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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.

That puts pressure on IT to keep pace, and it's a marked departure from the last few years of cautious investment. "We just came from a recession, where the whole point of IT was to make it more cost effective. Companies traded off agility for cost effectiveness and standardization. Now we're asking IT to really be nimble," Hopkins says.

He, too, believes IT has an increasingly important role to play in helping to drive corporate innovation.

"In companies where innovation is the top priority, if you asked them how they plan to innovate, the number one way is with new products and services. Number two is new technology systems," Hopkins says. "There's a high expectation that technology is going to drive those new products and services and support them."

But a critical mistake that some IT executives will make is to tackle innovation in isolation, rather than as part of a corporate-wide initiative. "You find CIOs who say I'm going to make IT really good technology innovators before I start talking to the business.' That's disastrous," Hopkins says. "Other businesses make technology innovation part of their sustained practice of business innovation -- which is the best way to do it. But it requires a level of trust between business and IT that a lot of organizations don't have."

IT pros need to shift their view from inside IT to outside the business, and look at the business from a different perspective. "IT is at a junction. IT can fall back and be about keeping the lights on, infrastructure delivery, servers, storage devices," Hopkins says. "Or it can move to be more of an agile broker of services and really a business partner for innovation and growth."

Accepting cloud, BYOD
Among its predictions for 2014, Forrester says cloud will join the formal IT portfolio. This will be the year IT "relents, stops fighting and gets with the program formally by developing real strategies for embracing the cloud, managing cloud-based application deployments and empowering the business to keep being agile."

Some IT pros are already on board. "I love how these platforms enable a fast deployment of a service, no additional hardware, limited implementation needs and high availability," says Shane Fender, a corporate IT leader at Guardian Analytics. "These are things that all IT professionals look for and seek, and now it is available at a low monthly cost with very little upfront effort or investment. We need to embrace this technology."

Likewise, IT departments need to accept that business users will have more say in the devices they bring to work and the services they deploy. The IT department "cannot hold or control these technologies in a way that we are used to," Fender says, but "we need to evolve and adapt to this."


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