Infrastructure
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8/27/2004
02:03 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Business Technology: When Change Is Inevitable, Embrace It

There are signs that this extraordinary profession, which in 35 years has mutated in profound ways at breathtaking speeds, is simply in the midst of another massive overhaul, Bob Evans says.

In The Return Of The King, the third installment of the magnificent Lord Of The Rings trilogy, a number of scenes have audiences squirming because it appears the good guys are going to lose--no matter how valiantly they fight, how heroically they sacrifice, or how desperately they try, the forces of evil are simply too vast, too overwhelming, too ferocious, too inexorable. Resistance, as they say in yet another movie, is futile. (But we all know who wins that one.)

A great deal of that doomed attitude is swirling around us today: the notion that IT is dead, that innovation is only available in advertising and marketing, that today's computer scientists will be regarded tomorrow as rent-a-cops, that all this business-technology stuff is so simple and so commoditized that it's not only not transformational but also not even strategic anymore, and that just as several years ago some bright lights announced "the end of history," so, too, are we now in the waning days of the relevance of IT and it's only a matter of years--months?--before they shut the lights off for good.

In this climate of cynicism and sometimes even pessimism, it might be easy for some of you in the business-technology profession to feel jaded and unappreciated. Whipped. Duped. Irrelevant, disrespected, and unwanted. Misunderstood, mistreated, and mystified. With the business-technology field seemingly mired in budget cuts, salary freezes, declining enrollment in computer-science programs, offshore outsourcing, slumping stock prices of IT vendors, and cybersecurity nightmares, the professions of family farming and retail travel agencies could almost appear to be by comparison boom industries.

Almost.

Without a doubt, the field is undergoing radical changes---but this is not exactly the first time. In fact, rapid and often wrenching change has been one of the principal strengths of this field, leading to innovation, enhanced processes, unprecedented technological advancement, and ultimately higher standards of living, education, and health care. But beyond some of the hype and hysteria, there are lots of signs that this extraordinary profession, which in 35 years has mutated in profound ways at breathtaking speeds, is simply in the midst of another massive overhaul. Please consider:

  • IT spending as a percentage of revenue stands at 7.4% in companies that see IT as a significant enabler of growth, but at 4.7% in companies that see IT as an inhibitor to growth, according to a survey from Bain. In the pro-IT companies, 42% of IT spending goes toward new capabilities versus maintenance, whereas in IT-skeptical companies, only 30% goes to forward-looking initiatives. The point: Which group should your company be in, and which group is it in?

  • Other Voices

    "Today's actions send an important message to those who steal over the Internet. When online thieves illegally distribute copyrighted programs and products, they put the livelihoods of millions of hard-working Americans at risk and damage our economy. The execution of today's warrants disrupted an extensive peer-to-peer network suspected of enabling users to traffic illegally in music, films, software, and published works."

    -- Attorney General John Ashcroft, Aug. 26

  • "Indian IT-services companies may be dominating the global market for software services, but they risk losing out on the growing domestic market for such services if they don't refocus on their own back yard, a market researcher warned." This story, reported by our sister publication EE Times based on a report from Gartner, also noted that IBM recently won a $750 million IT-outsourcing contract inside India. The point: What companies will value most in the next several years is global competitiveness, and no single country has a lock on that.
  • Claims that offshoring mortgage-processing work to India can cut costs by 25% to 50% are grossly inflated, says research firm TowerGroup, which pegs the real savings at 6%. The point: Look for the long-term trends, not just the short-term spikes.
  • It looks like a hot new job market will emerge in the field of managed security services, as the Yankee Group forecasts that 90% of large U.S. corporations will outsource cybersecurity over the next several years, with the value of those deals reaching $3.7 billion in 2008. The point: Do you have the skills that map to these emergent opportunities?
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