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2014 outlook: Innovation agenda makes shadow IT OK

Ann Bednarz | Jan. 3, 2014
A rise in operational spending bodes well for hiring, which remains a bright spot in the tech industry. The biggest drivers of IT spending growth are cloud computing, mobility, big data and social networking technologies.

In the big picture, IDC is forecasting worldwide IT spending to grow 5% year over year to $2.1 trillion in 2014. There's nothing surprising about the biggest drivers of that growth: cloud spending (IDC says it will surge by 25% in 2014, reaching over $100 billion); big data (projected to grow by 30%, surpassing $14 billion); mobile computing (sales of tablets will be up by 18% and smartphones by 12%); and social technologies (set to become increasingly integrated into enterprise applications).

"A lot of what we've seen in 2013 is what I suspect we'll see in 2014: Companies are still trying to figure out how to handle big data, how to find people with big data expertise, how to tackle security, and how to tackle mobility. We're hearing a lot of the same themes," Cullen says.

While the dominant tech priorities are all familiar, what's new about 2014 will be the focus on innovation as an explicit initiative for IT, says Johnson. "Pretty much all of our clients have an innovation initiative underway," she says.

That means not simply deciding to be more innovative, but taking steps to make it happen: putting someone in charge of an organized innovation initiative, setting a budget, establishing metrics to measure progress, defining processes -- and realizing the limitations of an innovation program. "How do you put in place a way to become innovative on an ongoing basis, knowing that innovation is like creativity? You can't force it. That's the big challenge that people are wrestling with," Johnson says.

Another challenge for IT is understanding that innovation won't happen without failure.

"I think for IT there's a special hurdle, which is getting over the fear of failure," Johnson says. "For the past 10, 15 years, IT has been told that their role is, effectively, to keep the lights on. Keep the servers running, keep the networks running. If you go down, the company goes down. With innovation, it's all about failing 99% of the time so you can find the 1% of the time when you succeed."

It's a new world for IT, says Brian Hopkins, a principal analyst at Forrester. "I think it's an exciting time to be in the tech industry for those that understand where they are. It's also a chaotic time."

Markets are becoming increasingly harder to predict, and disruptive technologies can come along and change things overnight -- a scenario that's anathema to traditional business.

"Businesses like to be able to really plan things out," Hopkins says. "It takes a long time to change a billion-dollar company." In today's environment, "companies need to go from good planners to really good, fast customer followers," he says.


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