Leadership

IT managers in the U.S. are mediocre and lack vision


I didn't say that. Gartner analyst Steve Prentice said it yesterday in his keynote address at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in San Francisco. My colleague Larry Dignan at ZDNet has the story and Computerworld also has a round-up.

"This industry is in danger of becoming one of failure," said Prentice. "We've come to accept mediocrity as the norm. It's not a lack of technology or skills. The problem comes down to a lack of vision."

Ouch. That's a serious indictment of IT leaders.

Let's be honest, though. Steve Prentice has an ax to grind. He wants IT executives to think they are in big trouble so that they will spend more money on Gartner consulting services to help save the day. (I could argue that Gartner services are mediocre and lack the right kind of vision, but that's another issue for another day). 

Still, I think there is a grain of truth to what Prentice is saying. In speaking with IT pros and dealing with people in the industry, the general feeling that I get is that IT departments are not driving the same pace of innovation and productivity gains that they were 5-10 years ago. There are a lot of reasons for that, including leaner staffing, smaller budgets, a lower corporate profile in many organizations, and having achieved so many efficiencies in the past that there simply isn't any more low-hanging fruit on the trees of corporate productivity. Nevertheless, IT seems to be treading water in many organizations.

Do you agree? Why or why not? If you do agree, what do you think are the causes? Join the discussion.  

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

60 comments
Wayne M.
Wayne M.

Although I might agree that IT has not been as visionary as I would have liked, I am not sure there is any reason to single out U.S. managers as being any worse than those in other countries. One of the areas that has hurt technical disciplines especially hard has been the separation of technical skills from management skills. There has been a push for several decades, first by business schools and now by organizations like PMI, to promote the idea that "management" has its own private skill sets and that a successful manager in one environment can move to a different environment and be equally successful. How a non-technical manager can be a technical visionary is beyond my comprehension. I am concerned with continued efforts to separate IT, management, and the rest of business. I do not, however, believe that this is a unique concern for U.S. IT management.

WKL
WKL

By what standard or comparison are we being judged to be "mediocre" or "lacking in vision"? In the particular division of the company where I manage IT, I am expected to implement and enforce corporate IT policy and execute any mandates and projects that are handed down from corporate HQ. As well as doing the routine day to day stuff. I'm not expected to make policy. I'm not expected to take it upon myself to make major changes in infrastructure or decide what kinds of software each department will use. All of that is handled by the gurus at HQ. The CIO says "this is the way it's gonna be" and there is very little if any room for individual creativity or "vision" here. So far, my company is satisfied with my performance and ultimately, that's all I care about. You'll have to forgive me if I really don't give a flip about what Gartner thinks.

wooleyb1
wooleyb1

This is quite a generalization that "IT managers in the US are mediocre and lack vision." It is fair to say the IT industry as a whole took a hit after the 9/11 tragedy. Layoffs were common and IT budgets were shrinking. I think it is also fair to say that most companies have rebounded from this experience. In my industry of IT management I see a tremendous growth and trend where companies are more and more seeing the value of aligning IT and Business strategy. I think this trend is creating a freshly renewed vision for many companies because it serves a higher purpose for the company and enables both IT and Business to make optimum decisions to improve technology for the company. My company has invested in several significant key technologies in the past couple of years and currently have much to do on the horizon. Hardly a dull mediocre moment for us. Let's face it...SOX...though painful to endure...has given many of us a written check to invest in those technologies we may have wanted but could not get approved. I hardly see this IT time as mediocre and lacking vision. I think it is exponentially changing. You just have to make sure you work for/with a group of IT leadership and company culture that is passionate and properly invests in the future. In order to compete you have to have this drive. I hardly believe the majority of growing compaies in the US have a mediocre attitude towards IT.

hembin
hembin

Have you observed an animal in a zoo cage, trying to get free, but cannot get free? Compare that situation with the situation IT manager is in. An IT manager has to conform to corporate culture, corporate silos, corporate politics, one-man-up-ship of business staff and yet has to break free to innovate! Breaking free of all those constraints itself is an innovation. Sometimes we wonder, why do corporates cannot innovate. The answer lies in corporate hierarchy and non-executing leaders! IT merely provides services to the business in more than 95% of the cases.

zyphlar
zyphlar

Pardon, I didn't read the linked article or comments, but the subject hits a chord with me. There are times when I look around and wonder why mediocre IT management is the norm, especially in small-to-medium business. I have to wonder if it has to do with the y2k promise of easy money in the tech field-- my predecessor was, as far as I know, not formally trained in IT administration, let alone IT management. IT managers on average might indeed be mediocre and lack vision-- but I bet either they don't deserve the title of IT Manager, or they're stuck in an organization that doesn't focus enough on IT. Both tarnish the IT name.

