IT at the crossroads

Many IT groups are allowing organzations to ignore technology, and a transformation is necessary to ensure IT groups evolve to play a key role in the future success of their companies

In the next 15 years, there will be unprecedented opportunities to exploit IT for competitive advantage. In the next 15 years, IT really won't matter, and organizations will spend as little as possible in this area.

Which is it? Unfortunately, many organizations are behaving as if the latter statement were true. And many IT groups are allowing them to do so.

The problem is not that businesses and other organizations have hit the wall in terms of their ability to use IT strategically. On the contrary, most are in the midst of enormous opportunities for IT-enabled improvements. However, the traditional view of IT as a mechanism for supporting and improving existing business processes is constraining the use of -- and the creative investment in -- IT.

If things continue as they are, the IT group is likely to be minimized, squeezed and relegated to the role of keeper of the "IT utility." Similarly, IT managers who continue to define themselves in terms of their ability to manage technology will see their credibility and worth to the organization erode. (This is already happening in many companies today.)

This gloomy fate is not inevitable, however. IT groups can evolve and play a key role in the future success of their companies. But the transformation necessary to do so will require hard work and a clear understanding of how organizations need to use IT going forward. And not all IT groups or individuals will find places in the future.

Some organizations -- particularly those in research and academia -- are a step ahead. They anticipate that IT will play a significant role in the future. In fact, many scientific communities have already described their long-term IT needs in reports, papers and presentations.

For example, in its provocative mission statement, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences says this: In 10 years, "we want every person involved in the biomedical enterprise to have at their fingertips through their keyboard instant access to all the data sources, analysis tools, modeling tools, visualization tools and interpretative materials necessary to do their jobs with no inefficiencies in computation."

In 20 years, the institute says, "we want intelligent computational agents to do complex query and modeling tasks in the biomedical computing environment, freeing humans for creative hypothesis construction and high-level analysis and interpretation."

That kind of road map should get your motor running.

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