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November 4, 2009

IT at a crossroads: Gartner

Which way will your company go?

By Steve Evans

Analyst house Gartner believes 2009 and 2010 will be make or break years for IT, as companies begin to prepare for a return to business growth.

As economies around the world begin to emerge from the recession companies face the choice of either remaining on their current path of performing IT activities or head in a different direction. Those taking the latter option have an opportunity to overhaul their IT systems to challenge all activities as they currently exist, choosing where to stay the course and where a different course of action makes sense, Gartner said.

“We are now within one of the rarest and most fleeting periods in business: nearing the bottom of a recession and before a return to growth,” said Ken McGee, vice president and Gartner fellow.

“We urge organisations to exploit this unusual opportunity to question the efficacy of their IT business practices and determine whether those practices warrant change. But they need to act now, by the time business growth returns, they will be far too busy, and it will simply be too late to change,” he said.

McGee posed 11 questions that he feels companies need to consider if they are embarking on an IT overhaul project, and suggests extreme responses to the proposals.

One suggestion is that firms hire an IT CFO (chief financial officer) and offer full training on contract negotiation techniques.

“For decades, organisations have empowered IT associates to negotiate multimillion-dollar hardware, software and service contracts, even though those associates have never been formally trained in doing so,” he writes. “Gartner has long recommended the hiring of an IT CFO, as well as better training for IT associates involved in contract negotiation and tighter controls to limit unauthorised purchases.

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He also asks: How to modernise IT infrastructure vis-à-vis cloud computing? The extreme response, McGee said, is to fund infrastructure modernisation only after you decide upon a cloud computing strategy. 

“By explaining today’s request for infrastructure and operations (I&O) modernisation funding within the context of cloud computing in the future,” the report said, “executives are less likely to feel that they are paying twice for modernisation when cloud computing is officially adopted.”

Other elements that organisations need to consider include: how to significantly improved budgeting; what IT information should be disclosed to executives; when IT practitioners should leave the organisation; whether to support cost savings or business growth; which IT organisation structures work best; whether new CIOs should abandon legacy IT infrastructures; what type of IT innovation new CIOs will lead; and where a firm should prioritise the IT group’s new innovation goals.

The final proposal to consider is whether IT can solve one ‘grand challenge’ by 2013. “Gartner recommends that organisations direct R&D funding toward specifically improving or solving just one of the enterprise’s ‘grand challenges’ in order to make maximum impact,” the report said.



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