rjrram
rjrram

As a young IT Manager I am continually looking at innovations to bring to my corporation only to be shot down with the old "its not in the budget". More often than not Corporate officers are looking at the short term and the $ on the checks they have to write rather than the long term cost savings provided with increased efficiency provided by an innovative IT staff. The CEO's are the ones who lack vision. Eventually IT managers get tired of wasting their time doing the research only to be shot down and therefore settle for whatever they can get.

osocram
osocram

I think that the subject must initiate to see some numbers: In agreement with a study of Standish Group, Extreme Chaos, 2005, for the 2004, the 16,2% of the projects in IT in the USA are successful, 31% are cancelled, and the 52,8% finish with exceeded budget, exceeded time, or with functionality different from the specified originally. According to this numbers, mediocre would be optimistic. although the panorama at world-wide level is not very different.

schimeck
schimeck

It seems to me that Gartner is correct in its assessment of the quality of IT management, but the readers who question Gartner's credibility are equally correct. I have met countless IT managers whose idea of an architecture involves shameless plagiarism, usually from Gartner reports. The mediocrity of North American IT management is a perfect reflection of the mediocrity of management in general. Since mediocre C-level executives are responsible for the appointment of CIOs, one can safely assume that the CIOs are rarely better equipped to perform their duties than are the people who appointed them. Gartner is obsessed with the notion that IT is the great differentiator - why not, it pays their bills. I believe that, while IT has made great contributions to many organizations, it is not the reason why Toyota outperforms GM. In fact, many of the companies and national economies who outperform their North American counterparts are, by our standards, woefully under-supported by IT. Until North American organizations get rid of the notion that senior executives are entitled to obscene incomes regardless of how well they lead their organizations, we can expect a continued erosion of our competitive position. It is intellectually bankrupt of Gartner to suggest that IT management is a particular hotbed of mediocrity. Far better for them to look in the mirror and measure their own performance.

bluemoonsailor
bluemoonsailor

most of everything is "mediocre". This is nothing but more FUD from Gartner. Steve G.

rajnewport
rajnewport

Its quite evident from the number of problems and types of problems that IT Managers have been facing during the last 5 years to arrive at the conclusion, that IT Managers in the US are lacking in vision. It certainly poses a serious threat to the industry as a whole. -MrCoolz

Tachyon
Tachyon

Sure not every IT manager, but in general they have become a sea of status quo seeking sheep. There are way too many that think all they need is a junior college arts degree and an MCSE or CompTIA and that's all they ever have to learn. They collect their cheques, and never again pursue self improvement. They just jump on the blame wagon that this industry relies on. Microsoft long ago was the prime mover in making us get used to the idea that computers are failure prone and that this is the norm. Our society has come to accept the idea that computers and Operating Systems are buggy, failure prone systems. Now, IT managers, who should know better, have come to rely on this lazy, inferior product filled industry perception by the public to lower their own personal standards. "Oh no, it's not us" they say, "You know these darn computers." Well don't fall for it. They are incompetent, lazy, and not doing their job. It's not entirely corporate greed and administrative treason that is causing their jobs to be outsourced. It's also that the jig is up and these IT managers are being replaced for their laziness, incompetence, and failure to strive for excellence. IT managers need to get their heads out of their butts, and be professionals again before we slip to the place in the minds of the public once reserved for politicians and used car salesmen. I'm sick of other so called professionals letting their laziness and incompetence ruin the reputations of the rest of us. It's not just a job, it's a profession. If you can't treat it as such, do something else, before you chase all our jobs overseas. On the other hand, Corporate management needs to get their hands out of the IT dept and making it impossible for them to do their jobs. As I've told so many of them, "Hire good people, and let them do their jobs"

RepTechlic
RepTechlic

IT serves the business. But in my 25+ years, we were much more able to bring "best practice" processes to the table in new systems in the past than we are now. Now, our society is producing more less capable (and dishonest or more self-centered) business people, the global economy is changing how funding is applied, IT staffs are shrinking so there are fewer boots on the ground to do the work. A CIO with inadequate staff and funding (which could mean his business people are not doing their part) is less capable of impressing the writer of that article. That's not true everywhere, however. If the business side can do their part well, IT is still the backbone of any successful company. It can't be done without IT. And that requires a good IT team. It IS being done in many cases. One other thought - is he trying to impress someone in Europe or Asia with his U.S. bashing? What country is this person from? I'd like to see his data that he compared the U.S. to.

Marc B.
Marc B.

