IT Won't Recognize Itself by the End of the Year

ExtraHop CIO John Matthews gets real on the role and structure of IT in the enterprise.

ExtraHop CIO John MatthewsExtraHop CIO John Matthews

The times, they are a-changing—and if you want to stay relevant going forward, there are three paradigm shifts you can't afford to ignore.

This article was originally published in InformationWeek. View the article here.

How many times a day does your organization rely on connected technology to get business done? IT is at the center of nearly every interaction we have today, every email, phone call, and text, every order placed and filled, every patient cared for, every financial transaction completed. Now more than ever, IT is responsible for keeping the lights on both literally and figuratively. It's no longer a support system. It's the foundation of modern business.

But this is just the beginning. In fact, I predict that the role of IT will change more this year than it did in the last five years. Everything from the job function, reporting structures, expectations and integrations with business groups will dramatically overhaul how IT operates day-to-day, and the strategic function of IT in driving business outcomes.

Following are three significant shifts IT can expect to see this year, and some thoughts on how teams can best prepare.

"Dev" takes over DevOps. The convergence of IT operations and DevOps will accelerate as the ownership of traditional IT operations functions – maintenance, performance, and availability – come within the purview of those who developed those systems in the first place. IT will be faced with converging culturally and technologically, as this new model demands a single team to manage the entire application lifecycle from development to production.

In my experience, the best place to start is in creating a cross-functional team that draws from IT operations, engineering, security and networking personnel to assess a common denominator: What is impacting performance? A single, unified view of all systems and data in your environment allows you to start to understand underlying performance issues: Was it infrastructure, a misconfiguration, a code issue? Understanding where problems stem from allows teams to resolve issues more quickly, and set processes in place to prevent them in the future.

Cross-functional teams not only boost IT performance, but they help achieve better business outcomes. We work with one healthcare company whose delivery of fast applications are critical for physicians who depend on electronic medical records to quickly access life­saving information affecting everything from patient safety -- such as drug allergies -- to patient access of specialist referrals. Building a cross-functional team using a single source of IT truth allowed the healthcare company to monitor and measure performance across all stages of an application's lifecycle, as well as observe and compare in real-time the throughput, response time, and errors in the development, QA, staging, and production environments.

Security is now everyone's job. IT security has spent the past few years moving slowly through the stages of grief regarding perimeter security. From the explosion of ransomware to massive DDoS attacks, the threat is greater than ever. 2017 may be the year that we finally reach the acceptance stage. This means accepting that bad actors, whether employees, contractors, or outside agitators, are already inside the network. It also means involving many more stakeholders in security, working with network, storage, applications, and other teams to understand what "normal" looks like in their world, and how to best identify potential bad actors. To put it simply: To improve security, it must become everyone's job. While dedicated security teams won't go away, other IT teams will be asked to step up in a big way – to have a better understanding of the assets for which they are responsible and detect anomalies sooner.

It is extremely difficult to get folks to care about security. Most people are simply not that attentive, right up until they get bit. Five years ago, the personal impacts of making a poor choice with an email or a website were minimal. Now, with the rise of ransomware, the impact is profoundly personal. You clicked on the link, it is your machine that is now encrypted, your files, your work. My suspicion is that this personal accountability will drive changes in personal vigilance.

We are the product. Technology is no longer how we sell, it's what we sell. This is true not only for hardware and software vendors, but for businesses across all verticals who are selling not just a product, but an accompanying digital experience. IT will be shoved out of the back office and into the front office as companies look to increase top-line and bottom-line revenue, integrate systems, and mitigate risk.

In IT, one of the most important things we need to come to grips with is that technology is not about technology, it's about people. People are building, maintaining and consuming technology. As a CIO, I actually spend the bulk of my time visiting with customers, understanding their pain points and bringing those insights back to my team so we can tune our operations to meet their needs. I help customers understand the implications of their choices around various tools and technologies: short term gain vs. long term pain, ease of use vs. super secure. Business goals are the driving factor behind all decisions. We must embrace these front-line experiences, understand what our customer pain points are and tune our operations to better align to the business.

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