Gartner Symposium

I’m writing from Gartner’s ITExpo Symposium in Orlando this week, here to follow the outsourcing/offshoring tracks to gather string for a book I am ghosting for a trio of Gartner analysts and consultants on the subject.

Gartner’s new CEO, Gene Hall, ex-CIO of Automatic Data Processing, McKinsey director, and general wunderkind was unveiled this morning as he introduced the keynote sessions. Hall gave an upbeat presentation to the assembled horde of CIOs and their direct reports, most provocatively telling them the winds of change that are messing up their best laid plans is not coming from the technology but from the consumer side, where insatiable appetites for innovation and device-independent delivery is having the greatest effect on their businesses.

The keynote presentation – by five Gartner analysts – was on software operating architectures – promulgating the view that IT strategy has to get in synch or ahead of business strategy or continue to lag and disappoint. With CIOs under heavy heat from the bottom line of their businesses (and many find themselves at the feet of a yet another c-level exec, the newly born IT CFO) after the spending binges brought on by Y2K terror and e-business conversions five years ago, they have to do something, and fast, to dispel the seminal Harvard Business Review article by Nicholas Carr that IT Doesn’t Matter.

The answer, according to the Gartner panel, is “agility”, to achieve some nimbleness in IT planning and execution by isolating business processes, sourcing them better, and having IT take off its white coat and leave the Big White Room to participate more in business strategy.

I think, given the shifts in IT theory these past few years – from IT as the basis of transformation, to IT as the “lights-on table stakes” for staying in business — that we’re in for a massive change in IT management and spending. Already more than half the $1.3 trillion annual spend is spent outside of the organization, and as more CEOs come back from their CEO confabs telling their leadership councils that “they have to outsource and offshore everything”, the acceleration out to external service providers will increase dramatically.

Give the offshoring issue another month and it will go away after the elections to be replaced by security and intellectual property preservation as the top issues in taking work offshore. Jobs and trade barriers always rise to the top of the shrill meter of political rhetoric during elections, but the substantive concerns going forward are going to be security and risk, not jobs.

More on sourcing theory and trends later.

In general, mood is upbeat, so I’ll presuppose that IT spending is loosening up for many in the crowd.

I’ll skip the Scott McNealy keynote and spend my afternoon grinding away on the book.

Old Ladies in Tennis Shoes

In this political season, Tip O’Neill’s observation that all politics are local struck me when I received an email last night alerting me and about 50 other neighbors to a developer’s efforts to build condominiums on a small lot in our quaint Cape Cod village.

The impact of email on local activism has been huge in the last year, with calls to arms being issued for opposition to piers in the crowded bay, a proposed wind farm in the center of Nantucket Sound, and other issues, which in years past, would have required phoning, petitions, and public meetings where the opposing side would have had little, if any, concerted strategy.

The availability of online petition services such as icount and ipetitions is a tool for local activists has the potential to transform the red-faced shouting of town meetings and other anachronisms of New England democracy into a much smoother process. For Wal-Mart haters, the tools are powerful – the issue is whether local officials and regulators will give them any credence.