What Can IT Become When It Grows Up?

by drjim on January 29, 2009

IT Has A Lot Of Potential; However We Still Don't Know What We Want To Be When We Grow Up

IT Has A Lot Of Potential; However We Still Don’t Know What We Want To Be When We Grow Up

So I love IT, and you love IT. We love the applications, the servers, the networks and, of course, the Internet. Whether it’s because we are closet control freaks or because we are fascinated by how all of the pieces fit together, we just love it. I’m not saying that love is a bad thing, but at the end of the day IT exists to help the company be successful ( = make more money).

Michael Vizard over at Ziff Davis has been thinking about our love life just a bit and he’s come up with some interesting thoughts about where we need to be taking this relationship.

In the end, it all revolves around data – or as we like to call it using fifty-cent words, information. By now, just about everybody realizes that there is no shortage of information (just take a look around your office: there are piles of information EVERYWHERE!) What is missing is knowledge – and the only way to get knowledge is to process all of that data and squeeze the knowledge out of it.

Michael believes that we in IT need to get our act together. The rest of the organization is waiting for us to provide them with the relevant knowledge that they need in order to make good decisions. This means that there are five IT developments that we need to do a good job of managing over the next few years in order to truely make IT valuable to the rest of the business:

  1. Locate A Good Search Tool: Just as we have too much information in our personal lives, so too do businesses have too much information stored in all of their different intranets. They may not be able to say it in so many words, but the rest of the business is desperately looking to IT to provide an enterprise search tool that will help them to find what they need.
  2. Smart Middleware: The days of logging into one application, entering data, and then logging into another application to enter the same data are soooo over. If I can upload my Microsoft Outlook email contact book into my new Gmail email account, then why can’t I load my product catalog into my marketing database just as easily? Smart middleware will allow all of a firm’s applications to share information and thereby will allow a complete view of the business to be provided.
  3. BI,BI Baby: Finally Business Intelligence tools have become powerful enough to mine those bloated databases and provide all sorts of different users with specific answers to detailed questions about what is working and what isn’t.
  4. The Blog Has Arrived: Remember all those fancy “knowledge management” applications that software firms tried to sell everyone back in the 90’s? It turns out that what we really needed was a good blogging platform and permission to  write our little hearts out. Once problems and solutions are blogged about, then the blogs can be mined by search tools and the information shared throughout the firm.
  5. Stop Repeating Yourself: If I worked for a storage company, these would be the best of times – everybody is storing everything. Deduplication software is only now starting to arrive which will allow us to just store one copy of everything and this should finally stop the storage madness.

Most firms now realize that IT will be a critical factor in their future success. It’s only by leveraging what IT can bring to the table that a firm can beat its competition while satisfying its customers. The challenge is that IT is going to have to find some way to bring all of these different technologies together in order to make the company successful. But that’s ok, because we love this stuff…

What enterprise search tool do you use today? How do you link your applications together (or do you)? Do you use BI tools? Is blogging permitted and supported in your department? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

sheehan January 29, 2009 at 8:39 am

microsoft performancepoint 2007 is a really good BI tool if you are a microsoft shop

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Dr. Jim Anderson January 29, 2009 at 4:34 pm

Sheehan: now that’s interesting, I didn’t even know that Microsoft was a player in the BI field. Do you know how their product stacks up to the the other players?

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John Mancini January 29, 2009 at 11:15 am

Good post, but “data” does not equal “information” for most organizations.

Most organizations we talk to have made enormous strides over the last decade in managing the “data” side of the information management equation. Not perfect, but progress. Where most organizations fail miserably is on all the non-data “stuff” — essentially everything else — 80% of the actual information in their organization.

When we survey organizations, a huge percentage tell us that effective management of information is critical to their business strategy. When we probe how this need translates into how they manage all the “unstructured” information that surrounds their data and weighs down their processes, the results are pretty dismal. When it comes to managing Office files and images and faxes and paper and email most organizations have little more than an unmanaged mess of file shares that really are not much more than a digital landfill. Check out this presentation for what I mean — http://www.slideshare.net/jmancini77/whats-in-your-digital-landfill.

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Dr. Jim Anderson January 29, 2009 at 4:37 pm

John: excellent presentation! What is really scary is the number of firms that can’t “mine” their email in the case of a legal discovery request. There have been enough stories in the press that every CIO should know that this is a must-have.

I’m not sure what the best solution for managing such diverse information sets is; however, one step in the right direction is to implement a powerful search tool that can handle information in all formats so that at least you can find what you need. Making sure that you only find the stuff that you need is the next step…!

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zebitha January 30, 2009 at 1:45 am

excellent text. I like I a lot

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Niheel Patel January 30, 2009 at 3:38 am

Michael has layed out a good blueprint for what the future of IT will be. Data will be abundant, it’s the information and knowledge extracted from the data that will be key. The tools that help us do that will be the innovations.

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Dr. Jim Anderson January 30, 2009 at 9:59 am

Niheel: I’m going to assume that you really mean John Mancini! Yes he did an excellent job of separating data from knowledge. What’s important for us in IT is that we’ve got to figure out just exactly what the rest of the company want to see before we can crunch the numbers and produce it. That may be our biggest challenge…!

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Mary Adams February 4, 2009 at 9:08 am

I was disappointed to read this post–the title is great. But do you really think that when IT grows up it will just be about technology? Who will see the forest for the trees? IT has a very important place in the knowledge economy. We wouldn’t have the knowledge economy without IT. It is the platform and the enabler of so much of the amazing leap in our economies in the past couple decades (the current crisis aside).

When IT grows up, I hope that it learns to think strategically about the interplay between IT and IC (intellectual capital).

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Dr. Jim Anderson February 4, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Mary: Dang! I never want to leave a reader disappointed. Hmm, you bring up a good point – a deep desire to see IT in a more strategic fashion. You have my full agreement; however, the devil is in the details – how does IT become that strategic?

The reality is that IT needs to use the tools that are available to us to accomplish this. Solving existing business issues using IT tools is a first step in building up the rest of the business’ trust in IT’s ability to solve business problems.

We’ve got to crawl before we can walk…

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