IT: Whats Here to Stay—And Whats Not

By Eric Lundquist  |  Posted 2004-02-09

IT: Whats Here to Stay—And Whats Not

We live in an increasingly impermanent world. Few things are built to last. And yet some things are uncannily permanent. Some things will remain; others will not. First, here are a few things that will go away:

Spam. If you want to mark your calendar, 2006 is the year that Bill Gates predicts spam will be a thing of the past. Gates made the prediction at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Many, myself included, contend that within a couple of years, spam will be further contained, trashed and traced. Either of two ideas for killing spam—knowing where a message comes from or charging postage for messages—will limit, but not eliminate, it. However, spammers are smart enough to realize that their ability to figure out a way around these fences will make their messages better read and more believable. Although spam will eventually go away, I dont believe that by 2006 spam will be remembered as only a historical artifact. But Bill G. does, and if hes willing to invest the billions of dollars Microsoft can apply toward research and development, I wouldnt bet against him—and I hope he wins the bet.

The IT-doesnt-matter argument. This was a hot topic following an article published by Nicholas Carr last May in the Harvard Business Review. Now, Carr has his own Web site and a way to preorder his book on the topic, "Does IT Matter?" which is coming out in April. Carr did a good job of raising the issue, but the sweeping generalization—the headline on the HBR article was "IT Doesnt Matter"—falls flat. Attempts to counter Carrs argument without going deeper into the discussion too often sounded like an "Im not dead" Monty Python comedy routine.

The best explanation for why you should make sure you spend your budget dollars on what does matter in IT—rather than falling prey to specious arguments that it all doesnt matter—came from Jeremy Burton, senior vice president of Veritas Software. During a recent update by the company, Burton talked about releasing value from the IT budget. His argument was that by driving new efficiencies into the operations part of the budget, a smart business executive can free up funds for new investments.

First, divide your budget into three categories: operations, maintenance and development. If your company is like many others, youll find that half, and often far more, of your dollars go into the first two categories. Drive the cost out of those first two categories, and youll become a corporate hero, thanks to the magic of being able to undertake new projects without having to go back to the budget well.

Next page: What Wont Go Away


What Wont Go Away

The personal computer. Gateways recent decision to purchase eMachines is telling. The $235 million acquisition further consolidates an already-consolidating business, but it also indicates Gateway Chairman Ted Waitt realizes his company will rise or fall on its ability to deliver on the PC promise and not on the newest, coolest consumer electronics product. The PC was the engine of Gateways growth and is also the companys future. Taking on big-screen television manufacturers from Asia is not a winning long-term strategy.

The Lotus name. At the recent Lotusphere conference in Orlando, I asked Ambuj Goyal, general manager of IBMs Lotus Software division, if the Lotus name will be subsumed in the IBM effort to promote its WebSphere and on-demand offerings. "In my view, the Lotus brand brings value to IBM," Goyal said. The change you are seeing at IBM is the company talking more about solutions to business problems rather than individual technology-based opportunities. Lotus will find its success in continuing to redefine groupware to mean combined productivity throughout a corporation rather than in individual departments.

The New England Patriots. Hey, after a winter in the deep freeze here in Massachusetts, we all needed at least one big reason to keep living on the tundra. The Patriots provided that reason this year, and it looks like they will kep providing it for a few years to come.

Editor in Chief Eric Lundquists e-mail address is

Rocket Fuel