One of the things I love most about my job is that I get to see what’s really going on in the minds of the people who do (or would) actually pay for B2B technology solutions, while at the same time observing industry trade press hype cycles and B2B marketing trends from solution providers. Sometimes these sync; sometimes they don’t. So let’s take a look at a few things currently waxing in the hype cycle that are “real,” and some other current conventional wisdom that doesn’t jive with what I’ve been seeing on the ground. TREND #1: EVOLUTION OF IT BUYING AUTHORITY AWAY FROM CENTRAL IT DEPARTMENTS
Fact: It is indeed true that decision-making authority at many companies is moving away from central IT and towards non-IT executives or within business units. This is more commonly happening with functionally-specific applications and/or mobile devices. It is not happening in areas like data center infrastructure, networking and IT security.
Myth: IT departments are actively trying to control all aspects of the IT buying process at companies.
The truth is, IT Pros I survey or interview are focused on aligning IT with business needs, actively listening and reacting to requests from senior management, LoB managers and end-user employees. They follow up with these requests to do more detailed research of specific solutions and alternatives to present different options with informed recommendations, and the vet any potential new application or device for security and network performance requirements.
Myth: IT departments think they have total control over all IT buying when in fact much of it happens without their knowledge.
IT Pros I survey still think they have more involvement/authority than non-IT executives, LoB managers and end-users say they do, but that “reality perception” gap has been shrinking over the years. Now, many IT Departments acknowledge that identifying the need for new technology solutions and even a lot of the researching and recommendation of specific tools and brands comes from non-IT departments.
TREND #2: THE CONSUMERIZATION OF IT
Fact: The consumerization of IT is accelerating and more employees want to use personal devices, apps and software for work purposes.
Myth: IT departments are always fighting the consumerization of IT trend.
Most IT Departments I investigate now acknowledge (and many actively support) consumerization of IT trends, most commonly helping employees link personal mobile devices to things like corporate email and calendaring accounts. IT is focused on making employees more productive, and this is an easy way to enable this.
TREND #3: TABLETS BECOMING MORE COMMONPLACE AT WORK
Fact: Tablet penetration is increasing at companies, although it is still relatively rare for most employees to have a company-issued tablet at this point. It is more common for employees to bring in personal tablets and use them for work purposes (see “Trend #2” above
Myth: Tablets are replacing computers at companies.
“Hard cannibalization” of company laptops by tablets simply isn’t happening much. It is extremely rare for employees at this point to get rid of their good ‘ol fashioned laptop altogether and go all-tablet, all-the-time. Any employee who needs to produce stuff (e.g., worker-bees) as opposed to consuming things (e.g., senior management reviewing the things that worker-bees produce) still needs and used laptops with larger screens and a quaint QWERTY keyboard.
Fact: Tablets are extending the refresh cycles of laptops at companies.
“Soft cannibalization” of company laptops by tablets does indeed happen quite frequently once tablets are in the mix. Employees who use tablets for work tend to use their laptop less for certain tasks, and with less wear-and-tear IT departments are pushing out the refresh cycles of their laptop fleet.
Myth: Tablets will negate the need for printing at the office.
Certain tasks and certain documents need to be printed at work. Whenever tablets are used to do these tasks…employees still want to print for them, and IT departments are generally happy to deploy mobile printing solutions if that’s what a critical mass of employees (or even a single, vocal senior executive) want. More computing devices in play generally leads to more printing, not less.
TREND #4: CLOUD COMPUTING
Fact: Cloud computing is growing by leaps and bounds in corporate America. This trend is indeed real now, after several years where the industry marketing hype did not sync with the volume of deals actually being signed or the proclivity of IT departments to switch to cloud-based app delivery models.
Myth: IT departments are threatened by cloud computing and resisting this trend.
Initially, IT departments were very skeptical about the security of cloud apps, and distrustful of complex, pay-as-you-go pricing models that could be potential budget-busters. These days, IT departments are more often than not the champions of the shift to the cloud, and executive management sometime puts the kibosh on initiatives because they can involve extra near-term budget (and staffing resources) to make the initial switch.
Myth: Companies are going “all-cloud” and converting their old internal data centers into gyms or rec rooms.
It is very rare for companies to have all their apps and storage on the cloud…I’m typically seeing a patchwork of internally-hosted apps, use of some public cloud services, other apps going onto private cloud infrastructures, and hybrid models. Certain apps are difficult to move to cloud provisioning for a variety of reasons (e.g., performance requirements, compliance with regulations, certain app vendors not yet supporting cloud delivery options or the ones they are offering aren’t fully baked yet, app customization needs). What IT departments really need now and for the foreseeable future is better management and security solutions that help them deal with this mixed environment, because it is likely here to stay for quite some time.
IT is changing dramatically and will no doubt look very different 2-5 years from now. The way these trends actually pan out always produce a few surprises, however. So stay tuned to this channel for future episodes of “IT Myth-busters.”
Chris leads CMB’s Tech Practice. He enjoys spending time with his two kids and rock climbing.