Frictionless or fictional?

The good folks at CIO Insights released their 2006 IT trends report, which was surprising for its lack of surprises.

We have conducted long and deep discussions with CIOs over the years, focusing on their strategy development and direction (the pivotal piece from Silicon Strategies Marketing is our “What CxOs Think About Linux” white paper). CIOs are beginning to achieve what they have craved for decades — a primarily standardized and commodity infrastructure.

One of the findings in the CIO Insights trend report echoed what we have heard from our CIO interviews — that there will be significant business advantages achieved through commodity computing. What CIO Insights called a “frictionless infrastructure” is what CIOs had told us was a standardized infrastructure. Through mass standardization, they expect:

  • Operations to be streamlined, which lowers costs and raises end user productivity
  • Development to be streamlined, which brings competitive advantages more quickly
  • That business agility would be greatly improved
  • That their staffs would be more effective and responsive

Whew! That’s a lot of benefits for one area of strategic planning.

What we found interesting (and what the CIO Insights review helped confirm) is that cost containment is not their top priority. I have lectured several Silicon Strategies’ clients on deleting the cost saving issue from their messaging, because of this and because it is a non-differentiated message (what vendor doesn’t claim their technology will reduce costs? ).

What is on the top of CIO minds is that they are a significant contributor to corporate growth. CIO Insights notes that a full 78% of CIOs intend to increase earnings through growth, not cost reduction. Little wonder as the world market is rapidly becoming one, and globalizing will bring healthier top-line revenues.

This is where Linux and other standardized technologies have taken center stage. Linux is the great equalizer of server vendors, driving even the mighty mainframe down into cost competitive ranges. TCP/IP and Ethernet are the standards for communications, and the web has become the defacto human interface. By eliminating (or at least reducing) any variability in the server, OS, networking and UI, CIOs have reduced the delays — the friction if you will — in deploying new an innovative solutions.

Now here is the scary part: We are just beginning. Companies firmly planted in this paradigm are not fully deployed. Smaller firms are just starting their consolidations and conversions. The gains in IT productivity are yet to be fully realized.

In a few years, IT’s ability to respond to changing business demands will be so short as to change the very nature of competition.


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