I heard a lot of grumbling from BigLaw attendees at Reinvent Law NY about the consumer legal app commercials sprinkled in and amongst the other presenters.  The easiest and most common target was Shake.

Shake is an app for creating legal contracts on the fly from your phone. You answer a few simple questions, the contract is compiled, you can review it and sign right on the phone, then hand your phone to the other party to sign, or email it to them. Simple consumer level document automation in your pocket, resulting in legally binding agreements.  Boy, I wish I had Shake back in my freelance theater days.

But the most frustrating comment I heard was, “Yeah, I guess it’s cool, it’s just not relevant to what we do.” And I heard this from respected, intelligent, forward thinking people in our industry. 

For the sake of argument, I will grant that in it’s current form this particular app is not relevant to BigLaw.  However, I beg you to look beyond the app’s current use. Look just beyond the shiny, colorful, consumer friendly UI, and imagine the possibilities. Imagine sitting in a contract negotiation with a similar app, tapping in negotiated points on a tablet as the app highlights potential concerns for further discussion. Then at the end of the meeting imagine emailing both sides preliminary agreements to be poured over by their armies of attorneys. What corporate counsel wouldn’t love that?  What firm is going to give it to them?  Why does it have to be a law firm?  Why not Shake?
I don’t know anybody at Shake, but they seem like pretty smart people.  Their stated mission is “to make the law accessible, understandable and affordable for consumers and small businesses.” In other words, “don’t worry BigLaw, we’re not coming after you.” But scroll down below their mission statement to their Principals and Beliefs and you will begin to get a whiff of much greater ambition.

  • We are not afraid to be bold, push the envelope, and challenge the status quo
  • We are driven by what legal transactions can and will be, not what they have been historically
  • We value innovative design and superior user experiences
  • We are a technology company solving a legal problem, not a legal company trying to understand technology
  • We believe that the legal market is 1) huge 2) inefficient and 3) underserved by technology and 4) begging for change
  • We believe that significant change in the legal industry will be driven by consumers and small businesses, not by lawyers and law firms

Every law firm should create their own list of Principals and Beliefs and immediately adopt the first, second, third, and fifth bullets directly from Shake’s list. But make no mistake, bullets four and six are shots across our bows. Shake may not seem relevant to you right now, and I bet they like it that way.

Image [cc] anti_christa

Friday morning I stumbled into an interesting Twitter conversation between Jeffrey Brandt (Pinhawk guru), Nicole Black (Mycase.com and Cloud Computing for Lawyers), and – I assume – Andrea Cannavina (LegalTypist), tweeting as @LegalTypist. As I often do, I jumped in mid-conversation, completely uninvited, and offered my opinions. The topic was Innovation vs. Security and the tweet that caught my eye was Jeffrey saying, “My biggest fear is that firms will relax their standards to support iThings, and some young lawyer will bypass more traditional tools causing their client to get hosed.”*

Of course Jeffrey is completely right.  That would be a terrible outcome resulting from security standards being relaxed simply to support the latest and greatest new-fangled gadget.  However, as an hopelessly progressive technologist, who regularly finds himself in the midst of this very battle, I had to offer the counter argument.

“How about firms who stick to rigid, outdated standards and then fail to meet their clients’ needs?”, I asked.

The 140 character limit on Twitter is both it’s salvation and it’s undoing.  Nuance and subtlety are impossible and my comment got @LegalTypist a bit riled.**

“A firm that fails to use the latest and greatest technology does not automatically fail to meet their clients needs. But a firm that fails to protect client data…”* She left the sentence dangling there like a fish, but I knew what she meant, and she was also completely right.

Security, especially of client data, is always of the utmost importance.  You will get no argument from me.

BUT, (and this is not a new revelation) security is also always a trade off.  Your million dollar diamond bracelet is highly secure in it’s safe deposit box, but if you ever care to wear it you will be forced to diminish its security, at least temporarily. Data is like that bracelet. If you want USE it, you risk losing exclusive control over it. If you’re happy just knowing that you own it, you can leave it locked up somewhere safe and never take it out. Unlike the bracelet, however, if you don’t make your client’s data easily accessible to those who need access to it via the tools they are likely to have with them when they need to access it, then the value of that data diminishes for both you and for your client.

