The next big thing in IT? We have it already

Like look-outs perched high in their crow's nests, many in the computer industry are scouring the horizon for the next big thing...

Like look-outs perched high in their crow's nests, many in the computer industry are scouring the horizon for the next big thing in IT.

Many have looked expectantly at a host of new buzz themes: mobile technologies, grid computing, open source, RFID chips, web services (whatever they encompass) and the pipe dream of Trustworthy Computing.

The reality is that there is no next big thing in IT. We know precisely where the technology is going. Moore's Law of exponential power in microchips has several years to run, so the pace of technology remains predictable.

But in many ways the next big thing is around us right now: the consolidation of what we already have and its integration with business aims and directions to provide true, rather than promised, value.

IT has to both serve and lead the business. Chief executives are recognising that IT is central to their organisation, but not enough to put those who run it on their boards.

The real next big thing is sorting out governance issues to properly align business infrastructure and vision with technology. That is already evolving: IT directors are refusing to do projects unless they have clear, continuous board-level ownership, or they are letting some projects fail to demonstrate the criticality of IT.

That challenge of bridging the divide of integrating IT and the business is just one of four core challenges.

The second challenge is freeing ourselves from the upgrade treadmill. We simply do not have the time to handle the disruption, let alone the cost. Users need to be firmer with suppliers.

Third, we have to overcome the quality challenge. No other sector would accept prototype products and be expected to do the beta testing themselves.

And finally, there is the challenge of measuring and quantifying the return on IT investment. Only when these challenges are solved will we be receptive to the next big thing, whatever that is.

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