Where IT is Going (Thin is In): Page 2

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We'll reorganize everything.

Technology will not cyclically report to the CFO or the CEO. You know what I’m talking about. Every few years – when technology migrates from cost center to profit center status – CIOs alternatively report to their CEOs – who want strategic results – and their CFOs – who want to reduce costs.

Part of the reason why we migrate so often is because we still house operational and strategic technology under the same roof. Why have we done this?

Over the years it made perfect sense because the real difference between operational and strategic technology was negligible or, put another way, because the operational technology tail wagged the strategic technology dog.

But that was then; this is now. The objectives, acquisition, deployment and support best practices of strategic technology are now fundamentally different than the ones that deliver operational technology. For decades we begged the businesses to get more involved in the requirements discovery and modeling process.

Well, they’re here – and they want to control requirements, the prioritization of business technology projects, performance metrics and even the technology acquisition process.

They’re also willing to fund strategic projects. Operational technology teams should not live in the same house as strategic business technologists. The latter team is all about business results – not cost savings no matter what.

Reliability, security and scalability are assumed in the infrastructure. Strategic technology is about customers, suppliers, up-selling, service, cross-selling, marketing, sales and innovation. Strategic technologists should live with the business stakeholders. They should report to their bosses (and the enterprise CEO). They should link with the operational technologists only on architectural and support issues.

We’ll lose weight.

How many years have we been talking about thin clients? How may words have been sacrificed in the name of thin client computing, thin client architectures, and network computers?

It was well over a decade ago that Larry Ellison appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show to talk about thin clients. (Not bad for a guy that’s not too fond of cloud computing.)

We were always undermined by the availability, security and speed of our networks – nothing else (except perhaps the grumblings of the Flat Earth Society and the Luddites). Well, it’s 2009 and we’re just about there. We are nearly network-ubiquitous and nearly fast enough.

“Nearly” means a couple of years in case you’re wondering – not five or ten. By the way, the thin client surge is not just about browser-based netbooks with no local processing or storage. It’s about smart phones. How many users really need laptops, desktops or even thin clients versus smart phones?

We’ll get there. It’s only a matter of a year or two before companies de-PC their employees.

We’ll replace ourselves.

Here’s the deal. The skills necessary to enable the inevitable trends described here are often the ones in short supply. We’ll have to deepen our skill sets or find professionals who can help us with the directions in which we’re moving. Displacement is inevitable.

Let’s stop talking and start doing.

Steve Andriole is the Thomas G. Labrecque Professor of Business at Villanova University where he conducts applied research in business technology convergence. He is also the co-founder of The Acentio Group, a new economy consortium that focuses on optimizing investments in information technology, executive education, Web 2.0, technology audits and pilot applications. He is formerly the Senior Vice President & Chief Technology Officer of Safeguard Scientifics, Inc. and the Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President for Technology Strategy at CIGNA Corporation. His career began at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency where he was the Director of Cybernetics Technology. He can be reached at stephen.andriole@villanova.edu.

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Tags: cloud computing, software, IT, thin client, Storage

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