Can you sack your IT department?

Between the credit crunch, the consumerisation of IT and the rise of cloud services, the role of the IT department is going to change.

Cloud computing, software as a service (SaaS), virtualisation and server consolidation; the latest IT trends all seem to mean we'll have fewer traditional IT systems. But if you replace Exchange with Gmail, use Saleforce.com, migrate to cloud services and give your users Web 2.0-style applications for collaboration and networking, what will your IT team have left to do all day?

Enthusiasts are predicting that services and cloud computing spell the end of the traditional IT department. But are they ahead of their time or taking an overly simplistic view that ignores something important about the role of IT in business?

Unsung heroes

A few years ago, most IT departments spent 80 per cent of their time on maintenance; simply keeping existing systems running. The average enterprise still has an IT department spending 60 per cent of their time and budget on keeping the lights on, but according to a recent HP survey the most ambitious companies are hoping to flip the old figures round and spend just 20 per cent on maintenance, leaving the majority of the time and budget free for innovation.

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If the current interest in SaaS, cloud and web-based applications that the IT team doesn't have to install, maintain or sometimes even support continues, that will free up considerable time.

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