Finding the next big opportunity in the ICT industry

Figuring out how to navigate the toughest sections of the competitive landscape

What will be the next big opportunity in the ICT industry? Where are the mega-vendors going? How do you tell one vendor from another?

As the industry has grown and the many demands on it increased, multiple choices have hit the marketplace as solutions in some form or other. In many cases, though, CIOs still find themselves under the thumb of a small number of monopolistic vendors and have to deal with their products, which remain expensive and complex.

The soothsayers have all bombarded us with predictions, trends, and forecasts stretching from now till 2010 and in some cases beyond. Opinions have ranged from the outlook for open source, managed services, and outsourcing, to the security market, unified communications, software as a service (SaaS), SOA opportunities, and the greening of IT.

The past few years have certainly seen boom times for more products and services for the IT industry, not from an economic perspective but rather a growth in offerings that have been proposed.

From competing products to competing standards, every vendor is looking to grab a stake in some opportunity that may or may not prove fruitful in the long run. Most of the big market share leaders got that way by keeping tight control over their own product development. The go-it-alone model of innovation has become an endangered species.

IT delivery has also been shifting from products to services over the past several years. The most obvious evidence of service shifts have been in SaaS, managed services, unified communications, and outsourcing with a flood of announcements of next generation versions.

Experts are putting their thoughts together about what the future will hold, the mega-vendors have pulled off several acquisitions hoping for financial impact and a high probability of success; now they are putting in place unified pricing schemes to simplify the buying process from their acquired companies.

Outsourcing is no longer the refuge of the financially weak or technically deficient enterprise, nor is it a stick to threaten an IT department. It has become an accepted strategic tool. Over the past few years, though, outsourcing has become a tougher trade to ply. Customers are more sophisticated, and are demanding more flexible contracts, performance penalties, and benchmarking audits.

In Australia markets for some of the new offerings still do not exist and must be created, this problem is exacerbated by our relatively small market size. The important task for Aussie CEOs is to make sure everyone on the team knows how to navigate the toughest sections of the competitive landscape well in advance of getting there. For many there is also the challenge to "line up the balls" to win partner mindshare with new channel strategies.

Len Rust is publisher of The Rust Report.

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