One in 10 IT departments will be disbanded in the next six years, the result of a combination of outsourcing and the changing nature of IT, according to Gartner.

At its annual Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando this week, the analysis firm gazed into its crystal ball and predicted some of the possible outcomes of current shifts including IT's increasing pervasiveness, its ever more business-critical role, and outsourcing.

To some extent, Gartner is predicting the death of the IT department. Partly, Western IT departments will shrink or disappear as they're moved to other parts of the globe through outsourcing deals. More importantly, though, IT departments will increasingly deal with areas outside of what is considered IT in 2005, Gartner argues.

The new areas will involve business and strategic planning, as opposed to IT as such, Gartner said. "While it will grow from an IT base, the primary focus of the new organisation will be business transformation and strategic assets of information and process," said analyst John Mahoney. "When mature, it may no longer be identified as an IT organisation."

Such a shift in role will be the fate of three-quarters of IT departments, Gartner said. One in ten will disappear and another one-tenth will stick with standard IT but the part it plays will be reduced to a commodity, according to Gartner.

IT will become one of the top three make-or-break factors for businesses, but IT departments will see their actual technology staff reduced by 40 percent.

As technology skills are commodified, skills involving information, process and business will become more important, and the number of staff dealing with these issues will double, Gartner predicts. Overall, though, IT departments will have 20 percent fewer people.

The growing business importance of IT will have other ramifications - executives will scrutinise technology's role more closely, and leadership within organisations on technology issues may move increasingly outside the IT department.

Technology may end up being too important to be left to techies, Gartner said, and business executives may end up managing it as part of their regular roles. "There remains controversy about the extent to which IT can, should or will take and be trusted with leadership of business processes and information," Mahoney stated.

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