Service-oriented architecture will help IT make business more agile

Three thousand IT executives have gathered in Cannes this week for the Gartner Symposium to discuss key business issues ranging...

Three thousand IT executives have gathered in Cannes this week for the Gartner Symposium to discuss key business issues ranging from outsourcing, security and business intelligence to the growing importance of consumer power when planning corporate IT strategies.

The theme of the opening keynote at the analyst group's conference is the future of software and how it can help businesses be more agile in the face of uncertainty.

"Service-oriented architectures are a major part of the future of software," Gartner vice-president Roger Fulton told Computer Weekly.

A service-orientated architecture is a concept of how IT architectures can be delivered as a set of independent services sharing information through web services technology.

Some organisations have the opportunity to start from scratch, creating a service-oriented architecture without the problem of integrating legacy systems. Most organisations do not have this luxury and will be looking to wrap a service-oriented architecture around their existing software.

"It could take quite a while before companies re-engineer their systems completely to focus on agility," said Fulton.

Legacy software is not the biggest problem facing IT departments, he added. "We found that the biggest inhibitors to change were in the business culture and in changing the IT itself. The perception from the business is that they are really being held back by IT. Many operations have reached a level of complexity that is stifling - not just for IT but for the businesses they support."

Gartner will also discuss the growing influence the consumer has on IT, particularly through the web, and how companies must respond. "The power of the consumer is starting to drive businesses. In the past a large corporation set the pace but we are now seeing the consumer's influence. It is a massive switch that has happened over the years and we are just past the inflexion point," said Fulton.

The Gartner vice-president urged IT directors to get ready for an upturn in IT spending. The growth may be modest, but he warned, "When someone says go, you must be ready. When getting ready for the upturn, you have got to influence your business colleagues much more effectively that in the past.

"The CIO is tasked with how we make IT governance work within the business so it makes the right decision."

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