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Facing a Rapid IT Change

How will emerging technologies affect your job?

By Brad Smith

The information technology industry may be mature but it’s also changing rapidly. That may sound like an oxymoron, but IT workers who don’t work with these rapid changes in the next few years could see themselves left behind.

Job Trends

IT workers and especially chief information officers face a host of disruptive technologies that require them to play a bigger role in the business framework of the companies they work for.

Information technology and research group Gartner has identified what it expects will be the top 10 disruptive technologies over the next several years, as well as the main software factors that will change the IT industry during that time.

Top 10 Disruptive Technologies

 Multicore and hybrid processors

 Virtualisation and fabric computing

 Social networks and social software

 Cloud computing and cloud/Web platforms

 Web mashups

 User Interface

 Ubiquitous computing

 Contextual computing

 Augmented reality

 Semantics

The disruptive technologies include the use of multicore and hybrid processors, virtualization and “fabric” computing (linking processors across a network), social networking, cloud computing, Web mashups, user interfaces, ubiquitous computing, contextual computing, augmented reality (blending computer-generated and real-world data), and semantics (the meaning-assigned software language).

Effect on jobs

Gartner analyst David Cearley warns that IT workers have to be diligent in assessing how these emerging trends and technologies impact their jobs. If they don’t, he says, they could be out of work.

Virtualization and cloud computing top the list of the strategic technologies most organizations will have to plan for in 2009, Cearley says.

An IT department that operates in the traditional way by looking at tools to manage a company’s infrastructure and information will ignore the larger trends changing the industry, says another Gartner analyst, Yvonne Genovese.

“Technology keeps rolling out faster and faster each year,” Genovese says. “What we’re seeing is hyperactivity with things coming out, things associated with Enterprise 2.0, social software, mashups, new ways to user information. But around all that … is all this other stuff that is happening. New software consumption models, software as a service, the cloud, offshoring. It used to be that I bought it (software) and I implemented it and it was all in-house, or I had a (systems integrator) working on it, but we didn’t have the complexities of the different models now.”

Complex environment

The average IT environment is now much more complex. “All these other things have compounded what the average IT person has to do,” she says. “They’re much more of a solutions architect now. They have to be vertically close to what the business needs are and where their part of the business interacts with another part of the business. They are managing and looking at the portfolio of things and not necessarily finding a new technology they can buy.”

Genovese says Hewlett-Packard, under the guidance of CIO Randy Mott, may be the best example of what a company can do to meet the challenges of disruptive technologies. Mott just completed a three-year overhaul of HP’s IT department that cost an estimated $1 billion.

While other companies might deal with IT renovation by fixing one problem at a time, Mott got the backing to completely modernize HP’s IT structure, she says. It was an expensive undertaking, but it also will pay off by making IT more than a cost center.
HP has estimated it will save $1 billion annually with the restructuring, which includes the consolidation of 85 IT data centers into six centers, plus reducing the number of business applications from 6,000 to 1,500.

Other companies that can’t or don’t want to make a complete overhaul may fix one problem, say using a new technology or outsourcing model to improve order cycle times, Genovese says.

Under current economic conditions, the analyst says, companies may be forced to take a “one-off approach” because of limited budgets. But ultimately, she says, IT departments will have to “stop putting on Band-aids.” CW (February 4, 2009)
 

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