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Business Technology: Industry Changes Lead To Difficult Choices

Bob Evans asks, are you prepared to answer the tough questions that changes in technology are bringing?
What if Microsoft acquired a security company to accelerate its move into the security business, which it will launch soon with its OneCare antivirus service? Symantec could be an attractive target because of its extensive security portfolio *and* its substantial presence in the increasingly strategic area of content management following its purchase of Veritas. With Google swarming over desktop opportunities that Microsoft not long ago dominated, Microsoft pushing its enterprise apps farther upstream, and Oracle and SAP snapping up vertical-market software specialists, the platform strategy Microsoft has long espoused now clearly includes security and content management.

What if Google made a bid for a big broadband distributor to complement its moves into Wi-Fi, maps/Earth, VoIP, video search, low-cost PCs, free E-mail, and just about every other 21st-century desktop application? Comcast is the top broadband provider in the United States, with 8.1 million customers. When Time Warner bought AOL, then-CEO Gerald Levin said, "Content may be king, but distribution is the power behind the throne." Now, that deal isn't exactly the prototype of a sterling success--but is Levin's fundamental idea still valid? Indeed it is because the locus of innovation for technology companies has shifted from the business world to the consumer in his home, and the services traversing those broadband pipes today are only a fraction of what they'll be in a couple of years.

What if your CEO asked you for a strategy outline describing why your company should or should not outsource the majority of its IT operations--what would the crux of your argument be? If you want to keep things in-house, then your focus had better not be cost, it had better not be fear of a PR backlash, and it had better not be that no one anywhere can do anything better than you do. A better tack might be to focus on growth: ways that your IT team can work with all parts of the company to increase revenue, ways that your IT team can work with the company to raise profits, and ways that your IT team can work with customers to increase their loyalty to your company.

Other Voices

Malicious hackers have long used Google to find vulnerable systems to exploit. Now, IT managers can use Google's enterprise search products to identify and patch those systems. Security software maker Secure Elements on Tuesday joined the Google Enterprise Professional program, a partner program that makes it easier for developers, consultants, and independent software vendors to extend Google's enterprise products. The Herndon, Va.-based company has done just that by bringing the capabilities of its C5 Enterprise Vulnerability Management Suite to Google's hardware.

-- Thomas Claburn, InformationWeek Blog, Jan. 18

What if your vice chairman reads an article in an airplane magazine about this magical new technology called VoIP that eliminates all telecom costs, wipes out the need for networks of any kind, gives you greater security than the NSA, and generates ROI of 200% in the first week after installation--and then at a board meeting recommends that you should install it throughout your company immediately? Should you (A) laugh at him and tell him he's fulla crap; (B) enlist his support as the business-unit champion for the project; (C) ask him what "VoIP" stands for; or (D) resign?

What if the IT Steering Committee asks you to revise some of your policies about integrating various types of consumer technologies into the corporate network? They specifically mention iPods, BlackBerrys, Google Earth, and Webcams, asserting that these and other popular new gadgets will trigger fresh thinking among all employees and also project to customers and partners a sense that your company is hip, modern, and sophisticated. Should you (A) laugh at them and say they're all fulla crap; (B) ask them to help you draw up, distribute, and enforce new security policies that encompass the capabilities of these new gizmos; (C) ask them if they'll be willing to fund the purchase, deployment, and training of the new stuff; or (D) endorse the idea as one that can revive a sense of fun, adventure, exploration, and discovery in how people interact with and create value through technology?

What if you accept an invitation from a local university to give a 45-minute guest speech to its computer-science students--what do you focus on in those 45 minutes? Do you tell them the field of corporate IT is booming, that the future for bright and industrious and creative students is unlimited, and that the expansion of technology into all facets of our lives and all facets of the business world will make their talents indispensable in the workforce? Or do you tell them that the ongoing assimilation of IT into every department in every company will make IT so omnipresent and so invisible and so common and typical that the field of IT professionals will inexorably decline? Or do you tell them that a successful IT career will require not only deep and constantly updated technology expertise but also an equally rich background in business or marketing or logistics or engineering?

What if you had it to do all over again: What if anything would you do differently? Let me know.

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