The Next Decade

2010 is arguably the beginning of a new decade (at least it's the beginning of my second decade as an industry analyst). Looking back at the past ten years, I realize the progress we have made in IT management software. Ten years ago, it was mostly about collecting data from infrastructure devices and managing infrastructures to find the right level of performance. The major progress of the decade was to shift the focus from infrastructure to services.

Where do we go from there? I believe that the major progress of the coming decade will be the way IT operates: despite all the progress made in IT processes and IT management, IT management is still very tactical and operational. I had the opportunity to discuss a number of management issues with several companies over the last quarter of 2009, and my conclusion was that there is still a lot of diversity in terms of IT management maturity. Within a group of enterprises that should be relatively homogeneous - in terms of revenue, activity and size - I could see big differences in the way IT management's role was perceived. I think that the fundamental issue is that we are still very much in love with technology, and that consequently we develop a myopic view of our role as IT professionals. We need to realize that technology has now reached a stage where we can start thinking about how to control it rather than how to make it work.

IT management has an important role to play here. As IT management vendors, we tend naturally to find a path of least resistance with our clients and prospects. It is easier to sell a piece of software that addresses immediate tactical pains than to sell a concept related to the role of IT in the enterprise. The consequence is that IT keeps solving IT technology problems and loses track of the larger issue: the future of IT in the enterprise.

This future hinges on the value to cost ratio. As new means of processing and distributing information start to make a mark on the market (Software as a Service, Platform as a Service, etc.), a time will come when a CFO will simply look at IT in these terms (if they have not done it already) and decide on other means to source IT services. To avoid being irrelevant, IT has to consider the big picture of the value it provides versus its cost for the enterprise. But to do this, IT needs tools: infrastructure and services have multiplied by at least one order of magnitude in the past decade. Optimizing IT costs needs a clear understanding of how services are provided as a starting point.

This is where IT management vendors have a role to play. Instead of presenting their tools in an operational context, they need to position them in the global context of the "IT enterprise" and show how they will contribute to internal IT optimization. We spent ten years moving from making sure that the infrastructure is up to making sure that IT services are delivering the right value. The next decade will be about making sure that it is at the right price.

Happy new year.

JP Garbani