Reassess your role, embrace change and make a back-up plan - that is the advice of Gartner analysts to IT professionals contemplating how to approach 2005.
They have laid out a list of "must do" resolutions to help chief information officers navigate the turning tides of IT.
Recovering economies, globalisation and regulatory demands will create a business need for IT, but technology professionals will have to redefine their roles to show that they are as savvy at business as they are with technology.
They will need to make technology decisions that are aligned with the strategies and financial goals of their companies.
The technology they use is unlikely to change over the next few years, but the way it is used to deliver value to the business will.
"IT leaders have to be shifting their focus away from simply managing technology to look to managing business information, processes and relationships," said John Mahoney, chief of research and IT management for Gartner in Europe.
The advice comes as more companies look to cut their IT budgets by outsourcing functions and reducing internal IT staff.
If IT professionals fail to show their usefulness in the board room as well as the server room, they could face extinction. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2008 most IT departments will employ half as many staff as they do now, Mahoney said.
"Chief executives see technology as a barrier to change. This is the most important finding Gartner has made this year," said Mark Raskino, Gartner research director of business process and applications.
Legacy systems and legacy attitudes about how IT staff should function are seen by corporate chief executives as blockades to business agility, Gartner said.
Analysts suggested creating policies to foster simplification, such as requiring that when a new application is added an older application is killed, and advised IT staff to cap the number of suppliers they contract to, making sure that out-of-date relationships are eliminated.
They said that the days of having one single partner or supplier are over, as businesses look for specific products to meet their needs and budgets.
However, they urged caution. "Our advice is to challenge best-of-breed unless it is critical to your business. Otherwise, good enough is good enough," Mahoney said.
Outsourcing will continue to be a significant trend, the analysts said. This will simplify internal operations, but put more of an onus on IT workers to prove their worth.
Gartner suggested resolutions for the CIO in 2005
- Create alternative plans for the unpredictable year.
- Decide whether they want to be technology managers or business managers with IT knowledge, and invest in the appropriate skills.
- Use regulatory compliance demands to invest in related, strategic areas.
- Get the IT staff media-ready and try to foster external public relations.
- Drop "on time and on budget" as a key performance indicator for IT staff, noting that this a basic requirement. Set new performance indicators above and beyond that.
- Get hands-on experience on some new key technologies.
- Combat IT complexity by creating simplification policies.
- Elevate business process thinking to the management level, by deciding the process first and applications second.
- Build a relationship and collaborate with the human resources director on strategy for IT staff changes.
- Critically review the capability of your IT organisation and its leaders.
Scarlet Pruitt writes for IDG News Service