We are getting pressed more and more by our business "partners" (I ove that word) to deliver more and more. Who has time for vision?

bharris0
bharris0

I expect that most IT shops have been limited in their funding, training and staffing so that the executives could reap their inflated bonus checks. Without funding, IT will have a hard time driving anything. As for the Gardner Group, they talk a lot and management seems to listen to them but I'm not sure why. I don't hear of them actually DOING anything IT related, but they certainly TALK about what everyone else should be doing.

bsnsimo
bsnsimo

Top-down is demeaning and disrespectful of employees. It demotivates them. Managers don't need to be visionaries, but they do need to be able to allow their employees to develop a strong sense of ownership of their work. In this state, visions will naturally flow from employees and they will be at least 300% more productive than if poorly motivated and will love to come to work. To understand how I escaped from the top-down model read an interview of me Best regards, Ben

Zen37
Zen37

...and it seems, today, i may of been right to do so. As much as managers possibly lack vision, companies CFO lack the will to take the necessary risks to have vision. Budgets are so tight these days, it's a wonder IT gets anything done. In todays business, everything revolves around the quarterly results. How much money can we make now. IT is supposedly a "cost center". The CFO's favorite targets to get margins up. There is also the fact that a lot of IT managers are afraid to take risks because they are afraid to lose their jobs. I think more of them are afraid of that than innovation.

AV .
AV .

Maybe in corporate IT that might be true because of smaller budgets, leaner staffing and outsourcing, but in smaller businesses (over 100 people), there is more innovation than ever before. Why? Because Corporate America isn't the cash cow it once was. Many vendors have begun targeting smaller businesses with new technology that was previously only available to the big guys. I have been an IT Manager in a mid-sized law firm for 15 years and would say the past 2 or 3 years has been like a renaissance in area of knowledge management and services that are truely aligned with the business of practicing law. Law firms have historically always been behind as far as technology goes, but now they have embraced it partly because they are driven by their corporate clients, but also because there is a tangible ROI. It seems to me that Gartner is focused only on Corporate America and has forgotten about the rest of us. AV

zyphlar
zyphlar

I agree that technical management needs to have technical background or training. Also, I agree that IT is frequently understaffed and undervalued.

schimeck
schimeck

Management requires a set of skills, but in the end, it is more art than science. The idea that a manager who is successful in say, marketing, will automatically be successful in IT is ludicrous. Returning to the continuing theme of Gartner's role in this discussion thread, it is interesting to note that much of Gartner's energies are devoted to turning art (discerning strategic trends) into science ("magic quadrants" and probability levels). While this effort is seductive on paper, it seldom works in reality. Is it just me, or are the odds stacked against IT professionals? On the one hand, we are asked to run increasingly complex environments on a shoestring; on the other hand, we are asked to be innovative in order to provide our employers with a strategic advantage over their competitors. At the risk of showing my age, I remember a time when IT was regarded as a specialized area and a certain amount of prudence was recommended before organizations jumped into the deep end of the technological pool. Now, a CxO reading an inflight magazine during the course of a probably fruitless (and expensive) business trip can come back to the office fired up by the latest fad perpetuated by Gartner and their ilk. I think it is time that organizations across North America take a deep breath and decide whether they want to be followers or leaders. You can't be a leader by taking the advice of the plethora of so-called research firms. Most of the people writing the reports such as the one which spawned this thread haven't ever had to take responsibility for inaccurate predictions or mindless accusations. If IT is guilty of anything, it is guilty of ignoring the lessons of its own history. Most of the modern, "leading-edge" technologies are nothing but more efficient implementations of stuff we've already done before. We seem to live on a spring-mounted pendulum in which we make transitions from "legacy" systems - mainframes talking to dumb terminals, to client/server, to SOA - big servers talking to dumb browsers. Well, enough ranting! Until IT learns to walk upright, we will forever be the punching bag to allow business managers to work out the frustrations caused by their own inadequacies.

mabingle
mabingle

Perhaps the key here is for CIOs to create some budget bandwidth for experimentation. I spent many hours, day, weeks, and months prototyping things that I felt would benefit my company (and possibly my career). At times they did both. I can't begin to tell you how many times the CEO I reported to told me to find the money, or the VP I reported to said no. I found the money somehow, or got the business interested in it enough to pay for it, or just plain went for it. At times I even spent some of my own money to get the software and hardware to "prove my point". That's how I got my vision accepted, I didn't run away after being told NO! Here was my attemp to motivate people to take more chances. It was published by Computerworld: http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9005142

