The transformation of IT for businesses and consumers has been rapid and dramatic. This process has enabled enterprises to become more efficient, productive and customer-oriented, while other technological advances have impacted on how organisations deal with their customers, partners and advisers.

At the same time, many IT managers have evolved from the “chaps with a screwdriver” to C-level executives. This has been a positive development: we’ve seen that things can go seriously wrong when the CIO is not near the top of an organisation.

This is all very well, but what has brought us to this stage and what’s next for us?

Given that the festive season has only just passed, I thought it only fitting to use a Christmas Carol as inspiration to help explain the past, present and the “yet-to-come” of IT; not that I’m saying I’m Mr. Scrooge (though my daughters may have a different view on that from time to time).

The Ghost Of IT Past

IT of the past focused on technology and “tin”: The IT manager would find himself dealing with the procurement and deployment of ever increasing arrays of processors, storage, desktop computers and the like.

In this environment the aim was predominantly to streamline business processes in order to increase efficiency, lower costs and facilitate new business services. As time has progressed, this focus changed slightly to focus on handling the increased proliferation of devices – both outside and within the organization.

The Ghost Of IT Present

We now find ourselves in an environment where businesses’ financial margins are very thin, meaning that every ounce of productivity and efficiency is of paramount importance.

The use of both internal services and cloud computing, often appropriately called “hybrid IT” is more and more common, and rightly so: cloud services present significant cost-saving opportunities as well as the ability to react quickly to changing business needs, and are a compelling complement to existing IT infrastructures. Hybrid IT also means that business data can be easily managed, analysed and controlled.

Nonetheless, ‘shadow IT’ is on the rise. This shady term is often used to describe IT systems and solutions which are built and used without necessarily having been approved. This is quickly becoming a widespread problem associated with cloud computing.

An employee may see a cloud service that can perform a specific task. However, without visibility across the entirety of the organisation, they are unable to ensure that this is a secure and cost-effective decision for the company as a whole.

This issue highlights the need for CIOs to be close to the top of the business. The very nature of the job means that a CIO has more knowledge of a business than any other line of business manager. This places them in the ideal position to provide advice on how the entire organisation can benefit from a coherent approach to the acquisition and use of IT resources, wherever they are located.

Transformation For The Future

For these reasons, the CIO of today must focus on process and governance. These factors drive the transformation of future IT, adapting the core IT platform and integrating cloud services. Within this transformation, the resilience of the IT platform is of the greatest importance. Businesses have long recognised the alarming loss of money when IT systems go down internally – but now it is a much more public affair.

Take BMW. According to reports, the company is looking to launch a private cloud environment to limit potential downtime to users. The firm’s Vice President for IT Infrastructure, Mario Müller, recently stated, “The traditional forms of IT won’t be alive for many more years as they do not fulfil our requirements. They do not have the necessary flexibility, agility and resilience, and these are the main reasons for our implementation.”

The Ghost Of IT Yet To Come

There is no doubt that technology will continue to present us with shiny new toys and better, faster and cheaper ways of doing existing things. Many companies these days collect huge amounts of data about their customers, but using this data to get to know their customers better using data analysis has been more of a challenge.

Dealing with Big Data has continued to rise on the priority list of senior IT managers, and is increasing consuming more of their time. It is so essential that some organisations are starting to think about employing chief analytical officers whose role will be to make sense of data and how it can be used to benefit the organisation.

Once we’ve made sense of the data we hold, the organisation must be able to capitalise on the information drawn out. Waiting weeks or months for new software just won’t be an option. And this is what the future holds: the ability to react quickly to data-based conclusions that will represent core differentiators for the company. If my company can spot a trend more quickly than the competition, then we’re going to be in the best position to capitalise on the opportunity.

We live in exciting times. While technology and IT have always been important to enterprises, we’ve seen that it is becoming ever more intrinsically linked to the fortunes of companies. From ‘tin’, to cloud and eventually to the capitalisation of big data, the evolution of IT has come a long way.