IT’s commodity services

Jason Hiner, editor at TechRepublic, posted “Cloud, iPad, and the end of the geek era” Wednesday to a boisterous reception from readers. He cites the end of IT as we know it due to outsourcing, offshoring, recession and “consumerization”. He says end-users don’t want or need IT to hand-hold and they expect In-house solutions “to be as easy to use as the iPad, as unlimited as Gmail, as simple and seamless as buying something on Amazon, and as intuitive to set up as Dropbox.” IT departments surely don’t have the resources of Apple, Google, Amazon, or even a venture-backed startup like Dropbox, but that doesn’t change user expectations.

The result is that most IT departments simply can’t compete with pre-packaged consumer-oriented solutions. That means the days of geeks hacking together custom solutions — whether it’s a standard software image for company PCs or an in-house application or running your own mail servers — are rapidly coming to an end.

This generated much commentary from the TechRepublic readership, such as “when your fancy gadget stops working, can’t get WiFi, refuses to VPN in, you need your RSA PIN reset or an IOS upgrade has bricked your iPad, the Geek’s will be dragged up from the basement.” While their statements are valid, they unfortunately miss Hiner’s point. Too many technologists take personal umbrage and are blinded to the trending.

Last month TechRepublic offered up ten activities that IT cannot compete with because they can be done more cheaply and efficiently by outsourcing, automating, or performed with consumer technologies.

  • Making and installing cabling
  • Manually creating user accounts
  • Servicing printers
  • Taking a “build-first” approach
  • Manually installing software
  • Resetting passwords


  • Writing reports
  • Deploying physical servers
  • Web content changes
  • Managing communication services accounting

Every item may certainly not be a commodity for all organizations, but I would wager many on the list are relevant. And there are plenty of other potential commodity services, such as “tier 1″ helpdesk, email and calendaring, VOIP, and various SaaS offerings that can be effectively outsourced and save money while not affecting strategy. Once one considers Nick Carr’s comparison to the electrical power industry, the pattern becomes easy to reconigize.