The assumption in Jeffrey Brandt’s scenario is that both traditional tools and iThings are readily available and the young lawyer chooses the less secure option. Leaving aside for the moment whether an iThing is indeed less secure than more traditional tools, the problem here is not the technology, but the young lawyer’s decision making skills.  If we change the scenario just a bit and suggest that the young lawyer is out and about spending his year end bonus when he receives an urgent request from a client, then what is the value of having client data accessible via iThings? The alternative is for the young lawyer to seek out a public library to log in to a remote portal, or to hunt down a colleague with immediate access to a computer, or to talk his secretary, spouse, or <shudder> child through the task of meeting the client’s needs over the phone. Any of these options would be more time consuming and  less secure (except maybe the colleague scenario) than simply accessing the client’s data securely through the iThing. The value to the client is much more concrete.  How much will the young attorney bill for his time and services in each scenario?

As I tweeted in response to @LegalTypist, “I am not arguing that ALL technology is good, or that we should ever put client data at undue risk, but we can’t fail to innovate the practice of law in the name of securing data.”*

It is a different technological world than it was just a few short years ago.  Today there are vendors providing consumer-like services with enterprise level (and beyond) security. You may have evaluated consumer technology options a year ago and decided that they were inappropriate for your practice, but that information is woefully outdated and you should probably re-evaluate.  I am ultimately arguing for broader, more flexible technology usage policies that incorporate the concept of “good judgment” (radical, I know) and can accommodate the rapid change of technology.  Or at the very least, I would hope for much shorter review periods for such policies.

And, as usual, this little rant probably has nothing to do with what Jeffrey, Nicole, and Andrea were actually talking about and I simply hijacked it to make my own point.

Sorry guys.

*Twitter-ese translations are mine.
**Attributions of emotion are mine as well.

Several months ago I was asked by a partner to review the privacy policies and terms of service for a number of consumer cloud storage providers and to rank them according to how well they met his requirements based on firm policies, ABA missives, and a handful of other relevant opinions about client confidentiality and the cloud.  Long story short, they all failed miserably.  None of them came close to meeting the “requirements”.  

The partner was hoping to be able to tell his fellow attorneys that the firm doesn’t approve of consumer cloud storage for client related information, however, if you are going to use a consumer solution for “personal information” we recommend provider X.  My pessimistic report made even that a difficult statement.  Still hoping to salvage something from this conversation he asked a follow-up question. 

“Do any of these services provide anything close to the level of security we have in email?”

Had I sipped my coffee a second earlier I surely would have showered my office with stale joe.

“Excuse me”, I said, “Could you ask that again?”

“Attorneys send client confidential information all the time via email, so do any of these services come close to meeting the standards for email security?”

That’s what I thought he meant.  I broke the news to him slowly, explaining it this way. “I wouldn’t put anything in consumer cloud storage that I wouldn’t leave in a file folder on the front seat of my locked car.  But, I wouldn’t put anything in an email that I wouldn’t write on the back of a postcard and hand to a stranger on the street to mail for me.  The least secure of these consumer cloud storage solutions is many, many times more secure than a standard unencrypted email.  In fact, some of them have much better security protocols than your average law firm.”

The partner was flummoxed.  “Then what’s the big deal about this cloud thing?”

I was reminded of this incident when I attended the ILTA conference a couple of weeks ago.  In the vendor hall I saw a lot of vendors pushing their cloud-based SaaS solutions and a lot of firms saying, “Sorry, we have to host all of our own data.”  Typically the vendor went on to explain the value of allowing them to host the data. The product is constantly monitored, backed up, and securely encrypted in transit and at rest.  The product and mobile apps are updated multiple times a day. They simply can’t provide such a high level of service if you insist on hosting the product behind your firewall.  

These conversations went back and forth for a long while.  I never once heard a cloud vendor acquiesce and say, “Well, OK. We’ll let you host it yourself.”   Chances are good that if you host their service, you will have a less than ideal experience.  And if you have a less than ideal experience, they will have to spend a lot of time and money to make you happy, which will eat into their profits.  They would rather not have you as a customer at all, than to have you be a less-than-completely-satisfied customer.  It seems some vendors have learned a lesson that many law firm’s have not: not all revenue is profitable. 
Taken together I think these incidents are representative of a larger paradigm shift. Traditional IT services, even the big traditional Legal software vendors, are moving to the cloud.  Attorneys will eventually figure out how to work with the cloud and still meet their ethical obligations, or they will just get used to the risks and ignore them like they have with email in the last 20 years.  The ABA will eventually make some coherent and unambiguous statements about the acceptable use of cloud services. And all of these will come together at the same time that firms begin to realize the economic benefits of not supporting an entire service infrastructure in-house.

