The Rise of the IT Consultant?

At the itSMF Australia 2011 National Conference in Perth I was privileged to attend the keynote presentation by Tim Sheedy of Forrester. Tims’s keynote was entitled “Business Technology in 2020”.

Tim asked us to “shed our preconceptions” as he explored how the world of business technology (BT) is changing.

The future is one of business ready, self-service technology; empowered and business savvy employees; and a radically more complex business environment.

Tim posed the question “Will today’s “best practice” IT recipe work in this business climate” and proposed two “conventional” scenarios for consideration.

The first was called “Industrialised BT”. This is where IT expands as the business needs grow and it provisions the technology requirements for the business. It maintains control over the organisations technology footprint, security and information quality. The key operating principles for this model would be consistency; scalability; and control.

The second was called “Embedded BT”. This is where the BT becomes embedded within the business because central IT cannot respond with the speed and agility that the business requires. The key operating principles for this model would be empowerment, differentiation and self-governance. In an “Embedded BT” scenario, central IT will be relegated to technical design guidance, integration where needed, and keeping the ‘big’ systems running.

Tim told us that neither scenario was right and that IT in 2020 should be “Empowered BT”. IT has to evolve to a new model of BT which is defined as:

A technology approach that embeds enabling technology innovation in the business whilst providing “just enough” centralised coordination and oversight for enterprise-wide goals.[1]

Empowered BT takes the key operating principles of “Industralised BT” and “Embedded BT” and combines them.

  • Consistency and empowerment
  • Scalability and differentiation
  • Self-governance with control


Empowered BT will move many IT roles from “do” to “consult”.

Empowered BT will teach the business how to leverage new technologies in a manner compatible with existing enterprise needs and existing assets. Four new roles will be needed:

  • BT visionaries – what’s possible
  • Consultants – make it work
  • Integrators – tie it together
  • Sustainability experts – make it work for the enterprise


This is a total mindset shift. IT has to move from a position of control and trying to prescribe solutions to the business and instead focus on guidance.

IT doesn’t drive the car anymore; it teaches the business how to drive safely.

There are many ramifications of this change but one mentioned by Tim that caught people’s attention was the need for different skills. He talked about recruiting from the education sector rather than the pure technology sector i.e. the need for more people who can teach others.

This change will reach deep into skills and careers. Sought after IT skills will be advisory and influencing skills; consultative and communicative skills; and the ability to innovate and integrate as a real business partner.

Is this the time for the true IT consultant to rise up?


Tim Sheedy can be contacted at or you can follow him on Twitter @timbo2002



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