Fewer than 10 percent ready for the 'new IT'

IBM leaks some details from upcoming study, most enterprises have not prepared their infrastructure to handle the cloud, mobile, data and social wave that is fast approaching.

Preliminary results from an upcoming IBM-sponsored study show that fewer than ten percent of organizations say their existing IT infrastructure is ready to handle the new forces sweeping the IT world -- cloud, mobile and social.

Data Center at CERN-photo courtesy of CERN Press Office
Photo: CERN press office.

IBM says its Institute for Business Value will be releasing a survey of 750 CTOs, CIOs and other technology executives this July which explores how infrastructure and organizational issues stand in the way of organizations' digital dreams.

While I'm not privy to the details of IBM's survey, it's not surprising that 90 percent of enterprises out there feel they aren't ready for the next wave. Consider what's going on:

Just as it is said generals are always prepared to fight the last war, enterprises are usually preparing themselves with yesterday's technology. That's because many solutions are the result of multi-year projects, designed and begun when the landscape may have been very different. For technology investments initiated three to four years ago, cloud and mobile were on peoples' radar screens, but still sideline activities.

Large chunks of infrastructure resources and budgets go to keeping the lights on. Studies show that about two-thirds of enterprise IT spending goes to maintenance and upgrades of existing systems, versus going to innovative new ventures. In a recent survey of 285 IT managers and professionals that I helped design and write, we found that while enterprises rely more than ever on IT  to deliver innovation and competitive edge, respondents report that their departments and resources still tend to be mired in low-level administration tasks, such as performing upgrades, fixes and patches, maintaining uptime and availability.  Mere efficiency is not enough — IT and data managers need to make innovation a larger part of their jobs.

Data must be handled with great care -- and there's a lot that needs to be handled. According to few dribbles of data IBM has released so far, the things that really hold back organizations' digital initiatives have to do with data -- crossing national boundaries, data security and storage issues. Close to half, 46 percent, of IT leaders said they face challenges with efficiently and securely moving large amounts of data between one geography and another.  Another 43 percent report challenges with maintaining a secure environment, and 43 percent also say they face constraints with the ability to cut storage costs and improve efficiencies.

Infrastructure -- at least as we've know it -- simply may not be needed in some areas. The value proposition of cloud computing, as well as many aspects of mobile, is that individual users or departments can tap into services and additional capacity without procuring and configuring on-site resources. Startups certainly are operating fully in the cloud. Even established companies are looking to cloud to do away with big honking data centers -- even for essentials such as disaster recovery.

Still, the lion's share of investment and ongoing funding these days goes to internal infrastructure, and that will be the case for many years to come. To that point, seven out of 10 IT leaders in the IBM study say their organizations recognize that IT infrastructure plays an important role in enabling competitive advantage or optimizing revenue and profit. The majority of respondents, 62 percent, plan to increase their IT infrastructure spend over the next 12 to 18 months. At the same time, only 22 percent of companies surveyed have a well-defined enterprise IT infrastructure strategy road map.

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