including “Common Approach, Uncommon Results”, published in English and Chinese and in its second edition, "Why Killer Products Don't Sell" and books covering Cloud computing from the perspective of both the prospective buyer, and the software vendor. Having begun his career in 1983 as an engineer for British Rail, Ian then spent 12 years at Accenture (nee Andersen Consulting) specialising in the project management of major business critical IT projects. During this time, he spent two years as an IT Director, seconded to the Department for Social Security (DSS), with a department of over 500 and a budget responsibility of 40 million pounds.