iOS App Development Could Kill The CIO Job

iOS App Development Could Kill The CIO Job

Bypassing IT for app development could be a slippery slope

One of the surprising, and some might say disturbing, realities of today’s consumerized IT departments is that IT staff are being left out of the loop on technology projects. Nowhere is that more evident than when it comes to developing mobile app strategies, particularly customer-facing app strategies.

Instead many business and marketing managers are recruiting or contracting app developers directly, often bypassing CIOs and IT managers in the process. While this new trend is primarily focused on app development, it could easily be the start of a slippery slope that leads to more and more outsourcing of technology projects and management.

According to Gartner analyst Ian Finley, bypassing IT with iPhone, iPad, and Android development efforts happens because other departments don’t see evidence of mobile development skills coming from IT. They contract work out because they expect to get a better end product.

It’s a perception that seems almost inevitable in many organizations where IT departements were slow to get on board with enabling and supporting the iPhone. Many IT leaders had (and still have) serious concerns about mobile data security. It wasn’t until Apple introduced mobile device management and data encryption APIs in iOS 4, a full three years after the iPhone’ initial launch, that IT departments began to seriously consider the iPhone and iPad as a credible devices.

Add to that the common negative perceptions of IT-created business tools for Windows desktops used by many employees and executives. These tools are rarely as appealing to users as iOS apps and often seem clunky by comparison. Given that overall impression, it’s easy to see why IT isn’t the immediate go-to source for customer-facing mobile projects.

A third factor is that there often isn’t much engagement between marketing, sales, and other business executives on the part of CIOs and IT managers. That can lead executives to get their technical knowledge elsewhere including mainstream media, friends and family, counterparts in other businesses, and from consultants and contractors themselves.

All of this adds up to a challenge for any IT organization. While internal app development is a big coup for IT, the fact is it joins plenty of other new tasks and requirements like ensuring mobile data security, considering the best way to support mobile users, and considerations like moving existing infrastructure to cloud computing models. Taking on major development projects may simply be too much to ask – particularly since skills like Objective C, Xcode, and iOS APIs aren’t traditional resources for most IT-centric developers.

It’s hard to say how well this will shake out for IT departments and CIOs over the next five years, but it is possible that the role of the CIO may even vanish completely. In any event, trends like this should be a wake up call for IT to become more integrated with other business units and demonstrate value in a way that causes executives to take note of their existing talent pool.

About the author

Ryan FaasRyan Faas is a technology journalist and consultant living in upstate New York who has written extensively about Apple, business and enterprise IT, and the mobile industry. In addition to writing for Cult of Mac, he is a contributor to Computerworld, InformIT, and Peachpit Press. In a previous existence he was a healthcare IT director as well as a systems and network administrator. Follow Ryan on Twitter and Google +

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