Gartner research vice president Robert Anderson made his message loud and clear Tuesday, when addressing a packed house of CIOs at Everything Channel's and Vision Events' Midsize Enterprise Summit Europe in Barcelona: "There are profound and dramatic shifts that are occurring today that effect us all in IT."
And Anderson wasn't kidding. In his hour-long keynote presentation kicking off the event, he touched on a host of shifts in IT that not only impact CIOs of midsized companies, but all of IT. And he cautioned that failing to adapt could leave them all behind.
In a short but unsettling video, Anderson outlined a host of forces that are hitting IT, and CIOs might not even know it yet. For example, he pointed out that if the collective users of MySpace banded together to form their own country, it would be the eighth largest country in the world. He also noted that the influx of mobile devices has grown exponentially and that the number of text messages sent per day trumps the number of people on earth.
What's that all mean to the midsize enterprise CIO? "Businesses are on a collision course with their future," he said. "Are you ready for the winds of change?"
Anderson told the crowd that now is the time they must evaluate technologies they once considered "needless," like social networking tools or other consumer-oriented solutions and services. And while resources are running thin and organizational structures are getting leaner, he warned that "shift happens" and urged CIOs not to become the victims of such shifts.
"Develop a strategy to exploit communities and social computing," he said, adding that CIOs need to "ensure that user driven ideas are not strangled at birth."
The second point, Anderson said, is becoming increasingly important, as now end users are driving many of the solutions IT evaluates and deploys. He used the incoming crop of recent college graduates ready to join the work force as an example: they are used to high-powered computing, social networking, mobility and text messaging. Not catering to that group could not only drain the potential talent pool, but ultimately affect the bottom line.
"Commercialization of IT is shifting the balance," he said, noting that many workers now have more computing power at home than in the office. "Commercialization is an attitude, not a technology."
In a bid to calm the doom and gloom, Anderson outlined the top 10 technology trends that CIOs must bone up on between now and 2012; trends that, Anderson said, will not only impact how business is done, but could determine whether a company sinks or swims.
He said CIOs need to get up to speed on software-as-a-service (SaaS) and appliances; green IT initiatives; a new level of Business Intelligence he dubbed BI 2.0; mobile and wireless technologies; and social networking and Web 2.0-based solutions; and virtualization before it's too late, meaning CIOs should be up to speed on those technologies now, or at the latest by 2009.
For the next three to four years, however, midsize IT executives should also focus on getting their organizations up to snuff with unified communications and collaboration; open source software; service-oriented architectures; and the possibility of "free IT," or hardware, software or services -- cloud-based services -- that are available at no immediate or visible cost to the user. As an example of free IT, Anderson pointed to Google.
But taking up these technologies could be a challenge for midsize CIOs, which Anderson said go through several stages before accepting changes in technology: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Anderson offered pointers and suggested CIOs should begin evaluating these new technologies. For example, they should start factoring green into the overall ROI and TCO when they're making purchasing decisions; they should force themselves to update their knowledge and try a new social networking or Web 2.0 solution every six months; they should determine which unified communications scenarios make the best business sense; and they should determine whether they have skills in-house that can accommodate a move to open source software.
"Denial is not an option," he told the audience. "You don't want to get stuck with your heads in the sand."
"Accept and embrace the shifts that are occurring," he said, adding, "You are not fully in control."