Google exec predicts IT department shake-up

The company's enterprise VP says IT departments need to encourage and manage employees' use of social media and collaboration tools

IT departments that recognise and embrace the increasing commoditisation of collaboration and communication tools within the enterprise will ultimately produce productive employees, according to Google's vice president for enterprise, Dave Giourard.

Google strives to facilitate the relationship between the IT department and end users by providing applications that come with the security and manageability that organisations want, says Giourard.

The degree to which IT departments will manage these easily accessible employee tools will certainly vary, however, and end users will not have complete autonomy over their choice of software, he says.

"But hopefully they'll have choices to have tools that are appealing to them and help them be more productive."

There is an overall trend in which employees are starting to either create or bring their own IT into the enterprise, says Tom Purves, co-founder of Canadian enterprise social media provider Firestoker.

"They might make the decision to say 'I don't feel a need to do a business case to buy this software because it isn't a $100,000-piece of software," Purves says.

He says with the commoditisation of collaboration and communication tools, IT's role will change, becoming less about everyday support, backups and passwords, and more about coaching users as to the best tools to choose to enhance their performance on the job. "There is an opportunity for IT departments to add a higher level of value because as much as Google is coming out with these tools, everybody else is coming out with great tools too."

According to Giourard, Google's presence in the enterprise vis-à-vis Microsoft will continue to increase, ultimately expanding users' software choices. "In our view, having multiple vendors trying to solve problems coming from very different places in the end is better for customers and is better for end users."

He doesn't foresee Microsoft vacating its spot in the enterprise arena, but thinks there is definitely room for other vendors in that market.

"And that's where we think our role will be."

The IT department as it is now known it is definitely on its way out, given how things are changing, says Rohan Jayasekera, an independent consultant. "IT departments will be seen as increasingly irrelevant and even obstructionist."

That view, says Jayasekera, will extend to situations where IT staff are perceived as "bureaucrats" trying to protect the company by prohibiting users from installing arbitrary software on their PCs.

Jayasekera advises IT departments to get involved by managing the deployment of these online resources, instead of standing back and watching employees handle their own software applications.

Those IT departments that fail to realise their changing role either risk becoming redundant or having end users work around IT policies, says Purves. Besides, the business as a whole will become less competitive and less nimble versus those who allow their employees to dabble in the myriad tools out there.

And on the individual level, IT department staff who recognise this inevitable job shift will ultimately advance their own careers, he says.

As enterprise users are often restricted by their IT departments, they typically lag behind consumer users in the use of technology, says Jayasekera. "The larger the company, the larger the risk that its employees cannot do their jobs as effectively as employees of tiny little companies which on the surface appear not to have that many resources but are in fact free of these restrictions."

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