A Mighty Wind

The hot air that has helped propel technology may have subsided, but IT is heading toward some new and as yet hazily perceived incarnation.

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Contrary to popular belief, IT is not in the doldrums. With spending down and no emerging technology being heralded for its transformative power, IT appears calm but is in fact roiling just beneath the surface. Issues such as ROI, performance metrics, organizational structures, IT governance, security, and, of course, regulatory pressure (a late-May Google search on “Sarbanes-Oxley” returned 10 times as many hits as did the two finalists of “American Idol” combined) have generated a collective buzz to rival dot-com hysteria.

It’s almost refreshing. These are substantive issues all, and likely to remain so. Each heralds significant and potentially wrenching change, and demands consistent attention from senior executives. Collectively they suggest that IT is not suffering merely because of economic malaise or enduring a cyclical dip in demand, but is in fact lurching toward some new and as yet hazily perceived incarnation.

Which, of course, is exasperating as well. American business likes to assess situations, embrace ideas, make investments, and get on with it. Transitions should be measured in weeks or months, not years. And they should be tackled by special teams that report back to the real leaders on an as-needed basis.

Not this time. As several stories in this issue make clear, IT is now a management discipline, not a functional area. It’s about investment strategy, asset management, and risk/reward. It commands attention today so that it can be reshaped to meet the needs of business in the years ahead. The hot air that has helped propel technology may have subsided, but right behind it come winds of momentous change. Don’t let them catch you unawares.

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