CIOs must prepare for unprecedented change

The next four years will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for success or failure, says John Gantz, IDC vice president, in his keynote speech at the start of this year's CIO Summit in Auckland.

The words crisis and opportunity are connected, "but you have to be proactive to get anything good around the crisis," Gantz told the 390 or so delegates at the 2009 CIO Summit organised by CIO, IDC and BrightStar.

He says being proactive requires "all hands on deck", with IT working with the business units and suppliers as never before. IT within organisations will have to reorganise itself or change some of the ways they deal with the business units.

"IT needs to align with business objectives, you need to be integrated and exchange DNA with the business units.

"IT success will be driven by people outside IT, mostly from what happens in the business units."

Gantz says challenges for CIOs include dealing with the economic crisis while "technology is bursting all over", along with the steps they need to take to get ready for the recovery.

He displayed a graph of economic slowdowns in the past 50 years and notes that the ups and downs of IT don't match that of economic growth.

He says 1982 was marked by a weak economic outlook, but that it was a good year in IT.

"They don't coincide, because they live in the same universe but travel in different paths."

Technology may experience five years of growth, go through a crash in IT budgets and then go into a long period of growth where the new technology is put to work.

"[That is] where we are now, seven years from the crash," he says referring to the dotcom crash in 2001, "we are in a long sweet spot of the adoption curve."

For CIOs, he says there will be an unprecedented amount of IT-driven change in the next four years.

During that period it is estimated there will be an increased demand for ICT staff and the number of servers will double along with scaleup management complexity.

There will be a three-fold rise in mobile users and information will grow five-fold, resulting in heightened levels of security and privacy and questions on which data to store or throw away. As well, the number of interactions between people on networks will grow eight times.

"The opportunity now is to take the technology and give yourself a competitive edge, says Gantz.

"We are in a technology renaissance. You have the opportunity to get ahead of your competitors."

Hot technologies include security management, social media, SaaS, virtual machines, IT automation and IT outsourcing and BPO. The technologies on "watch" include real time analytics, ethical hacking video search, compliance and IP surveillance.

Graham Kittle, managing partner, global business services, IBM New Zealand, echoes this message with his presentation about propelling business through the economic crisis.

Speaking at the breakfast session on the first day of the conference, Kittle says organisations are going through a time of unprecedented change and traditional approaches to cost management will not work.

He says a survey of companies in the S&P Index that deployed a strategic approach to cost cutting grew by at least 5 percent in the economic downturn.

These strategic moves can be grouped into three action modes: focus on value, exploit opportunities and act quickly. The CIOs at these companies looked at ways to partner with organisations to protect cash, focus on the core values and strip the non-value activities.

A critical step is taking a systematic rather than ad hoc approach to change, says Kittle. The successful organisations, he says, "manage change as a formal work stream, integrated closely with project management".

Kittle recommended investing in change management professionals, either internally or externally.

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