There's nothing like an economic downturn to catalyze change in information management (IM) strategies. Someone asked me recently, "Isn't information management a discretionary spend that will likely get cut in an economic downturn?" He cited the fact that tools for collaboration, content, and business intelligence are traditionally difficult to financially justify, "even when times are good." He's right about the latter—most Forrester clients struggle with assigning specific financial value to information management investments. In fact, as Forrester learned recently, many companies can't even tell you what it costs them to run their own email. Similarly, over 90% of information management professionals we surveyed recently reported having no way to measure whether employees are even using their corporate portals, let alone realizing financial benefits from them. Yet I doubt the measurement difficulties will necessarily lead to prolonged decreases in investment overall. Two reasons:
IBM CEO Sam Palmisano gave a speech to the Council on Foreign Affairs in New York City on November 6, 2008. In the speech, he added his voice that that of Al Gore, Jeff Immelt, and Barack Obama to declare that the US can lead the world to prosperity (and out of this financial quagmire). He called his vision building a "smarter planet."
Here's how I see the smarter planet:
Intelligence and network connections are embedded in physical systems. Chips and bandwidth have helped optimize business processes and make information workers more productive. But information technology hasn't yet really helped optimize our physical systems. A company on a smarter planet will put computers and connections into every physical system so that machines can phone home, operating problems can telegraph themselves, and power grids and distribution systems can be monitored, controlled, and optimized. (Forrester first identified this trend of an extended "Internet of things" in 2001 with a report entitled "The X Internet.")
Did you know that three vendors with something in common grew rapidly during the last recession? WebEx, Placeware (now Microsoft LiveMeeting cum Office Communications Server), and Salesforce.com all grew during the last recession.
One of the reasons is that they offered valuable services -- Web conferencing and sales force automation – that companies needed help with. But the other thing they had in common is that they packaged their offering as a cloud-based service with a pay-as-you-go pricing model.
This model offered three immediate benefits to cash-strapped companies:
It was cheap and easy to get started with these cloud-based services.
The business could buy the services without IT’s help, at least initially.
It was easy to provision these services for business users.