IT's 2012 Resolution: Stop The Hand-Wringing - InformationWeek
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Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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IT's 2012 Resolution: Stop The Hand-Wringing

How can the myth of IT's shrinking relevance persist, with so many companies making huge bets based on their faith in technology?

Here's a goal we can all embrace for 2012: no more existential hand-wringing about whether IT has a promising role, future, value, or purpose.

IT has to be the only profession that spends so much time questioning its own existence. Instead, let's just accept this truth as self-evident: A company is underperforming if it doesn't have top-flight IT. Employees won't have the insights they need to make good decisions. They'll waste time in their work with colleagues and outsiders. They'll disappoint customers by missing shipments, appointments, payments. And most damning of all, those underachievers won't have the technology capabilities to pull off game-changing business initiatives.

How does this myth of IT's shrinking relevance persist, when so many companies are driving extraordinary results, making huge bets, and taking huge risks based on their faith in emerging technologies? Limit the sample size to just one month, November, and you're awash in proof points.

>> GE pledged to spend $1 billion creating a software center that'll hire 400 engineers and other staff in Silicon Valley. GE sees that companies' insatiable demand for data will soon include a whole lot more stuff--machines at every critical point in an operation that report back on how they're performing. GE calls it the "industrial Internet," and managing that information will be one of the great big data challenges ahead of us. GE already has a software business taking in billions in revenue, and it expects double-digit growth through 2015. GE uses its own software to do things like monitor more than 1,000 gas turbines worldwide that generate electricity.

>> In a consumer twist on the industrial Internet, Adidas introduced the $338 AdiZero F50 soccer cleat, which has a removable chip that records distance, speed, and turns, then transmits that data to a smartphone or laptop. Adidas bills the shoe as a training tool. It feels a bit like tech for tech's sake today--but never underestimate the sporting world's demand for data.

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>> Toyota and Intel announced they're doing joint research on in-vehicle multimedia systems, including communications between cars and smartphones and new interfaces to convey all the data cars are collecting.

>> In Meg Whitman's first big executive move since taking over as Hewlett-Packard's CEO in September, she hired a top IT leader: Boeing's John Hinshaw, who steps into an expanded role that includes overseeing IT, process improvement, and shared services such as procurement.

All of these examples demand that IT organizations build new and deeper internal and external relationships, particularly with marketing and product development teams. Starbucks CIO Stephen Gillett, InformationWeek's 2011 Chief of the Year, describes his role--and that of any successful leader at his company--this way: "You have to be gifted in the art we brought you in to do, ... but that's not enough. You have to be skilled in the art of leading and forming relationships with people."

Such skills are in demand at every level of IT. For companies that have them, 2012 will be another year of proving the creative and indispensable force that IT is.

To find out more about Chris Murphy, please visit his page.

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User Rank: Apprentice
12/27/2011 | 7:32:00 AM
re: IT's 2012 Resolution: Stop The Hand-Wringing
"Here's a goal we can all embrace for 2012: no more existential hand-wringing about whether IT has a promising role, future, value, or purpose."

This article is attacking a straw-man. I don't think any CEO is questioning the value of IT. Possibly particular IT services or initiatives, but not IT in general. This article is referencing the article by Nicholas Carr titled "IT Doesn't Matter" in HBR. Carr's thesis is that IT has become standardized and should be thought of as an operational cost, such as electricity (i.e. standardize it and use the lowest cost method of achieving the output, be it applications or electricity). Many people misinterpreted the article to mean that companies do not need IT, which, for Carr, would be like saying companies do not need electricity. What he is arguing is: if you don't care how your electricity is provided as long as it meets your SLAs, why do you care how IT services are provided as long as it meets your SLAs. The real question is, now that we agree that we need IT services and electricity, is it best to have IT managed in-house or provided the same way electricity is provided, as a managed service (or in a "cloud", if you like) as our electrical power is supplied.

The ultimate question to ask when considering if "IT" has a future is: what do you mean by IT? If you mean administrative, "meeting the SLA" work, then no it probably doesn't have a future unless you can match the economies of scale of a massive service provider. If you mean delivering a new innovation or service which provides a competitive advantage, then yes, IT is crucial.
User Rank: Apprentice
12/12/2011 | 3:41:05 PM
re: IT's 2012 Resolution: Stop The Hand-Wringing
in general, this is a terrific intention!
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