Once that happens law firms will look back on all of the sturm und drang surrounding the Cloud, Software as a Service, and the Consumerization of IT, and they’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.  They’ll probably also wonder what all those nice people who used to run their network are doing now.

The Consumerization of IT.  Bring Your Own Device. Personal Cloud Storage.  These buzzwords have sent IT departments the world over into a tizzy.  In fact, 37% of all IT related articles written in the last 2 years have been about one of these three concepts.  (I totally made that stat up.) We, as IT people, are obsessed with the consequences of allowing consumer devices and personal software behind the corporate firewall and well we should be.  The idea raises many questions:

  •  How can we support all of these various devices? 
  •  How will we keep our networks secure? 
  •  If they’re using their own software and hardware, do they really need us at all? 

These questions, and their many variations, are important and must be answered.  However, in the midst of our flesh rending and teeth gnashing, I think we have completely missed the biggest problem introduced by Consumer Technology in the Enterprise, it has given rise to the RETEs.

Recently Empowered Technology Enthusiasts are proto-geeks who have come to believe that they have a savant-like way with technology, because in recent years the technology they used to struggle so hard to use, now just comes to them naturally.  Most RETEs are harmless, sweet even.  Your mother became a RETE the first time she texted you from her new iPhone.  But there is a certain brand of RETE who is very dangerous, specifically for IT Departments dealing with Consumer Technology issues, the RETE in charge.
This person used to fight with their Blackberry daily.  They would get stuck in the menu tree and call IT to help them find their way out.  They bought a netbook because it was tiny and shiny and cool-looking, but they threw it out a window because it was too slow and would drop the wireless network every 5 minutes.  Then they discovered the iPhone, the iPad, and the App store.  The heavens opened and Steve Jobs in the guise of Prometheus bent toward them with the flame of all technical knowledge, passing it slowly in front of their face.  The scales of ignorance fell from their eyes and suddenly everything made sense.  Technology was easy!  Apps could do everything!  And that’s the moment when the question that strikes fear in the heart of every IT Guy first occurs to the RETE.  “Why is it still so difficult to do all of this technology stuff at work?”

It’s a perfectly valid question, but there are many obstacles to making technology at work as easy to use as commercially available consumer technology.  We have long term contracts and agreements with enterprise software makers.  We have security and support issues that consumer app makers don’t even consider, and we have industry and company specific requirements that they aren’t interested in addressing.  The RETE in charge doesn’t care, “Why is it still so difficult to do all of this technology stuff at work?”
Consumer software makers have spent the last few years building apps that aren’t just solving a particular problem for the user, but also doing it in a way that is intuitive and simple, that conforms to the user’s workflow instead of requiring the user to conform to the software.  The software learns the user instead of the other way around.  Intelligence is built into the back end of these apps so that users don’t even see it, let alone have to use their own.  “So… why is it still so difficult to do all of this technology stuff at work?”
Many enterprise software makers are just now hiring their first User Experience Engineer. They’re half a decade or more behind the consumer software developers.  The big guys, the one’s we’ve all been paying exorbitant licensing fees for the last 20 years, they’re going to struggle and many of them will fail in the coming years.  They’ll be replaced by little guys who have been building consumer apps and have been focused on the user experience all along.  These little guys will eventually nail the security and support issues too, and their focus on user experience and their lower overhead costs (read: lower licensing fees), will lead to enterprise level, intuitive, user-centric software in the not-too-distant future.
In the meantime, the question is still hanging in the air, waiting for a simple answer. “Why is it still so difficult to do all of this technology stuff at work?” 
If you come up with a good answer, drop me a line.  

