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Time to stop calling it IT

Monday, September 4, 2017

IT was the name given the technology department back when people wanted to make the point that the department was not simply about the ‘tin’ – it was about the processing and provision of information such as HR and finance data. However, since then the world has moved on and the moniker of IT is no longer useful. Increasingly IT departments are rebranding themselves and with good cause.

About a decade ago we saw the rise of the ‘digital’ department. These function was separate to IT. It was purpose built to not be burdened down by IT processes and systems because the business needed something faster and more innovative for its digital endevours. By and large this worked. It allowed for new teams with fresh ideas to build solutions in a more customer centric manner, think in terms of revenue growth (not cost) and not have to worry about annoying legacy systems. However, over time this departments grew and the business justification for the cost of running two technology build and run departments just didn’t make so much sense. It learnt by watching its neighbour. In turn, as its systems became more complex Digital realised that it too need to borrow from some of IT’s learnings. Merging these into one department, even if that meant the two speed IT model championed by the likes of Mckinsey, has been the natural next step for many organisations.

Now lies the problem. IT has become the ‘IT and Digital’ department in many organisations, yet the distinction between what is digital and what is IT is blurred and will increasingly be so. Furthermore, the pervasiveness of technology means ‘shadow IT’ where departments outside of IT and Digital want to procure and run their own tech services and teams. This means that IT and Digital needs to now support and guide shadow IT teams, creating an environment where they can succeed. Gone are the days where tech is just a cost centre and to be managed 100% centrally by IT. So a new name is needed to recognise that the IT and Digital department is not simply the IT and Digital departments of old, but a new and evolved entity. Its purpose has changed and is still evolving. Is the right name of this department ‘Technology’ or something else? That does seem to be the recent trend as new CIOs look to distance themselves from the departments of old. 

Some would ask if this really matters. Are we over thinking this? For me, the name does matter. Names have meaning and set context. We need to attribute the technology department with a name which rightly recognises its new place and remit within the organisation. What the right name is, though, is the question.