jck
jck

[b][i]IT managers need to get their heads out of their butts, and be professionals again before we slip to the place in the minds of the public once reserved for politicians and used car salesmen. I'm sick of other so called professionals letting their laziness and incompetence ruin the reputations of the rest of us. It's not just a job, it's a profession. If you can't treat it as such, do something else, before you chase all our jobs overseas. On the other hand, Corporate management needs to get their hands out of the IT dept and making it impossible for them to do their jobs. As I've told so many of them, "Hire good people, and let them do their jobs" [/i][/b] I like the way you think. Wish more people had your attitude that were actually running the companies. cheers

mabingle
mabingle

Your statement commented on a lack of vision for the past 5-10 years. Let's see, that would take us back to 1997 or a little later. That was before major reductions in IT budgets (because of y2k?) and major outsourcing initiatives and huge ERP implementations. I am not a CIO anymore (thank God) but I still subscribe to the CIO magazines. I see most companies just following the trends. I was once told that if you want to keep your job, read the CIO mags and they will tell you what to keep current on because your boss will be implementing them sooner or later. We used to develop, now we maintain. As an ex developer, I always felt I was most creative when developing. It made you think in detail (extreme detail). Now we seem to glance over things, implement the package, and maintain it until someting "better" come along. We hand over our development to offshore developers and spend most of our time doing business analysis, PM work, or QA work. And, many senior managers in IT come from non-technical backgrounds who really don't understand technology but lead us by mimicing what some consultant tells them from IBM or other consulting company. So, I agree the vision isn't there anymore. And, as for gartner, I don't agree with them most of the time and I sometimes feel their "objective" opinions aren't as objective as we are led to believe (and I'm not alone in that opinion). So, I suppose the creativity in our industry comes from the software houses that have replaced us, and we have now become more business oriented and pseudo technical replacements. This is, of course, my sole opinion. I have been in the industry for 40 years and I have seen it change dramtically. It isn't fun anymore like it used to be, and I really miss that.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

I do think that small businesses and mid-sized businesses are doing a fair share of innovating (probably more than big businesses), and I think there are two reasons for that: 1.) SMBs are playing catch up and finally getting around to implementing some best practices that have been developed and deployed in most enterprises. Example: imaging desktops (big companies have been doing it for years and now it has filtered down to many small companies as well) 2.) As far as new products and developments go, SMBs can be much more nimble in adopting hot new technologies because lack of scale can also reduce complexity. Example: VoIP (it's very difficult and time-consuming for big companies to deploy VoIP, whereas small and medium companies can often replace a PBX with VoIP in a project that lasts three months or less).

Jack-M
Jack-M

Like everything else in life IT and it's mangers and their vision operates in cycles. The cycle may be on a downswing right now due to the enormous strides and accomplishments over the last 10 years but the innovations coming in the next few years, some sooner, will swing the pendelum in the other direction.

cabbott
cabbott

IT managers have to show their planning and actions are rewarding. If you can do so on an annual basis, Administration will reward you. The bottom line is budget. You can be inovative with planning and not be able to implement without funding. IT has always been a difficult ROI to validate. I submit three proposals every year and the middle proposal is approved because the price is right. Therefore, that proposal is the one I design my infrastructure to show improvement. IT managers must prove they can out perform consultants who have no validation for supporting their planning after the check has cleared...

kovachevg
kovachevg

I hear many who complain that the industry has reached a point where the only thing you can do is cost containment, that there is no longer low hanging fruit to pick. This is probably true for organizations that are old - according to my standards that's more than 5 years in the making. So what do we do? Well, go work for organizations that just started burgeoning. They are in desperate need of your talents. But then again, it would mean for you to quit your day job. Would you like to do that, or would you stick to cost containment? After all, when you pick all the low hanging fruit from one tree, you have two option: you either go up (vision, new skills) or you move on to another tree. I had an instructor in college who posed an important question: what can we do to make IT professionals as enthusiastic and as happy when they go to work as they were in the late '90s? 4 years ago I did not know how to answer but now I see the light. If you want to be constantly challenged and stimulated, make moves!!! When work runs dry at one company, go to another. This will help you meet new people, learn new things, become a better professional, and ultimately start your own company. Haven't you dreamt of being your own boss? Or, if you don't want the hassle of running a business, you should just end up in research. Get that PhD, unleash that human creativity and work hard not because you have a deadline to meet but because you have a world to conquer with your inventions. How's that for an answer?

qzh00k
qzh00k

IT managers have been relegated to find the bottom line by cutting costs, off shoring or what ever the latest buzz word of the day is. There are constraints put on IT managers by upper management, including who they place in those positions that drives the appearance they are at fault. It is impossible to build an ROI for the latest wiz bang thing unless intangible returns can be estimated. This takes a very sophisticated financial and program organization that is usually the least educated in IT or a PMO that is understaffed and simply out of their league. Gardner is right but their causal analysis is lacking any depth. They have given the CEO someone to blame other than the persons that sit in their boardroom. Good Job Gartner, you have reached your target audience.