Purchasing a notebook computer requires balancing three distinct parameters, portability, capability, and usability.  These three parameters are different for every person and as such, each buyer must adjust the value of these needs accordingly and make a purchasing decision that most closely aligns with their particular requirements.
Portability This is the most obvious parameter to consider when purchasing a notebook: the size, weight, and shape of the computer.  How easy is it to carry with you?  Does it easily slip into a bag, or does it require it’s own case?  The difference between a 3 pound laptop and a 5 pound laptop can be the difference between carrying it with you everywhere and leaving in the office on the desk.
Capability This is usually the second consideration when comparing notebooks; the specifications of the computer itself.  How fast is the processor?  How big is the hard drive?  Historically, the smaller, more portable, notebooks were limited proportionally in capabilities.  That is no longer the case.  The capabilities of most notebook computers can compete with your average desktop regardless of size.
Usability This is probably the most important of the three parameters and yet, it is typically the most overlooked.  How easy is it to use this computer in the manner that you intend to use it?  This parameter is often confused with portability, in fact, portability is a subset of usability, but it is useful for our purposes to consider them separately.  How does the keyboard feel?  Is the screen large enough to use for long periods of time without an external monitor?  Can you connect an external monitor?  A second external monitor? What connectors are built in? Which type of display connection? USB? Ethernet? Does the notebook have a docking station to connect all of your peripherals in one action, or will you need to manually connect monitors, keyboard, mouse, etc. each time you put your notebook on the desk?
When making a single purchase the right balance is a personal preference.  There is no one correct answer for the entire population.  If I am checking emails, surfing the web, connecting to a virtual machine via VPN to do most of my work, and traveling 6 months out of the year then portability is going to be my top priority.  The heavy lifting of computational ability will be done on my company’s servers somewhere far away, I don’t need to carry a particularly capable device to be able to do my work.  If I use my notebook to run virtual servers to showcase my company’s server based product on a stand alone machine, I need to make sure I’ve got a fairly powerful device that is capable of running both client and server side applications.  In that case, capability trumps the other two parameters.
If, however, you are purchasing a fleet of notebooks for a large number of professionals, each with different needs, then the balance of the three parameters needs to shift heavily toward usability.  Portability and capability are still important, but once a certain minimum level of portability and capability are met, usability should be the top priority.  This is the situation faced by law firm IT departments as they choose a firm-provided model notebook computer and this is where the consumerization of IT hits a wall. 
Consumer level devices are made for personal use.  As I’ve argued above, the needs of an individual may be wildly different than the average needs of the population.  If the individual has personally chosen to make due with the limitations of the consumer device, that is an acceptable trade-off.  If however, the enterprise purchases consumer level devices and distributes them to their user base, the trade-offs may be entirely unacceptable to a large portion of the user base. 
Let me use the Macbook Air as an example.  I love this computer.  It’s beautiful.  It’s elegant. I would love to own one for my personal use.  But it’s entirely unacceptable as a fleet notebook in a law firm.  It certainly meets and even exceeds the portability and the capability minimums, but it falls woefully short in usability.  Here, the culprit is not the screen or the keyboard, but the connectivity of the device.  First, there is no docking station.  It may seem like a small trade-off for such elegance, but after a year of manually plugging in and unplugging 5 or more peripherals each time you get to the office, you’ll wish you had a docking station.  Secondly, there is no VGA or DVI monitor connection.  I know, VGA is so last century.  I agree.  Unfortunately, most projectors in the world still use VGA.  If you want to use your shiny new Macbook for presentations, you’ll need to carry around a Thunderbolt/Displayport to VGA dongle.  While we’re discussing necessary dongles, the Macbook Air is designed to be used wirelessly, it doesn’t have an Ethernet port.  You can’t connect it to a wired network without the USB to Ethernet dongle.  Not a big deal, until you are in a hotel room with a broadband connection, but no wi-fi, or if you are at a conference with 500 people trying to get on wi-fi and can’t get an IP address.  At that point you’ll need the dongle.  Optical drive?  There isn’t one.  No watching movies on the plane, or loading up the client’s latest software on CD.  Unless of course, you have the USB DVD drive. Once you pack all of these peripherals into the bag, the portability of the device is severely diminished and judging by the number of power supplies I’ve seen attorneys go through in the three year lifetime of a single notebook, the firm would have to purchase dongles and peripherals by the truckload.
Now, I don’t mean to pick on the Macbook.  I am admittedly an Apple fan boy.  I really do love this device.  There are plenty of similar Macbook Air wannabes on the market, but I don’t believe any of them are currently appropriate enterprise devices.   When wi-fi is ubiquitous, no one uses optical storage anymore, Displayport projectors are the norm, and all peripherals are wireless, then maybe we can roll out consumer level notebooks.  Until then, as much as it pains me to say, we should probably stick the boring, ugly, corporate notebooks with acceptable portability and capability, and extreme usability.

For many years we have been talking about Intranets as a place to quickly find information. There has been much discussion about technology improvements and the latest design ideas.  We talk about how to organize (taxonomy) and access (in Outlook or web browser) information. We have even involved attorneys in the design process with the hope that by so doing, we will build a better Intranet. We keep thinking that if we get it right, the attorneys will start using it. But, with few exceptions, Intranets are little more than administrative clearing houses of static information.

