2011 preview: why the Next Big Thing, is you

It’s the time of year when we’re expected to put forward our previews and predictions for the big issues facing IT professionals and decision-makers in the 12 months ahead.

Frankly, from my perspective you could go back and read our 2010 preview from this time last year and I reckon nine out of 10 would be just as relevant now – the only change being the effect of a General Election being replaced by public sector spending cuts and the wider economy, which is going to be the number one consideration for everyone.

You will also read copious articles telling you this will be the year of the cloud, and to all intents and purposes it will be, but the impression I get from talking to CIOs is they see this simply as a natural evolution, not a disruptive revolution, and they will make the move when it is economically and strategically right for their organisation, not because IT suppliers tell them now is the time.

So for those of you looking to find out what is the next big thing in technology, it’s going to be a bit of an underwhelming year. Instead, I’ll make one headline prediction for 2011 – that the next big thing this year, is you.

The revolution we are experiencing in IT is nothing to do with cloud computing, or tablet computers, or social media, or any of the other innovations that are increasingly important for corporate IT. The big change we are going through is the shift in the balance of technology power from IT suppliers and IT departments to individual users.

If there was one topic of conversation guaranteed to arise when any IT leaders were gathered together last year, it was the effect of consumerisation – how to deal with the heightened expectations of users who are now savvy enough to know what technology can do for them in their personal life, and expect similar levels of support, functionality and usability at work. There can’t be many IT helpdesks that haven’t received calls from users who know more about their PC than the first-line call handler. What’s more, users are demanding to use their own smartphones and laptops and iPads, and IT departments will ultimately have no choice but to let them, now matter how much you resist in the short term.

Of course IT departments will rightly raise issues such as security and governance, but the old command and control style of IT delivery is in its dying days. Business users will not be willing to have their work shaped by the limitations and lockdowns of their IT.

If you missed our article from late last year about how one corporate giant – General Motors – has embraced the consumer wave and dramatically changed the relationship between IT and its users for the better, then I’d suggest you take a look. This is what will happen to you, sooner rather than later, like it or not. And how much better it will be for you, your users and your employer, if you choose to take the “like” option, instead of the “not”.

Congratulations – you’re the next big thing. Use the experience wisely.