My Take on Gartner’s Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users for 2011 and Beyond

My Take on Gartner’s Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users for 2011 and Beyond

Gartner put out their list of year end predictions on the November 30th. Here is my response. Their press release can be found here:

Gartner Reveals Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users for 2011 and Beyond

(Garnter predictions in bold, my response follows each.)

By 2015, a G20 nation’s critical infrastructure will be disrupted and damaged by online sabotage.

I don’t think the terrorists are good enough to go multi-modal. They may try, but the fact that many systems are so old and hard to maintain means that a single attack using a modern technological approach will fail. It’s hard enough to get for-profit companies to create integrated systems that work, let alone public institutions, often running across multiple local, state and national organizations. This lack of cohesion in our national transportation infrastructure may protect us from a systemic threat, which is an argument a CIO might want to put into their arsenal right next to "it costs too much."

By 2015, new revenue generated each year by IT will determine the annual compensation of most new Global 2000 CIOs.

In some places, maybe, but this is a major leap from IT as a cost center to IT as a revenue generator. We have enough problems trying to see IT as an investment that affects the rest of the business, which I think is more important than turning them into a revenue generator. And I don’t think five years is enough time to make that leap. If I was a Gartner client, I would like them to help me get to an integrated recognition of IT value that can be measured (which would mean the creation of new metrics for a sustainable knowledge economy) rather than tell me I have to go from being a central service to being a revenue center. Help me where I need help, don’t tell me the only way to get a raise is to become yet another place to collect money. That being said, with good metrics, the compensation model should be tied to how effectively others generate revenue. Imagine a good IT enablement metric. Perhaps Gartner doesn’t know how to create that metric so it is easier to suggest that they count something like revenue inflow than the harder holistic view of IT value enablement.

By 2015, information-smart businesses will increase recognized IT spending per head by 60 percent.

To my point above, unless they have new ways of measure IT value, there won’t be an IT productivity windfall because it won’t be recognized. And the whole centralized-decentralized thing is cyclical, but not universally so. In other words, some IT organizations may have a better handle on overall spending than others. And, BTW, all this focus on a 60% increase in recognized IT spending per head will generate is a recognized need to cut IT costs.

By 2015, tools and automation will eliminate 25 percent of labor hours associated with IT services.

Sorry, no. For every innovation in something like network or data center management, some new issue arises that costs more. Here’s my prediction. By 2015 savings in the automated portion of IT will be offset, perhaps even eclipsed, by organizations that start spending for adoption and deployment of systems that haven’t meet their historically anticipated returns. IT will start getting charged for the people side of technology, and all the automation in the world won’t reduce their costs as they move from optimized servers for collaboration, to getting people to effectively collaborate.

By 2015, 20 percent of non-IT Global 500 companies will be cloud service providers.

Probably a little optimistic, but not entirely unreasonable on this one. But I don’t think for the reasons that Gartner states. They have an underlying bias in this entire list that non-IT companies are going to some how abandon their core competencies by getting into IT as a core competency. I am all for the knowledge economy, but I don’t think competitive manufacturers are going to offer cloud services to other manufacturers. With outsourcing, we may well see cloud services wrap around outsourced manufacturers, but they will all be in their own competitive battles, selling their differentiated value as a combination of their IT expertise and their manufacturing prowess. What may happen is that non-IT companies will define some data and services that augment their core offerings, and perhaps even expand their market perspective to include a complementary cloud service that enhances their core value propositions. Yes, some businesses may realize that the business they are in isn’t the business they thought they were in, and they are really data firms, not retailers or hospitality or manufacturing, but I think that will be a very small percentage, if even 1%.

By 2014, 90 percent of organizations will support corporate applications on personal devices.

OK. Duh. Consumer technology is coming at IT with great speed, and it always has. It won’t just be that they support corporate apps, but that those who develop enterprise applications bring secure apps to market that make it easy for IT. An iPhone app for ERP is actually safer than one for a PC because the likelihood of data exposure (downloaded data on the device) is probably smaller (probably, because with 64GB of internally memory, someone could download something big – but if the app manages the experience, and encrypts it passively and locally it will be safer than an Excel export to a local file).

By 2013, 80 percent of businesses will support a workforce using tablets.

OK, Duh again. This is just a form factor. If it succeeds, as it looks like it will finally do, then sure. If you look at the Tablet historically, most firms already support them, they just aren’t used as Tablets (e.g, HP and Fujitsu tablets running Windows – been there for years in healthcare, automotive, retail, etc.). And if the apps are there, the iPad and its progeny will follow suite.

By 2015, 10 percent of your online "friends" will be nonhuman.

I wrote about process proxies years ago, and they have already been a part of the IM and process automation equation. I will not buy into the "fully engaged" part of their prediction, as I think that requires a level of artificial intelligence that won’t be available in 2015. I think you will know when you are dealing with a bot. But unlike today, when you receive an e-mail from Amazon with embedded links and a "don’t respond to this e-mail" admonition, you may well be able to "respond" to the Amazon shipping process and carry on a dialog about your order. You probably won’t be able to get an opinion on if the jeans look good on you or not, or if it liked the book you just ordered. These apps may be your friends, or they may just be more friendly. (I think they other thing that could happen by 2015, that Gartner doesn’t mention, depends on appliances, homes and other "things" getting smart. In this possible future, you will  be able to "friend your stuff." Turn on lights, shut off appliances, get a snapshot of the front porch, see if you are over watering, etc. by sending a direct tweet or a facebook message) In either case, 10 percent is too high.  Sure, many people will friend anything or anybody, but 10 percent of them may not act human, but they will likely be human.

Finally, I think Gartner does a disservice by offering just predictions. They need to offer reasoning against scenarios that reveal an underlying recognition that these predictions only hold for certain futures, and what the variables are that make them viable or not. They should have learned this following the failure of IT firm predictions in light of the recession at its black swan impact on everything. These are optimistic forecasts that are meant to provoke. So, I’m provoked. Now let’s talk about how to guide customers through uncertain waters and stop making predictions just to get a headline. Your clients don’t live for ephemeral headlines, they live to add value to the economy, and as a partner, Gartner’s roll should be to provide reasoned, trusted advice. I predict if Gartner doesn’t focus on its core competencies, it might not be around to publish them in 2015.

Daniel W. Rasmus

Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.

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