How IT has worked forever is coming to a slow or fast end, depending on where you work. If you are paying attention, there are subtle signs of its demise everywhere. For example, gone are the good ole days when an IT professional would spend an entire Sunday fixing the VP’s Blackberry. Now a nice person in India walks the VP through the myriad steps to reboot or reconfigure. Another proof point—IT colleagues are posting new titles on LinkedIn like “Business Strategist” or “Innovation Lead” or “Electronic Design Engineer”…Oh my! Dorothy said it best, “Toto—I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Alas, the rumor is true; IT as we know it is done. Today IT is evolving into something else, and, as with all transitions, it sucks. Yes, I said “sucks” —because that is generally how most people feel about change, and this is particularly true when there is no clear destination or roadmap of how to get there.

Here is what we know for sure: IT’s core stock in trade can no longer be solely fixing or building things, given the surfeit of quality managed service providers that can do the fixin’ 24/7. And, with the advent of the “cloud” (you may have hoped this would drift away…but it’s here to stay) access to constantly updated information and customizable applications is just a pass code away.

Today IT is becoming an entire business within a business. Much like an R&D department, we are expected to conduct research, discovery, and testing that will lead to business solutions. These solutions will be either at our customers’ explicit direction, or, like Professor Marvel, we will peer into our crystal ball and see what they need before they even know they need it. In the past, we often had to “sell” our projects, but today IT is helping to frame company strategy and make the business case for resource allocation and marketplace investments, just like a true sales and marketing team. We are also in the delivery business. We must be the best at on-time delivery of solutions at minimal cost, and, maybe most importantly, engaging the internal customer to ensure that the solution is used and the maximum benefits are realized.

The good ole days of IT are gone. The new objective of placing IT at the hub of driving business is here, and most IT organizations are ill prepared for the shift in roles, focus, skills, knowledge and leadership this will entail. If IT leaders don’t step-up their skill-sets and those of their organization, there will be no more IT—it will simply be absorbed into the business organization. After all, why turn to the old IT when needs can be handled (and, in some cases better) by outsourced managed services and the “cloud”?

What to do? My advice is to focus on and invest in one skill right away. Communication. In my next blog I will outline the specific communication skills IT needs to use right now and those they should look for in new hires. Suffice it to say, that from my perspective, for IT to survive successfully within in the world of IT it has to have strong capabilities in communicating with customers, vendors (manage services) and maybe most importantly—within IT organization itself.

For now, IT is probably both Dorothy—who can see the home but isn’t entirely certain how to get there—and the Wizard—who has had the curtain thrown back to reveal a man frantically trying to control an entire enterprise through illusion. Neither is an envious place to be, lost and unable to do what you did well for so long. Just the same, there is only one path and that is straight into organizational change with smarts, heart and courage. The road of change may not be yellow or brick, but it is definitely time to get on with it, ruby slippers or not.