In an effort to find out what the world's largest IT corporation intends to do about all this in the coming year, we sought out a key inside source for some insight.
Our source is CIO Mark Hennessy, an IBM lifer who has only been in his current job for a year and a half. His resume includes executive positions in marketing, corporate strategy, sales, global channel distribution, quality process and customer satisfaction.
Admittedly, this is not the usual ladder to a CIO position. As a result, Hennessy already has a pretty good handle on where he and the rest of his huge IT corporation will be headed in 2009 and beyond.
As IBM's CIO, Hennessy is responsible for leading all of the huge corporation's technology operations and strategic business initiatives. Since being appointed to this role in July 2007, IBM says, "[Hennessy] has focused on aligning IT and business strategy, instituted a balanced transformation governance model, and become a champion of skills and career development for IBM's business transformation and information technology professionals."
What are IBM's customers asking for in 2009, besides lower costs, better performance and improved power usage?
"This global economy is driving lots of change," Hennessy said. "Organizations are looking to be more efficient, but I also feel they are more focused on flexibility and agility, and being able to move quickly. I saw a CEO study from earlier this year, and one of the more interesting facts that came out of it was that 80 percent of them expect significant change in their business: It may be changing the business model they're using, moving to growth markets, changing their go-to-market strategy, shifting their mix of revenue production, or something else."
This all has to be facilitated by the CIO, Hennessy said.
"Frankly, it means that it's a great time for CIOs to continue their transition from a focus on cost and efficiency alone [to focusing] also on how to drive growth and integration for their companies," Hennessy said.
CIOs will still need to concentrate on cost-saving: centralization, virtualization, "sunsetting" of legacy applications, working with partners, dealing with global delivery networks, and so on, Hennessy said. "But at the same time, CIOs are prioritizing the money they're spending to figure out how to be more flexible and agile. I talk to Fortune 500 CIOs quite frequently, and I often start the conversation by talking about aligning the IT strategy to the business strategy: how to do it, how to focus on process simplification, so we're just not adding tools to 'automate chaos.' That's something we don't want to do, right?"
Automation is good; automation of chaos, bad
Hennessy said concentrating on process simplification "keeps you from automating chaos. ... How do you apply concepts such as SOA (service-oriented architecture) and asset-reuse to drive speed and efficiency? How do you accelerate time-to-value by using agile methodology and outcome-based models? These are the kinds of things the CIOs I've talked with are focused on," Hennessy said.
Since change in the data center happens so frequently on many fronts, the ability to deal with those changes in an automated fashion is paramount in keeping the IT system humming along with no disruptions.
IBM will be focusing its services and new products on automation in 2009.