Gartner Symposium Keynote Warns of New Digital Challenges for IT

NEWS ANALYSIS: Gartner Symposium 2013 leads off with a keynote warning IT pros that they have to get ready for the Internet of things and the digitization of the analog world.

A big, fast-moving digital train is headed your way, and you either jump aboard to become an engineer or get flattened. That, in essence, was the message from the Gartner researchers and analysts at the start of this year’s Gartner Symposium 2013.

While it is not much of a surprise that the analog world is morphing into a digital universe, the speed of change and the urgency of the message are new this year. For Gartner, which remains a traditional and somewhat conservative consulting organization, speaking to a largely traditional and technologically conservative group, to issue a clarion call to change is notable.

Where past Symposiums tended to focus on the internal working of companies, this one opened with a much more external focus as enterprise business units, marketing organizations and sales organizations with an orientation to customers are garnering more and more of the technology budget. If CIOs and technology managers don’t want to be relegated to functional, rather than strategic, roles they will have to rethink, reorganize and re-educate themselves and their staffs.

“Every person is becoming a technology company,” said Gartner Senior Vice President Peter Sondergaard, who as in previous years opened the main sessions at the Gartner event held in Orlando, Fla. His keynote was a mixture of advice, admonishment and predictions for now through 2020.

He identified five categories of change, which will occur in those years as organizations become fully digitized. Creating a digital technology architecture, a digital enterprise information architecture, a fully integrated cyber-security and risk system, the creation of an industrialized IT infrastructure for the Internet of things and finally digital leadership need to be the top five agenda items, according to Sondergaard.

The rise of the Internet of things was a consistent theme from Sondergaard and the remaining morning speakers. Sondergaard contended that by 2020 the Internet of things will represent $1.9 trillion in economic value. The largest segments in that economic rise will be health care (15 percent), insurance (11 percent) and banking (10 percent). “By 2020, all products of more than $100 in cost will have sensors embedded,” he said, adding that traditional industry segmentation will erode as the digital evolution will erase traditional industry boundaries.

Overall, worldwide IT spending will grow at a 3.2 percent annual rate and will reach $4 trillion in two years, Sondergaard projected.

While the overall technology industry will continue to grow, segments within the industry will see dramatic change, according to Gartner analysts. The data center in particular will change as cloud computing moves to the forefront. Although about 80 percent of the data centers could now be described as private, in four years that percentage will shrink to 65 percent as the use of public clouds becomes widespread in the enterprise.

Those shifting numbers also mean big changes for the vendor community. Sondergaard predicted a big shift in the vendor and customer relationships to the point that by 2017, two-thirds of CIOs recently surveyed expect to change primary vendors, according to Gartner.

Whether CIOs and their IT departments will be at the forefront of the change or be relegated to maintenance roles will in large part depend on their re-educating themselves and their staffs about the new skills required. Those skills include big data acquisition, deployment and analysis, the importance of the consumer in making technology decisions and the development of systems that will incorporate the Internet of things into the corporate infrastructure.

The audience reaction to the keynotes was respectful but muted. The need to incorporate the technologies and organizations outlined by the Gartner analysis is not unknown to the CIOs and technology managers in attendance.

However, the need to manage day-to-day operations, to handle budget battles as more business groups become technology spenders and the need to keep security, privacy and compliance as prime considerations all weigh against embarking on bold new projects. The next step for Gartner will be to provide guidance in how to strike a balance in keeping the old structure running while moving to the new, all-digital vision outlined in the keynotes.

Eric Lundquist is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Lundquist, who was editor-in-chief at eWEEK (previously PC WEEK) from 1996-2008, authored this article for eWEEK to share his thoughts on technology, products and services. No investment advice is offered in this article. All duties are disclaimed. Lundquist works separately for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this article and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.