Consumerization of IT and self-service trends will lead to a restructuring of the today's IT shop, leaving behind a hybrid model consisting of tech consultants and integrators.
"The business itself will be the IT department. [Technologists] will simply be the enabler," said Brandon Porco, chief technologist & solutions architect at Northrop Grumman.
Porco was part of a four-person panel of technologists who answered audience questions during a town hall-style meeting at the CITE Conference and Expo in San Francisco yesterday.
Among concerns raised is whether IT is losing control as consumer technology becomes part and parcel of everyone's work in the enterprise, and the data center is left behind.
Others said they are not sure how to address a growing generation gap between young and veteran workers, each of whom are comfortable with different technologies.
"Interns coming in for the summer are asked if they're familiar with Google Apps. They say, 'Of course we are,'" said Nathan McBride, vice president of IT chief cloud architect at AMAG Pharmaceuticals. "Then we have other employees coming in who worked for other companies who say, 'I need Outlook.' We have to say we don't use that anymore."
McBride said 75 Fortune 100 companies now use Google Apps along with most Ivy League schools, meaning that the next generation of workers won't be users of Microsoft Exchange or Office.
In five years, McBride said, companies will have to ensure they're matching their enabling technology to the demographic of that time.
Kathleen Schaub, vice president of research firm IDC's CMO Advisory Practice, said many corporate IT organizations now report to the head of the business unit it's assigned to.
"The premise is that wherever IT sits in an organization will dictate what they care about," she said. "If they're in finance, they'll care about cost cutting. If they're in operations, they'll care about process management. If [the company] decides it wants to focus on the customer, they'll put it in marketing."
While the CIO position will likely remain in an enterprise, his or her role will morph into a technology forecaster and strategist, rather than a technology implementer, according to Porco.
John Mancini, CEO of the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), agreed with Porco, saying that in the consumer technology era, it's the business side that has all the tools, so it will be able to trump IT's desire to control who uses what and how.
While the business can dictate the service or technology it wants, McBride said IT can still decide the flavor of technology.
For example, when AMAG business users asked for Microsoft's Visio tool set for diagraming and creating flow charts, McBride's team found a less expensive, web-based tool, LucidChart. "That was only $15 a seat," he said, adding that users were just as happy.
"We're not trying to be ahead of the technology curve and we don't' want to be behind, but we're trying to maintain pace in order to know what they're going to ask for next before they ask for it," McBride said.
Porco said he takes advantage of university partnerships and take cues from entrepreneurial centers throughout the U.S. such as Seattle and Denver to keep his finger on the pulse of tech innovation.
Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story, "IT departments won't exist in five years" was originally published by Computerworld .