10 megatrends affecting corporate IT through 2020

March 07, 2011 11:35 PM EST
Complete coverage: Computerworld P100

Computerworld's Julia King launched today's agenda for the Premier 100 IT Leaders Conference with a discussion of "five big changes on the horizon" for IT chiefs. The megatrends:

 

(Truly devoted Computerworld readers will notice that the magazine already covered these topics, primarily in the IT Careers 2020 special report.)

Julia was followed by Frank Wander, CIO of Guardian Life Insurance Co., who provided a "futurecast" of IT in the year 2020, and what Guardian is doing to be well-positioned for that future. (Does 2020 sound far away? Wander noted that Y2K lies farther in the past than 2020 is in the future.)

Wander's futurecast for 2020 included the following megatrends:

  • Mobile and ubiquitous computing, with digital natives able to use any device to connect anywhere.
  • More software as a service (SaaS), then data centers as a service. Perhaps vast swaths of what we call an enterprise could become a service, allowing a company to focus more on its core competencies.
  • Increasingly nimble competitors: New entrants, with low barriers of entry and a distinct lack of legacy systems, will challenge the entrenched players.
  • Role convergence: Business folks will need to understand IT (not just finance and marketing), and vice versa. This convergence has implications for application development, for example. Whereas now we spend much effort trying to translate business-user requirements into IT specs, imagine how much faster we could develop systems if we eliminated the translation steps.
  • Technology is driving a complete transformation of the workplace. Employees can work from anywhere, and collaborate with anyone. Companies can tap talent from anywhere -- and lose talent to anyone (yikes!).

Wander added two cautionary notes:

  • Expect the unexpected. (Futurists call them "wild cards." Like, say, unrest in the Middle East spikes oil prices.)
  • Beware the bleeding edge. It's exciting, but, well, there's a reason it involves bleeding. Arriving at your destination safely is better than arriving there first, he said.

Finally, I found it interesting that Wander is working hard at "uncluttering" IT operations. He said many IT shops are full of technologies that are one, two or three generations behind, which are expensive to maintain and inflexible. He recommended replacing those systems with more agile systems that prepare you for the future. Unless you've uncluttered your IT shop, he said, it's like carrying a lot of heavy baggage on a journey where you need to be light on your feet.

In other words, the cost of complexity robs the company of the funds needed for more forward-looking, agile systems.

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