The problem with the conventional view of Intranets is that it is an enterprise approach to what should be a consumer experience.  In order to succeed, the Intranet needs to be an adaptive, ever learning, ever growing aggregate of my view in the firm as well as my web based social interactions. It needs to allow me to organize information in a way that makes sense to me and it needs to have robust search that makes information easy to find.  As we all know, users are more likely to use a Google style search to find information than they are to look through various sub-sites trying to figure out how to reserve a conference room.  But, robust search on its own does not solve the problem.
The principles that apply to effective Internet websites also apply to Intranets. An effective website needs to be visually engaging and intuitive, but more importantly it needs fresh content. A site can be easy to navigate and have a great look, but if the content is stale, readers will go elsewhere. And, most Intranets lack fresh content. Yes, we post interesting stories about a deal that just concluded or we share information about what is going on in various offices. We remind people about firm policy or list training opportunities on a feature in Word, somehow expecting this to pique their interest.  We have not created a compelling place that draws viewers.  At best, it is yet another way station of  administrative information.

We need to do build Intranets that reflect the interests of the reader. A site needs to be able to look and feel different for each user to address each user’s unique perspective. 

An effective Intranet needs to blur the lines of personal and professional, because most of today’s workers do not have clear cut delineations between work and play.  For those few who still want the delineation, a well designed site will accommodate their wishes too. Intranets need to embrace social media, both external and internal. They need to foster a sense of community and quickly adapt to changing times.

The secret to building fresh content is to leverage the social interactions of one’s personal life and commingle them with their business needs.  As your interests change, the Intranet needs to change as well.  We see this technology being used in several different ways in the consumer market.  A simple example is gmail’s ability to present relevant information as you compose an email.  In the case of gmail, the relevant information comes in the form of advertisements that are based on your email’s content.  With an Intranet, instead of adverts, it would be research opportunities and precedent banks.  It would leverage your firm’s experience database and provide you with links to internal and external experts on the topic at hand. When done correctly, the Intranet would be a powerful tool for sharing knowledge, collaboration and communication.  When done correctly, the Intranet would become the portal we have always talked about.
Programatically speaking, this is not hard to do. Culturally, this is happening already, however it is happening outside the firm. And when it happens outside the firm, the firm does not benefit from the interactions, from the exchange of knowledge or the sense of community. When this happens outside the firm, you do not have the opportunity to share important information with your people or capture and re-purpose knowledge.
The biggest challenge we face in making this move is changing management’s perception that all this social media stuff is not only a waste of time, but also a time waster.  
The reality is, social media has replaced the water cooler.  Now, instead of interacting with a few people on your floor, you are interacting with the world. The benefit is greater exposure to real world needs and solutions, opportunities to be recognized for your contributions and new sources of information.
The change is upon us and yet we continue to build systems designed with the enterprise in mind and wonder why these systems are not being used.   It is time to change the paradigm and not think in terms of enterprise or consumer, but in terms of efficiency, improved productivity and systems designed to self-improve with increasing amounts of information.  Leveraging information is the key to success moving forward.

We have heard a lot of talk over the last 18 months about the consumerization of the enterprise (see Ryan McClead’s posts on 3Geeks  End of Corp IT and CorpTechPocalypse).  This movement from enterprise solutions (solutions designed to be supported on a large scale) to consumer solutions (solutions designed to be supported on a small or individual scale) presents many challenges to the IT department.
Why consumerization now?  A little over ten years ago, a new breed of tech entrepreneur entered the scene.  These fresh thinkers didn’t carry the baggage that many of us have.  They grew up in a time when things simply worked.  They never had to figure out how to use a modem to connect to other computers.  They never had to use command line utilities to make something work.  

This fresh perspective and natural adolescent tendencies allowed this new generation to question previous methodologies.” 

