Enterprise IT: Here comes that deer in the headlights look again

If everyone could re-imagine IT and blow up old systems to simplify and delight customers, there would be no losers in the corporate world. Good luck with that.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Enterprise technology spending will rise 3.9 percent in 2012 and keep that rate through 2016, according to Gartner, which assumes that a recession is a foregone conclusion. Amid that budget backdrop IT departments will have to creatively blow up systems they've spent 20 years to build.

Meet your CIO and IT department. Credit: Larry Dignan

Meet your CIO and IT department. Credit: Larry Dignan

Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president of research at Gartner, laid out the research firm's views of the years to come. It's a world where chief marketing officers will have a larger IT budget than CIOs. It's a world where traditional vendors---HP, IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, SAP and Cisco---will pull end runs around the IT department to gain sales. It's also a world where enterprise architectures are useless amid mobile, social and cloud computing trends.

Welcome to the annual therapy session that is Gartner's Symposium. Every year there's some flavor of reinventing IT. "Architectures of the last 20 years will be obsolete," said Sondergaard, who urged tech execs to create "post-modern businesses."

Sondergaard sounded a good bit like NYU professor Clay Shirky, who also had an argument that consumerization was changing everything. While Gartner is urging creative destruction, I can't help but be skeptical. If everyone could re-imagine IT and blow up old systems to delight customers, there would be no losers in the corporate world. As we know, there are plenty of losers and there will be thousands of companies that flop at people-centric system design.

Among the more notable points from Sondergaard and his merry band of Gartner analysts:

  • The strategies of IBM, HP, Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, Cisco---old standbys for enterprise tech buyers---should be viewed as "long-term risky," said Sondergaard. Going forward, these vendors should be judged on how they embrace mobile, social and cloud. Apple and Google will be disruptive enterprise vendors. You'll buy from all of them.

My take: If tech giants are judged on mobile, social and cloud there will be some spectacular failures. If these key vendors convince IT buyers to buy more gear in the name of private clouds they can stick around. If not, look out below.

  • CIOs will lose 25 percent of their IT spending control by 2014 to business units.

My take: This prediction is a no brainer. Salesforce.com and other SaaS vendors have traditionally sold to non-CIOs. All of the big guns see that sales trend. Expect IBM, HP, Oracle and others to sell to everyone but the CIO.

  • Cloud brokers will be necessary to integrate public cloud services. IT departments will spend more than they wanted on cloud services without brokers.

My take: Cloud brokers are a logical step. Today, public cloud services are only 3 percent of IT spending, according to Gartner. That tally will only balloon.

  • Social and enterprise systems will become intertwined. Sondergaard said social networking means there will be "mass employee involvement" with enterprise systems. "You must immediately incorporate social throughout your enterprise systems," said Sondergaard.

My take: Obviously Gartner has watched a bunch of keynotes from Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff. I think CIOs get the social thing, but color me skeptical that they will all develop social enterprise systems starting next week. If anything they will buy a bunch of social malarkey from vendors they'll regret later.

  • Companies need to rethink systems for simplicity. The so-called postmodern business will develop systems that put customers first by simplifying. Less is more.

My take: Unless you blow up companies and countries and start from scratch this simplicity movement is pipe dream. There's a whole generation of enterprise IT that has been raised to complicate systems. The customization curse will live on.

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