Google enterprise exec predicts IT department shakeup

The head of the search engine's corporate software group makes a visit to Toronto to discuss the impact of hosted applications among business users. Local consultants give their take on the changing landscape...

IT departments that recognize and embrace the increasing commoditization of collaboration and communication tools within the enterprise will ultimately reap productive employees, said a Google exec.

Google strives to facilitate the relationship between the IT department and end users by providing applications that come with the security and manageability that organizations want, said the company's vice-president for enterprise, Dave Giourard who was in Toronto to discuss the company's push towards corporate customers.

The degree to which IT departments will manage these easily accessible employee tools will certainly vary, however, in the end users will likely not have complete autonomy over their choice of software.

"But hopefully they'll have choices to have tools that are appealing to them and help them be more productive."

There is an overall trend where employees are starting to either create or bring their own IT into the enterprise, said Tom Purves, co-founder of Toronto, Ontario-based provider of enterprise social media Firestoker. "They might make the decision to say 'I don't feel a need to do a business case to buy this software because it isn't a $100,000-piece of software."

Purves said with the commoditization of collaboration and communication tools, IT's role will change, becoming less about everyday support, backups and passwords, and more about coaching users as to the best tools to choose to enhance their performance on the job. "There is an opportunity for IT departments to add a higher level of value because as much as Google is coming out with these tools, everybody else is coming out with great tools too."

According to Giourard, Google's presence in the enterprise vis-a-vis Microsoft will continue to increase, ultimately expanding users' software choices. "In our view, having multiple vendors trying to solve problems coming from very different places in the end is better for customers and is better for end users."

He doesn't foresee Microsoft vacating their spot in the enterprise arena, but thinks there is definitely room for other vendors in that market. "And that's where we think our role will be.'

The IT department as we now know it is definitely on its way out, given how things are changing, said Rohan Jayasekera, Toronto-based independent consultant. "IT departments will be seen as increasingly irrelevant and even obstructionist."

That view, said Jayasekera, will extend to situations where IT is perceived as "bureaucrats" trying to protect the company by prohibiting users from installing arbitrary software on their PCs.

Jayasekera advised IT departments to get involved by managing the deployment of these online resources, instead of standing back and watching employees handle their own software applications.

Those IT departments that fail to realize their changing role either risk becoming redundant or having end users work around IT policies, said Purves. Besides, the business as a whole, will become less competitive and less nimble versus those who allow their employees to dabble in the myriad tools out there.

And on the individual level, IT department staff who recognize this inevitable job shift will ultimately advance their own careers, he added.

As enterprise users are often restricted by their IT departments, they typically lag behind consumer users in the use of technology, said Jayasekera. "The larger the company, the larger the risk that its employees cannot do their jobs as effectively as employees of tiny little companies which on the surface appear not to have that many resources but are in fact free of these restrictions."

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Kathleen Lau

ComputerWorld Canada

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