A shining example of this is Google, a tech giant unlike any others before it.  Google questioned every assumption placed before it and has proven that many assumptions do not stand up.  Google has questioned how software is valued, giving away most of their innovations to consumers. Google has questioned how large data centers are built and maintained. Google has questioned the value of computer hardware and  has built systems in entirely new ways.  Most software developers assume they can leverage an infrastructure built on robust and fault tolerant systems (the enterprise view).  Robust and fault tolerant are expensive to achieve and difficult to manage.   Google has built their entire business on the opposite approach, they assume that hardware will fail.  In fact, they build their own servers using components that are “sub-standard” for the industry.  Google is able to do this because, as a software engineering company, they know they can write code to accommodate such failures.  They realized that software IS the answer.  In order to massively scale, their software needed to be extremely fault tolerant. And when software is extremely fault tolerant, there is no need to purchase expensive equipment (this is just one example, there are many more from which we can all learn).  
Whether you believe in Google’s “do no evil” mantra or you believe they are acting in a destructive way, one thing is for sure, they have changed the computing paradigm. We have a new generation that has a fresh approach and does not accept the assumptions placed before them.  This helped to fuel the consumerization of the enterprise, but without a marketplace that is ready for change you would still not see this type of shift.   

“The biggest reason consumerization of the enterprise is happening now is because you asked for it.”

Let the pendulum swing – We have seen a move from Enterprise to Consumerization led by forward thinking companies like Google.  We are now starting to feel the impact of this movement.  IT organizations that have been pressured into adopting a consumerized approach are struggling with management and security challenges. As the enterprise becomes more consumer friendly, we are seeing an explosion in the amount of data being stored and shared and we are seeing a blending of personal and work personas.  This explosion, along with the further blurring of lines between your work and personal personas, is creating new challenges.  What is missing is an effective way to manage this new paradigm.  This new generation of entrepreneurs are keenly focused on products that are developed for consumers, but have little understanding of or exposure to the enterprise.  This creates an opportunity for a fresh approach to consumerization, because in my opinion the enterprise is where the real money is.  So, let’s start talking about the enterprization of consumerism.

It’s been over six months since I first warned of the coming Corporate Technology Apocalypse on this blog. In the last few weeks, I think corporate IT has gotten a couple of new nails in its coffin.
The first came in the form of a splashy infographic from Unisys called The Great IT Freezeout, which got some coverage from GigaOm last Monday and was brought to my attention by geek number 4 (and my boss), Scott Preston. In my original post on The End of Corporate IT, I touted the consumerization of IT as one of my three pillars of the coming apocalypse. The first point on The Great IT Freezeout is that the “Consumerization of IT is ACCELERATING”. (Their CAPS, not mine.) They show that 53% of workers who use PCs, smartphones and/or tablets for work, claim that mobile devices are their primary work tools, up from 44% in 2010 and that the percentage of the same workers who think that PCs are their most critical devices for work has fallen to 35% from 51% in 2010. That’s a huge change in just a year. I’m not going to list all of their numbers. Go check out the infographic for yourself, but I do want to point out a couple of other areas of interest.
  • IT’s awareness of personal devices used for work is about 50% of the levels that workers self report actually using personal devices.
  • IT rates their own ability to support these consumer devices as low
  • “70% of IT rate their organizations a late/last adopters of new tech”
As the Unisys graphic puts it, “IT risks IRRELEVANCE”.
The second nail was a little less obvious and came in the form of two announcements. One from Microsoft announcing availability of their License Mobility through Software Assurance plan and one from Amazon announcing that they were supporting the Microsoft License Mobility plan on their AWS EC2 hosting platform. This will let companies who have server application licenses like Exchange, Sharepoint and SQL, migrate their existing licenses to a cloud host, rather than forcing them to purchase additional licenses. I know, it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it removes one more barrier to moving IT infrastructure to the cloud. Corporations spend millions in supporting and maintaining a physical IT infrastructure in-house every year. The costs for servers, cooling, power management, and support staff are huge. A large chunk of that expense can now be easily transferred to a service provider. Maintaining hardware will go from being a semi-cyclical refresh expense, with periodic, unexpected, emergency expenses to being a fixed monthly cost that can be budgeted into the foreseeable future, with 99.9999% uptime and extreme flexibility. Management can increase or decrease capacity near instantaneously with a phone call. How can we justify maintaining a server farm in-house when such things are possible? The short term answer is security. But security concerns will not ultimately save IT. Security concerns have a tendency to be mitigated, especially when they stand in the way of profits.
Now, Corporate IT does a lot of things, I’m not saying that they will be replaced overnight, but two of the big things they do are maintain and support the technology infrastructure and maintain and support end-user technology. IT is currently being squeezed on both sides. Short of a brand new justification for their existence, I think you will eventually begin to see large corporate IT departments replaced with a handful of IT Integrators acting as liaisons between management and technology service providers. The fact is, most companies aren’t in the business of technology services and they’re about to realize it.