Awesome Blossom
Awesome Blossom

In my 10 year IT career, and over 9 managers, only 2 were good. The others were mediocre or downright incompetent. The ones that were good were managers who had actually been techs themselves. However, two of the worst managers I had were also tech-types. My current boss is mediocre, lacks vision and is NOT technical at all. I suspect his reasons are 1) Not wanting to rock the corporate boat 2) Not wanting to show his staff how incompetent he is (too late) 3) He has limited knowledge of IT - "What's Craigslist?" he asked me one day. *sigh*

billyk5
billyk5

There certainly is a general lack of vision but I feel the fault lies in the fact that IT managers are so blindly focused on keeping the lights on. How can you be visionary if you are worried about maintaining uptimes of current systems with limited staff and high demands. I would suspect that the thought of taking on new IT efforts scares many IT managers for fear of failure and access to limited resources. Offload what's not critical. If they would spend more time focusing on what's important to the business then perhaps they can excercise that vision.

Pebblszzz
Pebblszzz

There are managers who solicit views from their subordinates, and there are those who don't. I've watched my department turnover twice, listened to complaint after complaint from our customers - but some managers have their own agenda.

kgosselin
kgosselin

It's hard to focus energy on vision when you are constantly fighting an uphill battle on the complaince side. If we didn't have such idiots like the TJ Maxx mess and the scores of others we may have the time to focus our energy towrds strategic planning.

jck
jck

I have worked for managers who know what they are doing, know how to manage, know how to deal with their staff, and know how not to compromise projects for little or no gain. However, most of the managers that I have worked for/with have had one modus operandi (which often is done to keep in line with executive direction) that is the reason a lot of IT departments have mediochre outcomes on their projects and have high turnovers: "the bottom line" trumps project quality. The KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle to completing projects has more or less the KICS principle...Keep It Cheap Stupid. I have worked with guys who started working on computer systems in the 1970s, and they have told me how the world of IT has changed. About how the "IT manager" (my buddy Dave always said "data processing department head", but it's basically the equivalent) back then was [b]the[/b] authority on how long a software project or hardware project would take to get done, what it would cost, etc. An IT Manager was respected and consulted and given authority over projects back then. Nowadays, your IT Manager can do all the foot work, gather facts, give valid reasons, build in proper contingent schedule slips, etc. However, that manager often gets told by "higher ups" (and their bean counters) what his project is going to cost if it is going to happen, when it has to be done by if it is going to happen, and sometimes even what resources he can assign to it if they let it happen. Basically, I think he's right for the most part. A lot of IT Managers need to stand up for their right to [b]manage[/b] their departments...not just be a puppet to the executive level...and to take control [b]and[/b] responsibility for their projects... not just the blame and being professionally castrated on a regular basis. I think that the number of absolutely competent IT managers is the minority in this country...whether or not it is because they are puppets worried about job security...or because they are simply morons and "yes men" getting as big a paycheck as they can while burying their nose in dark places. So yes...in the majority...he's absolutely right. Many IT managers (and their departments) are mediocre in work quality, and lack vision beyond the near term. You are right about one thing most certainly, Jason: that guy probably stated that assertion in an effort to perpetuate business. Lots of people do that daily in this country. Make up "white lies" or twist the truth...to move people to use their product. I absolutely agree with you there. Welcome to Corporate America.

walterhaenn
walterhaenn

When you look at management in corp. America today, one could very easily replace the IT in the statement:?IT managers in the U.S. are mediocre and lack vision? with any term and have, it ring true. I think the issue cannot be laid at the feet of the IT or MIS department. Leadership and vision must first come from the top. If there is no vision within a given organization, how are the various departments to develop one? Moreover, to the issue, how can the various departments have visions that are not in concert with each other? I feel that the real issue here is that most companies in America today are pandering to the whims of Wall Street and are not enabling themselves to have a vision.

mjohns62
mjohns62

Many businesses have established their core technologies and IT has switched into that of a support role. We are entering a new era where IT no longer plays a support role. IT is a core function of a business. Like with bad accounting, if it fails the company will fail. Innovation is key in today?s competitive marketplace. As far as "IT managers being mediocre and lacking vision", that is a strong statement. There are many forces that drive decision making within an organization. I would argue that IT managers most IT managers want to lead their Organization into this new era with new technologies that improve efficiencies. As the saying goes ?you can wish in one hand and ?do something else? in the other?. I wouldn't put the blame on IT managers?

