Web 2.0 and IT departments
I’m not going to blog about the event in general, but a comment Tom made during his presentation is something I’d like to talk about. Tom remarked that IT departments like Web-based applications because they’re easier to support: no need to install or update software on all those PCs. I’ve heard this comment before, and I can well believe it.
But are the IT departments doing themselves out of jobs? Once might respond that applications still need to be installed and maintained on corporate servers. But more and more the enterprise is becoming dependent on Web-based services outside the firewall. Knowledge workers depend on Google and XE.com, for instance, and as other services become available that are helpful for their jobs they’ll use them too. The IT department might install something locally, but probably not for a while, and even then why not just use the application that’s available to you even when you’re not in the office? (Sure, there are VPNs, but using them is an inconvenience.) Also, if you’re working on a project with vendors or other partners, it’s easiest to use applications that aren’t behind anyone’s firewall.
In the late 1970s I worked for what was then called a timesharing company, I.P. Sharp Associates. We sold access to applications that ran on our servers (as they would now be called), and because the public Internet didn’t yet exist we had our own far-reaching network (supposedly the world’s largest private packet network). A lot of our business came from corporate users who wanted to get things done and couldn’t wait for their always-backlogged IT departments to provide what was needed. So in effect we helped them do an end run around their IT departments. As business-oriented applications increasingly become available on the Web, this will happen again, but on a tremendously larger scale.
Score another point for Nicholas Carr’s Does IT Matter?
UPDATE: since I posted the above, Business 2.0 Magazine has written a similar story. You can read it here.