Eating IT from the toes up

I lived for a time in Bethlehem, PA.  Unlike the Billy Joel song the big steel plant was in Bethlehem, not Allentown.  Allentown must have been easier to rhyme   In the middle of the town was this rusty hulk of buildings just sitting there for years.  It is now a casino – I’m not sure that is an improvement.

When I asked about what made Bethlehem Steel fail I got comments about greed, stupidity, arrogance and foreign competition.  The most complete story I heard was that mini-steel mills killed big bad Bethlehem Steel.  Not just foreign ones, but US based mini-mills.  The mini-mills started by making Rebar .  You know, the ribbed bars they put in to reinforce cement.

It is low margin product and from a steel perspective not high tech engineering.  Well, the story goes that the Beth Steel Execs ignored the mini-mills stealing their Rebar business as it was low margin.  The mini-mills were going to eat Beth Steel by starting with the low margin products – aka their toes.

In the end, the mini-mills built up their technical know how and capability and moved continuously up the margin chain of products until they helped (not completely responsible as the Beth Steel Execs were also greedy, stupid and arrogant) kill Beth Steel.

Many IT shops are seeing this same event happening to them.  Starts with BYOD, then soon BYOS (Bring Your Own Software or Solution) and will soon be UYODC (Use Your Own Data Center).  The netsmartphones are just vendors eating at IT’s toes by marketing and selling direct to the end user.

Now software vendors are in it with desktop/tablet and cloud based solutions that need little if any IT support.  This will soon evolve from single software products to suites to whole enterprise solutions faster then you can say – what happened.

And this is a good thing.  For unlike Beth Steel, IT will not be killed or go out of business, IT will evolve.  From a centralized separate group to an integrated function within a business organization made up of business analytics, data quality managers, service managers and hopefully still the need for a CIO who works on strategy and governance.

You have heard for years that IT needs to learn more about the business and become more business focused.  Those in IT who heeded those warnings/recommendations you will find homes where your combined talents are desperately needed in the business.

For those in IT who did not, well you will be like the steel workers in Bethlehem and Allentown.

Don’t believe me – well this article ‘The end of the IT department, was written more than a year ago by a smarter person than I.  It will happen, 5 years, 10, but not more than 20.