rstaley
rstaley

I have to disagree that IT Leaders lack vision. Ten years ago, if you asked corporate executives to give you a list of technologies that they wanted, everything on that list has been developed or designed. The problem as I see is that in the corporate world, management is more intent on the IT leadership keeping their data safe and accessible, than with allowing them to develop new innovations. Corporations are slow, if not resistant, to change. They are also hesitant to spend capital on keeping up with technologies. Most IT professionals are using somewhat older technologies to keep companies profitable. We busy developing patches, band-aids and work-arounds to common problems. As an IT leader, I believe it is my responsibility to set the IT vision for the company. How do I do that? I schedule one hour a day to look at a present process or problem and find a way to make it better. That does not mean that I try to make the process better for today, but look at what the process will be 3 to 5 years down the road. Finally, I don't think it's a lack of vision, but a lack of perception. Management generally perceives that IT leaders know what they need. Open communications between management and IT can help. But to truly have vision, IT leaders need to understand the business processes and problems. We need to concentrate on one or two issues, develop solutions and then start again.

twobrats64
twobrats64

It's been my experience that IT managers are anything but mediocre: they're incredibly hard working, conscientious, and are generally required to do more with less. If they lack vision, it's only because (a) they must necessarily focus their resources and attention on keeping the ship afloat, and (b) senior management hasn't seen fit to formulate an overall business strategy that brings IT to the table as an equal partner. If an enterprise creates a vision for itself that does not take into account how IT (and all other functions, for that matter) must contribute to facilitate that vision, and then does not allocate resources according to the priorities associated with those contributions, it is doomed to fail. And it won't be the fault of the IT manager.

101a
101a

I can't speak about U.S managers but I've noticed in the past few years that here in the U.K management seems to operate within comfort zones that stifle innovation and encourage mediocrity. The fear of missing shorter deadlines seems to be greater than the desire to push the envelope.

Labrat636
Labrat636

So.....this consulting firm (of which I am not familier)says that the sky is falling, and that they have the solution? What is their solution? Consulting? They are going to explain to you (for a fee, of course) how you can avoid being a victim of the falling sky. Then when the sky doesn't fall.....those who were vict...uh..clients of this firm are no better off than those that weren't.

dchow
dchow

Those who tend to cry about things are those who are the weakest links. It appears to me others who criticize and do not take charge to lead or make any innovations themselves only want ideas to leech from and gain a profit. I agree the innovations aren't limited due to technical skills, experience, and technology itself. However, many companies are still moving into a fully I.T. platform for operations or do not plan to move at all. It goes without saying that innovations are all based on what the demand requirements are from customers. Right now, the major innovations in our industry is I see turn-key project delivery and integrated service provisioning.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

Innovation depend upon the individual manager, it is essentially the same thing as a person's outlook for the future in general. There are those that fear the future and those that embrace it. Take for example a manager of a web project that I worked for several years ago who was afraid of anything that he didn't understand. Because of fear he decided to go with what he felt were the ?tried and true? technologies and practices. His reasoning was that it was just a matter of time before upper management would see the light and determine that the web was a passing fad and return to COBOL, CICS and VSAM. Because of this anything attitude, the first incarnation of many parts of the corporate web site were slow and error-prone. To give an example of what it was like here's a quote from 2003, ?Stored procedures are new, untested and no company in the real world uses them?. Fortunately he was unable to devote his full attention to the ?re-write? so it was possible to ignore him almost completely.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Having spent personally hundreds of thousands of dollars on Garnter services(on behalf of my employer), and spent hours talking to Gartner analysts, and having attended a Gatmer Expo, I will say this. Gartner Group often has great insights. And just as often they are trying to hard to be the Oracle of what is coming, and they fail. Want some example? Lets see - thin computing, outsourcing, two good examples of ideas they latched on to which did not work out as they foresaw. I suggest Steve (hi Steve, remember me?) in this occasion is trying to be provocative. This is NOT the same IT industry I joined in the 80s, nor is it the same as the 90s, or during the boom era. This happens in every industry. Look at the auto industry and how many car makers there were in the 20s..... We have totally farmed out all the low hanging fruit. What else is there to do but cost containment, and incremental improvements? Some opportunities exist, but not as many as twenty years ago. Of course there are still opportunities for innovation, but not on the broad business changing scale of old. On the other hand, maybe I am mediocre and lacking vision? I would invite Steve to call me.... James

