"Please listen carefully, as the options have changed."
That was how my first day began at the Fall Gartner Symposium/IT Expo here in Orlando, Florida, when I called our help desk to solve a connectivity problem that I ended up having to solve myself. And judging from the initial sessions here at Gartner that I attended this AM, both the VRU response as well as my having to troubleshoot and fix my own IT problem are signs of things to come.
I probably should have known something was amiss when I discovered that a vendor had shoved some cardboard 3-D glasses under my door overnight, but didn't bother to accompany it with anything interesting to look at. That, and the fact that red grouper are in scarce supply due to new fishing restrictions on both commercial and sport fisherman because of overfishing here in Florida.
Fishing in the Wrong Pond
Although I'm certain the grouper were happy to hear about the fishing restrictions, that, too, seemed to be a sign. Judging from the 50,000 foot view "set up" session that a virtual samba line of Gartner analysts led this morning, many information technologists have been fishing in the wrong pond, and suggested that it's time to regroup and focus on the real value of IT. The question at hand: Do you want IT to be an enabler or a contributor?
In terms of issues and challenges in the external landscape, the shifting sands of change have become a virtual raging sandstorm. Natural disasters aside, there are vast economic challenges (the price of oil, or Factor "X", as it was referred to in the presentation, sits on the doorstep of global business, lurking like Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven"); changing suitors, alliances, and businesses expanding their core (McDonald's moving into video rentals, Starbucks into music retailing); and most conspicuously, the changing use of technology by consumers (Your employees may not have hooked their iPod nano into your SAN just yet, but give it time).
So, if all the options have changed, what does a CIO do? Well, that depends on your outlook. If your organization sees IT as an enabler to your business, and not simply a contributor -- and more importantly, if your board sees that as well -- then you're probably in pretty good shape. Even though annual spending growth on IT investments is incremental at best, hovering between 1.5 and 2.5 percent, global GDP is 3-4 percent and presents you with ample opportunity to tweak your IT strategy to focus more on business enhancement, and less on operational enablement.
The New Mantra of IT: Transform and Perform
"Transform and perform" seems to be the new mantra. In other words, you've got to overhaul and completely rebuild the '57 Chevy that is your IT infrastructure, all while cruising down the interstate and keeping your eye on the competition -- hopefully in the rearview mirror. But this ain't no joy ride: We've got places to go and people to see. New business opportunities await us, and they're ripe for the taking, even with modest budgets.
How do we get there? First, get a map. If you don't have one, make one. Second, keep your eyes on the road and on the Burma Shave signs off to the side -- like the American railroad in 1850, new business opportunities will sprout up both on and off this virtual interstate -- you just have to know how to reach them.
We're speeding into a world of multitasking -- personal and professional -- and we must be able to respond to both tactical change (changes in demand for our products, fluctuations in crude, etc.), while building new operating models that facilitate the more strategic change we need to be making. All of this, of course, puts new strains on your IT organization.
Welcome to the 21st Century -- nobody said globalization would be easy, but boy is it never boring!
Stand Together or Fall Apart
If isolationism ensured that Britain would become fully engaged in two global world wars, globalization will increasingly demand the wholesale integration of businesses and IT processes outside their once vertical stovepipes. Business services are nothing more than individual enabling points of light, integrated across the expanse of global enterprises.
But for their full value to be realized by both consumers and creators, the infrastructure and architecture must be established, the standards, security, and transport layers agreed upon, etc.
Resistance is futile. No business is an island. Everything is connected, nobody gets left behind...save for those who don't connect with everybody else.
More later...for now, I'm off to see if anything else comes to view in those 3-D glasses...and no, alas, I won't be having red grouper for lunch.