Viewpoint: Why it's time to nix IT departments

While IT departments are designed to oversee digital transformation, the idea of siloing staff with expertise in IT management into one separate division is the main force preventing companies from being innovative, according to Joe Peppard, PhD. 

Dr. Peppard, who is on leave from his post as principal research scientist at MIT Sloan School of Management, penned a Nov. 27 op-ed in The Wall Street Journal explaining why it's time for businesses to get rid of the IT department. 

Six notes: 

1. IT departments "are for a bygone era and are ill-suited to the demands of the digital first world," Dr. Peppard wrote, adding that the issue with this division stems beyond talent. 

"We all love to complain about our IT departments — blaming the people in them and their leaders for living in their own worlds, and for being unresponsive to business needs … The problem isn’t with the people or the leaders. It’s with the whole idea of IT departments in the first place, which sets up IT to fail." 

2. The IT department was originally known as the "computer department," and had the main focus of ensuring the company's computers were running smoothly. But as business and technology blend in today's world, keeping all staff with IT knowledge and leaving IT decisions and activities "to a department that is figuratively and sometimes physically far from the so-called core business is a recipe for disaster," according to Dr. Peppard. 

3. Many companies follow the "partnership engagement model," which involves having IT as a separate department that serves as the partner to the "business." This model positions the IT unit as a supplier to the business, not part of the core functions of the company. 

4. A separate IT department can reinforce the mindset that people working in the unit are doing it strictly because they love tech, not the other parts of the business. This can exacerbate a culture gap that stems from the idea that technology and business are separate functions of the company. 

5. Several companies are moving to get rid of their IT departments and instead make IT part of every business unit, which is ushering in a "profound shift" that is designed to "realize value from IT as opposed to one focused on managing IT," Dr. Peppard wrote. 

6. Organizations are now implementing a distributed network of pools of tech expertise and knowledge and integrating tech experts into each department so that all business units have knowledge in both key areas. 

"This fuses work relationships across internal teams to enable faster decision-making, greater visibility and shared ownership. And no handoffs to slow down work," he wrote.


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