Flexibility, adapability and Fiorina

It's a message Carly Fiorina, chairman and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard (HP), has been repeating in recent keynote speeches: The IT market has changed not because of the current economic downturn, but because of changes in customers' requirements. Customers want "to get a better return on their IT investments; the focus on value is permanent," she told a packed auditorium of German IT executives at the Strategic IT Management conference Tuesday.

The IT industry "will never go back to the growth rates of the '90s," Fiorina said in her keynote at the ninth annual IT conference hosted by Euroforum in cooperation with the Wall Street Journal. The industry, she said, will grow 1 percent to 2 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), not the 4 percent to 5 percent of GDP it had during the Internet zenith.

HP, as both a supplier and user of IT products, is affected by lower IT budgets and "a greater focus on the value proposition," Fiorina said. On the one hand, the company needs to sell products. On the other, "like any CIO (chief information officer), I'm saying I want less money spent and more return on technology," she said.

Return on technology is a play on the phrase "return on investment," which is on the minds of many IT buyers today.

Driving home a now familiar message, Fiorina said customers are no longer interested in the "fastest box, killer app or the next big technology," but rather on leveraging what they have to achieve progress. Customers, she said, can't throw out everything they've invested in, but need instead to increase the "adaptability" of their IT infrastructures.

"You can't keep building new islands of technology," Fiorina said. "You need to be able to add new applications, new processes." In this context, adaptability and flexibility are essential, she said.

"Open standards-based modular building blocks are the surest way to lower costs. Openness and modularity give you the flexibility and freedom of choice" she saidMore so than in the past, CIOs need to manage change, lower the cost of ownership and improve interoperability and security, Fiorina said. Understanding applications isn't enough, she said. Customers need to focus on processes and how those are integrated"I've heard Fiorina's message before and I accept many of her points," said Gerald Mohs, director of system and application management at E-Plus Mobilfunk GmbH & Co. KG in Düsseldorf, Germany. "But at the end of the day, she's telling us to buy more, not less: that's her business."

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