james
james

Leadership is both an art and a science. We know the science behind leadership. It has been studied for over 50 years, it is the execution we struggle with. Partially because we do not reward leadership in organizations as much as we reward complacency and punish failure. I too recall when IT was a specialty and a revered science. You learned to prgram in assembly and write your applications from the ground up because you had to. There were no other options. Unfortunately, IT has become a commodity. You are dead on; IT has advanced little in the last few years other than to make what we have already done easier to use. Windows Vista is a prime example of technology whose value is suspect because it is basically what has been done before repackaged (Microsoft would argue I know). Until organizations start recognizing and rewarding leadership, I am afraid there is little incentive to innovate or step out on a limb. As a result, we will continue to do what we have always done... just with a new GUI. James Whitley www.dutyhonorglory.com

duckboxxer
duckboxxer

I agree with you on that, there's no more fun in it anymore. Research and creative investigation has been thrown out the window. Exploration time has been taken away just because something has to get out the door to make management look good and clients happy. This means that technologists must do their keeping up with trends on their own time. After kids, groceries, friends, sex (too funny), cleaning, vacations (ha!), bills, and doctor visits (heaven forbid we get sick), we are supposed to read, test, and discuss the technological bleeding edge in all that spare time. Your company just ends up falling behind. This results in outdated applications, but hey, more work from the rewrite.

AV .
AV .

I think the playing field has changed dramatically and there is finally a realization among software vendors that the "rest of us" need technology too. It has leveled that playing field so that small businesses can now compete with Corporate America. Its a good point that you make about SMBs being more nimble in adopting hot new technologies. That is exactly what is happening. It's still complex, but we don't have the scale of the big corporate machine. We don't have the red tape either. AV

evasile
evasile

It has been my experience that most IT managers are incompetent ? they either lack technical or managerial expertise, or both. The higher you go the more incompetent. Many mid-level managers compensate through hard work and conscientiousness, but that doesn?t make them non-mediocre. I agree though that the problem starts at the top, where politics supersede any good judgment. One example: I had one CEO telling me that they didn?t need a corporate architecture because their business changed too rapidly. Useless to say that the company went through some very rough times soon after.

james
james

Organizations reward complacincy far more than innovation. And in a world where jobs are become more scarce, the incentive to simply fly below the radar outstrips the desire to lead. No wonder 80% of all American's dislike their jobs! James Whitley www.dutyhonorglory.com

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

I understand what you're saying about turn-key project delivery and integrated service provisioning but it would be even better if you could expand on why you think there is innovation in those areas and/or mention a few examples. Thanks, Jason

kevinmc
kevinmc

Using the latest and greatest technologies and can also contribute to the downfall of an organization. I've been with companies that are constantly searching the www for the next cool development tool. Currently their is a large community shouting the virtues of open source this and open source that. This has led our company to use a different set of development/technology tools for each new project. The result is a conglomerate of interconnected application servers, databases, rules engines, and integration engines. Yes it is exciting to work with these new tools but I pity the team that has to implement this mess and the team that has to support it for the next several years.

evasile
evasile

...but you brought no argument whether IT managers lack vision or not. I think IT managers do lack vision and ability to innovate. I've seen it over and over again. The chief reason is their incompetence. Unfortunately, schools do not have appropriate programs to bridge the gap between technology skills and leadership skills. As a result, most often IT managers lack one or the other. Many times, both. The results are failed or grossly delayed projects, missed business opportunities, overspending and degradation of personnel morale. This holds true even with the aggressive offshoring approach, when most often overpromising and underdelivering are the norm.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

So it sounds like you agree with me on the low-hanging fruit issue. There simply isn't a lot of that for IT in big businesses these days. Your point about Gartner trying to be a future-teller is exactly what I was getting at when I took my little jab at them. They make predictions and usually sound irrationally overconfident about them coming true. That's what bugs me. And their track record is not very good recently with the false prediction of the Vista delay and crying wolf about the outsourcing phenomenon (as you mentioned). They are starting to sound more and more sensational, and thus more desperate. Back to topic ... you mentioned incremental improvements, what are some the best opportunities that you see right now?

