There is something skill or magic about picking up a topic such as “Does IT matter” or penning a blog about “Everything for nothing“. The latter thanks to James Gardner, is typically thought provoking style as he writes “the next decade or so, I can’t see why you would build a private corporate network” since “The internet will be way cheaper and more reliable as well as ubiquitous”. It not hard to see why James is predicting this, as companies like Microsoft and Amazon are participating in this “evolution of infrastructural technologies” (e.g. Microsoft Online Services).
With change comes a shift in costs
It struck me today, listening to the ABC radio on the way to work, that the recent Air France aircraft disaster could be better understood had it had more of its sensors sent over the internet. IT matters, in this case because the function of the IT department of Air France would have been able to ultimately save lives. Unfortunately, for now, the cost of sending messages back to base is far to expensive for it to be possible. Nothing comes for free? This small example might go some way to show that costs are often displaced. To use a technology example, the mythical virtual desktop, whilst a seemingly great idea, may be simply moving one function (or cost) from place to place.
Changes in technology and adoption will make existing jobs and practices redundant
What I am not saying is that companies will continue to function the same way the do at the moment. Its entirely likely that in the same way new roles that have emerged since I’ve been in IT (web designers, enterprise architect, sociability testers and business intelligence analyst) that roles I will not have foreseen will emerge. A change in the workforce, like a trade-wind, is heralded by ubiquitous titles such as “architect” being used liberally.
Change is about demand
James does write about a big trends – the consumerisation of IT. Which brings me on to my second thought for the day – developers are an indicator of future trend. Ask any developer what they are doing today, gadgets, work, lifestyle and I would argue that many of these traits many will use down the track. Developers have for a long time had free use of any equipment they can get their hands on, and indeed have a uncanny ability to work around any IT infrastructure constraints placed upon them. Your average developers don’t want, and probably don’t use, the standard desktop or want to use the corporate standard applications. Its not unreasonable for consumers to demand more from their work place, and for the workplace to respond to attract the right people. The demand for change varies along an axis of economic growth, demographics, consumer behaviour and technology.
Change will happen, over time
Over time, and with enough supporting demand, costs will come down, Keynesian theory 1-0-1, but will it come for free? Like James I’d argue, that perceptibly, most of what we use today, will at some point, probably sooner than we would care to imagine, become free.
As an example, nobody would want to pay for a software calculator these days; its functionality is to be expected. The key here, I think, is time – what companies invest in IT today is acceptable, but over time, if they don’t change will become unacceptable.