No Pollyannas allowed in the following ten good business tech possibilities from what looks like a very grim 2009. Instead, I'll try a dose of reality. For a fuller, more research driven look at the upside of IT see our research article. We also have a slideshow on top CIO priorities.
1. Business will recognize the value of technology. Why is this? Right now many, many businesses are going through a painful budget process. Fundamental questions are being asked about product lines, staffing and capital spending. Unlike the dot com boom (and bust), no one I know is talking about killing off the fundamental core systems including financial, inventory and communications. Companies will shut down regional locations before they will think about shutting down the ecommerce web site. In 2009, the question will be getting full value of tech rather than tossing tech out the door.
2. Technology will get serious. Build a cool social network with no specific purpose? Forget it. Figure out how to get your server utilization from twenty to seventy percent? Bring it on. Systems and people that can evaluate and manage a company's technology network will remain in demand.
3. Bringing it all back home. The rush to offshore technology capabilities over the last five years is being reconsidered. I hear this time and again. The gap between the cost of doing your tech at home versus farming it out overseas used to be huge. Now thanks to deflation, a recognition of the additional management costs in operating farflung IT operations and the need to stay really close to your customers, the offshore/onshore equation is closer to parity.
4. The end of useless apps. Every company accumulates applications that are pet projects which continue on after the pet owner leaves. This time around, the cost of maintaining those apps will be too great to keep the app in business. No more rebooting the server because every couple of days the old business app seizes up the system.
5. A focus on projects with payoff. Unified communications? Good idea and one with a strong ROI. Virtualization? Sure if you can work out the system management piece. New laptops all around? Not in 2009.
6. Green by default. Controlling costs will be the mantra of 2009. One good byproduct will be a focus on data center power (electrical, AC) usage, desktop and printers left always on and network equipment that can be scaled back as the company gets scaled back. In the end it should add up to energy savings and a greener IT outlook.
7. An appreciation of IT skills. This sword cuts two ways. If you have kept your skill set up to date and feel that management just doesn't notice, that will change. Those corporate managers are going to be going through the resume of every employee as they decide who to keep. The IT employee who can not just reboot servers, but can design apps to match business needs is going to look like a keeper.
8. The end to the eighty percent rule. How many years have we been hearing that eighty percent of the IT budget gets consumed simply keeping the lights on and the servers running? To seriously attack that percentage you need to automate system discovery and management, push virtualization, kill old apps and do a hardware component upgrade on aging servers. Once you are on the performance path, getting to fifty percent or better utilization is possible.
9. Respect for the oldtimers. Remember when your company relied on the big mainframe that never crapped out? Remember those dumb terminals which while dumb never stopped working? Remember when applications were so difficult to create that companies only built apps they really needed? All those old ideas are coming back in the form of redundant, virtualized servers, robust dumb terminals that run just like your personal computer and applications based on services in the cloud that you rent, rather than buy.
10. A willingness to try the new. This doesn't make sense at first blush. In a sour economy why would you want to go and try something new? You try something new when your company is on the ropes and a dramatic new approach in technology, or marketing or management may be the only thing that keeps the lights on. Sometimes that hail Mary pass in the last five seconds of the game is the only play you have left.