dchow
dchow

Over 90% of the US market today is ran by SMB's [not the network protocol for some of you]. Chances are a good chunk of I.T. managers or all-in-one's fall into the SMB market because we're likely to be working for a branch or employer that is sub 500 full time employees. SMB's have quite different requirements for their operational needs. In fact, many SMB's have fairly large IT needs but not the staff, money, or the time to implement enterprise rated solutions. Deployment is not the only innovation out there. When I mean deployment, I mean the duties that IT people perform such as their duty to the user for reliable, consistent, and above all functional technology to their staff and company. That is deployment, but what about operations? There's no doubt in my mind that any sensible and reliable IT manager faces real life business challenges just as much as a COO even. This is where turn-key and integrated provisions come in. The market demand for these two packages are becoming very essential for SMB's and consultant firms, and even telco and ISP's realize this. Look at TWC, look at AT&T. AT&T offers for example their DNA package [dynamic network architecture] which will provide "1 choke hold" servicing [phones, pipeline, managed routers]. The turn key operations of such a package is having techs from their company install all the equipment and ensure setup. [cliff notes] My point is this, many SMB's don't have the time to deal with down-time and don't have the experienced officers to know that it'll take probably about 90 safety days to get T1's setup and hot. The innovation is where suppliers and consumers come in to make efficient operations. We're not only responsible to our users, staff, and providing "better" technology anymore. We've got bigger problems. Operations. Why do you think IA [information assurance] is now becoming an actual career from military but now becoming essential to the corporate market. However, I do believe age is a major factor as I'm 21 and work for an SMB as an all-in-one person with a single technician under my wing. I'm still in school for my undergrad. It was essential for me to figure out the fastest and most efficient route for my company 24/7. Older guys just want to focus on they've been doing all their lives.

kevinmc
kevinmc

I guess this manager is not concerned with security or audits. I bet that still "your" problem.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

Let me put it another way, this manager insisted that all folders on the web server be writable, so that scripts could create work files on them. Next, SSL was verboten, because encryption just slowed things down and wasn't needed for a web-based order enter system. The manager was just an idiot. Get the idea?

Starrdaark
Starrdaark

Gross incompetence and lack of innovation are a part of every industry on the planet. My experience has shown IT as a whole to be populated with people who are above average in these and other areas with respect to all professions as a whole. At first your comments puzzled me. And then I noticed your posted profession...IT Consultant. Need I say more?

james
james

I am not sure how many managers use Gartner (or other research firms) to purposefully validate their, oftentimes, poor decisions. But I do know that there is little incentive for managers to go out on a limb and lead. Many companies reward apathy and conformity far more than leadership, creativity, and daring. It's no wonder IT is stale. Burned by large over budget projects with suspect returns, managers are afraid to do anything for fear of loosing their job. Leadership takes courage. And there seems to be a large leadership void in many organizations today. James Whitley www.dutyhonorglory.com

john.decoville
john.decoville

Managers have been using consultants for decades to: 1. Validate their decisions. 2. Avoid responsibility for their decisions 3. Make no decision, let Gartner do it for them! Gartner is waaaay overrated Gartner has obviously lost its shine. Gartner: Dooooowwwwwnnnn we go!!!!!!

hhall1001
hhall1001

Most companies do not embrace change. Most companies are also followers not innovators. Therefore it's tough for anyone to lead innovation. To effect a significant change you have to have an excellent understanding of the business and be well connected and trusted in the top tiers of management. You have to make the business case and you have to sell it. That is usually not IT. Significant innovation is usualy lead by a champion outside of IT. A champion is someone with vision but also a person that is willing to assume risk. Those people are rare in most companies and are hadly ever found in the top ranks of management. IT may participate in a support role and may have responsibility to effect the change but IT rately leads it. Changes within the IT function itself is another matter. However IT leadership usually matches the leadership of the rest of the company's management and many are followers not innovators. IT leadership will often try to avoid assuming risk in an innovation by letting outside consultants like Gartner suggest and promote the change for them.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I seem to on most things.... It helps to know the history of Gartner. They started as a firm that rated tech stocks, and grew into a broader analysis group, and added consulting. At the company where I used their services extensively, I was in an IT planning role. Thier annual surveys on IT spending were very helpful but thats a different task than future predictions. Its not the prognostication itself that bugs me, its the hubris. In terms of incremental improvements, most businesses have a host of systems that work well for their intended tasks. But not all of those systems talk to each other well. The traditional answer to that has been to throw out the baby with the bathwater and implement an ERP. I'm not so sure thats the right thing to do for every company. SAP is overkill for many SMBs. Just getting smaller systems to exchange data is often a quicker better less disruptive answer. Other improvements would include improving data exchange with partners/customers/providers. I spend a lot of time analyszing simple one way data exchanges that would be much more useful if they were two way. Take for example, an order. Its one thing to electronically send an order, most companies can do that. How about sending an order, getting verification of order status, shipping information, tracking information, all updated in real time. That may involve the seller getting information from a third party shipping company and passing that back to the buyer. Is that nice to have? I can tell you my company plans installations at remote sites three months in advance, and all too often the lack of one part can send us into a tailspin. Its not for lack of technology - we have lots of it. Its a need for improving the information flow between us and our partners. James

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