This post was written by Josh Prewitt, Rackspace Technology chief product officer

Not long ago, information technology (IT) was a highly siloed operation within most organizations, with technical staff members working independently from the rest of the company. Often, IT staff were even physically isolated, focused solely on keeping systems up and running, from mainframe computers to servers. But the intense focus on innovation of the past 10 to 15 years has turned the tables. IT is now a highly democratized function that plays an integral role in driving change across the organization and resides within virtually every business unit, from sales to marketing to human resources. With the heightened demand to be constantly innovating, from the technologies they use to the way they recruit and the products they create, there is virtually no function within the organization that is not in some way IT-driven.

The changing role of IT

For IT teams, this shift from the fringes to the center of the discussion has been both challenging and exhilarating. They now play a crucial role in driving the innovation agenda across the organization, determining the company’s optimal technology posture and determining how it needs to evolve to meet the new demands of the marketplace.

Accordingly, as the pace of IT change has accelerated, the reach of technical personnel has extended further than ever, providing them opportunity to engineer growth on multiple levels because companies simply need IT brainpower everywhere. Data analysts and machine learning experts are just as likely to be found in the marketing department today as they are elsewhere within the organization.

As IT has extended its reach across the organization it has evolved into a sort of organizational Sherpa, helping others along, providing guidance, setting guardrails, showing colleagues what is possible, which tools are available, and sharing best practices.

How did we move from the rigid IT structures of the past to this more fluid environment? Three major drivers stand out:

The impact of hyperscalers

The biggest change agent has been the inception of the cloud and the rise of hyperscalers. In the past, if someone within the business needed a new environment, application, or website they would have to go through IT, typically a CIO or VP of Infrastructure, with strictly defined teams — networking storage, etc. When Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform entered the picture and began introducing cloud services, it was a turning point. Suddenly, any department with a corporate credit card could purchase cloud services to perform specific independent functions within their business units.

DevOps flexibility

DevOps is nothing new. In fact, the collapsing of strict walls between software development and IT operations has been happening for a decade or more. What is more recent is the mind shift from building applications that can run on a specific infrastructure to building applications that solve a specific business problem. Not having to build an entire application stack for each initiative means that IT can more easily innovate on the fly and mold the infrastructure to meet the project’s needs.

The ubiquity of data analytics

An explosion in the sheer number of sources of business data has driven demand for greater technology know-how across all business units. With business divisions increasingly relying on data to ask better questions and help set strategy, technology fluency and IT literacy is no longer just a “nice to have” skill, but rather a core competency.

Taken together, these three key dynamics have been transformative, upending the rigid structures of the past and bringing about greater organizational flexibility and collaboration. Looking forward, the pace of change within the IT function will not only continue to accelerate, but it will also serve to bring organizations closer together, breaking down conventional notions of who is on part of the technology team and who is not.

The goal of today’s IT teams is to be in service of speed-to-innovation, regardless of where they reside.

Since joining Rackspace Technology in 2010 as a Linux administrator in the Customer Success organization, Josh Prewitt has led numerous teams and functions including global technical support organizations, operations, product management, software development, and engineering. In his current role, Prewitt oversees Rackspace’s Public Cloud Solutions strategy for services on AWS, Azure, and GCP creating innovative solutions for customers.

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