Trying to predict the future of information technology is always tricky: Even Bill Gates missed the onrushing importance of the Internet. This year, trying to predict the future is especially frustrating. CIOs who are working to build budgets and make smart technology decisions for their companies must perform that act in the midst of an economic crisis, huge shifts in the industrial landscape and uncertainty as the watchword of 2009 in all business activities.
All that uncertainty makes our annual Future of IT research and accompanying article by Brian Watson even more vital. As Brian explains, unlike past downturns, when many companies made drastic budget cuts without regard to consequences, this downturn is different.
This time around, technology is integral to business operations, and the efficiencies that business leaders seek to wring from their operations are often available only via technology. Plus, CIOs now have a wider range of technology choices, including software as a service. Brian also investigates some of those new services in his article on IT services and how those capabilities should be valued by CIOs.
One area where it never makes sense to cut the technology budget is security. Unfortunately, the assorted hackers, crackers and information thieves of the world don't suspend their operations during a downturn. In fact, you can expect even more security attacks in the coming year. To help CIOs assess the state of information security for 2009, Ed Cone interviewed Bruce Schneier. Any list of the top security analysts in the IT world would include Schneier at the peak.
Few people had a better 2008 than Nate Silver. The 30-year-old numbers whiz fed exhaustive polling data and a half-century's worth of election returns into a model he designed, allowing him to call the presidential primaries and the general election with uncanny accuracy, turning his Web site, FiveThirtyEight.com (named for the total number of Electoral College votes) into a must-read for political junkies. Meanwhile, the PECOTA system he developed for crunching baseball stats helped him predict a successful season for the previously horrible Tampa Bay Rays.
What does Nate Silver have to teach CIOs about making their business prediction systems more accurate? Read Ed Cone's interview with Nate.
I've spent a lot of time over the past weeks speaking with CIOs, analysts and consultants about the current state of business technology, the effects of the economic meltdown and just where IT is headed in 2009. The comments I've heard are echoed in the articles and research presented in this issue.
My advice for the future of IT? Double down on understanding both the businesses strategies of your company and the technology possibilities.