Planning for next year’s technology

Gartner Summit 2004 report Are you in the midst of putting your 2005 IT organizational plan? Read what Gartner analysts have to say in a panel disussion.
Written by Carolyn Oei, Contributor
SINGAPORE--What should be on your organization's 2005 IT planning dossier?
On the second day of the CNETAsia Gartner Summit 2004, Gartner analysts participated in a panel discussion that focused on technologies and strategies to consider for next year's IT planning.

Click here for more reports on the CNETAsia Gartner Summit 2004.

Here are key highlights:

The region's economies are on the upward climb--gross domestic product (GDP) forecasts for Singapore and Malaysia, for example, are optimistic. But are positive growth figures enough to convince CIOs to push for increased budgets? More important, what does one do with that extra money?

Panelists (from left to right): Gartner research director Robin Simpson, Gartner group VP and chief of research Craig Baty, CNETAsia technology editor Ong Boon Kiat, Gartner research director Dion Wiggins and Gartner senior analyst Martin Gilliland.

Baty was of the view that cost-cutting measures--already in play for the last couple of years or so--will continue to prevail for the most part. Echoing his view, Wiggins stated that mindsets have to change to enable companies to work within the lower-cost constraints. This would involve a willingness to change the processes, infrastructure consolidation and going wireless being two examples where change could possibly be implemented.

Reducing IT complexities
Gilliland said that consolidation is "the first step towards reducing complexity and cost". However, the process itself might take anything up to four years. In which case, the business is quite likely to change within that time, thereby warranting further consolidation down the line. But, it is a good place to start, since "up to 50% of IT budgets" are deployed in the management of desktops and notebooks.

As far as adopting a wireless business model is concerned, Simpson cautioned that the technology is not necessarily useful to every employee or to every part of a business. He continued: "The company has to determine this…companies can minimize complexity by choosing the right people and parts of the business to mobilize."

New tech for 2005
On the subject of technologies to look out for, open-source applications are on the list as far as platforms go. Should CIOs jump on the bandwagon? And if they don't, will they lose out?

Using Linux as an example, Gilliland pointed out that it is not yet a huge budget priority although it might be deployed for non-mission critical back end functions. Wiggins went further to say that Linux's threat is not to Windows, but to Unix, which is already on the decline.

On what technology to adopt and when, the panelists agreed that the changes should be incremental, unless of course the aim is to go for an all-out transformation. For example, a company could decide to use mobile technology to completely change the way it does business.

However, Wiggins emphasized the need for prudence and objectivity, particularly if a company isn't in a mad rush to overhaul its systems. He said: "If you wait for the technology to mature, the risk is lower. And you learn from the mistakes of others." Baty added that if the risk is deemed to be too high, outsource.

Do we have the skills?
Connected with emerging technologies is the issue of skills availability. What are some of the new skills required for companies to take advantage of these emerging technologies, if they decide to deploy them?

Wiggins hammered home the importance of documenting processes. Although not technically a skill needed for an emerging technology, it is a valuable skill and practice critical to all aspects of the business, whether IT or otherwise. Agreeing with this, Gilliland added that understanding and knowing the cost of different elements of a company's infrastructure is a skill worth having.

Choosing the right vendor
The question of which vendor to work with was also raised. The usual suspects--EMC, Sun Microsystems, HP and IBM--offer services, hardware and technology under one roof. But are these so-called "one-stop-shop" the way to go?

It depends, said the panelists. For one thing, they said that if technologies were standardized and true interoperability a reality, then, all else being equal, it would be quite safe to work with only one vendor. But then again, pointed out the panelists, IT is so complex that no one vendor can claim to do everything at the same time.

Further, Simpson highlighted the fact that much depends on the risk profile of the company seeking a vendor. If the company needs a differentiating factor and is looking for business advantage, then one of the big names might not be the answer because "innovation comes from the small guys".

Carolyn Oei is a freelance IT journalist.

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