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Your IT department is going where?

To put it bluntly, I think IT departments are the lifeblood of an organization: their tremendous worth in many ways can’t be fairly calculated. After all, without IT in the modern age, there’s little a company can do—not just to compete, but to even exist.

But even with all the worth an IT department brings, there appears to be a growing concern that internal IT is becoming irrelevant. In part, this arises from the proliferation of cloud computing and the so-called new era of IT where everything will eventually live off-premise.

The idea that the value IT brings is lost on most people because of its technical nature is, in my opinion, a misconception. Even so, it’s been heading this way for a long time. For instance, if we look at the evolution of the traditional IT department, it has gone through many phases: some bad, some good, and some downright strange.

One phase that I witnessed first hand is the relationship (or not) of telephony and IT as functions within an organization. For years, phone systems fell far outside the traditional IT landscape—managed primarily by the major carriers of the era. But somewhere around the late 1990s, IT was tasked with managing internal phone systems—all due to their IP nature, and thus IT nature, of the task at hand. Suddenly, IT was tasked with managing all things remotely connected to technology—like phones.

It was just a few years later that this task was split again: large organizations moved IP-based telephony away from IT. Then just a few years later, we again saw it merge back in, then outed again. This time entirely as hosted business phone models took hold, bringing back the providers as the central management component and leaving IT administrators to manage tasks through cloud portals only.

Then, of course, came the parallel era of IT being the single most important department in the organization. The need for technological advancements became so important at the beginning of the new millennium that IT was given almost carte blanche to do what it wanted, when it wanted, and with who—regardless of cost. After all, for Generation X this was the golden era where we were not only recognized for our newfound talents, but also well rewarded. Does anyone remember the signing bonuses of the time?

And lastly, at least for the purposes of this blog, the “IT can do anything” era. A weird and tumultuous decade or more of throwing anything even remotely related to technology over the fence to IT to make it happen, instantly. Need a new application built? Ask IT. Need a new website built? Ask IT. Need a computer plugged in under your desk because you don’t want to get your suit pants dirty? Ask IT.

The idea that IT can do anything and everything is ridiculous. You wouldn’t ask human resources to build a new building to house employees, would you? But why not? They know people and they know work spaces, so they can build the building … right? Yeah, not so much.

It’s this evolution of IT that brings us to today. A place where IT sometimes struggles to know its place, or at least its future place, as more and more infrastructure gets moved off-prem. That and the fact that the cloud era has brought about a false sense of independence away from traditional IT.

This is the reason why IT needs to become better at one thing in particular: marketing. If IT could better articulate its value across the organization, people would soon find out that the IT department is more needed now than ever before. From managing rapidly changing IT needs, to working with cloud providers, to partnering with outside companies with highly specialized vertical expertise, all these things and more are paramount for an organization’s success—if not survival.

With better internal marketing, IT would prove instantly that its new role is to spearhead innovation, to create better and more lucrative business process, and to future-proof the organization at every step. They are now the stewards, the drivers, and the guardians of the business.

And as an IT professional, I’m sorry to tell you that the days of “turning it off and turning it back on again” are gone.