The year of the innovator

Opinion

The year of the innovator

Cisco UK and Ireland CTO Ian Foddering explores the findings of the firm's recent TechWatch 2012 report, and argues for new approaches to IT strategy and training.

Many IT decision makers have 2012 pegged as a year in which technology can deliver a major strategic impact for their organisations. Indeed, Gartner's recent forecast found that despite times of austerity, global IT spending in 2012 will grow by almost 4%, totalling $3.8tn (£2.47tn).

Against this backdrop Cisco commissioned a new report - Cisco TechWatch 2012 - which reveals the technology priorities and business challenges which senior IT decision makers in the UK and Ireland anticipate in the year ahead.

It is clear that 2012 has the potential to be the Year of the 'Technology Leader', when companies realise the potential for tools such as cloud, virtualisation and mobile connectivity to revolutionise their industries. This is highlighted by the fact that 47% of the IT decision makers surveyed in TechWatch see 2012 as a year of innovation and an opportunity to improve the way that IT strategy aligns with corporate goals.

Be ready for the IT 'gear change'
Those technology innovators who are not daunted by the economic uncertainty of the current climate, and are willing to allocate time and resources to keeping their technology ahead of the curve, can take advantage of the 'gear change' the industry is experiencing in remote and service-based IT.

Of course, the solution to technology tensions will look different for every company that takes on the challenge: regulatory climates, personnel, and IT structure are all considerations. There are also wide variations in the general 'shape' of the business. Some businesses have large numbers of mobile, remote, or flexible workers, or have a need for mobile working which is not being met. These are the ones with the most acute mobility needs, but all businesses will need to move, to stay ahead of the rapidly changing 'norm.'

Make sure IT strategy is a board level priority
In order to realise the potential of 2012, business leaders need to act now, with the future in mind. As such, taking steps towards Involving strategic upper management in technology decisions and making technology investment a part of strategy discussions should become a boardroom priority. This sentiment is echoed by the fact that 56% of respondents surveyed in the TechWatch report regard IT as a strategic asset that drives company performance rather than an operational necessity that is 'bolted on' to support company needs (30%).

Take a high-value approach to technology training
Adding to this, actively cultivating and training new technology leadership and combining long-term strategic planning skills with 'hard' technology skills will be paramount to the success of each individual organisation in the coming twelve months - failure to do this will result in a detrimental skills shortage for IT in the very near future.

Companies have pressing business needs and varied business structures, and face constant pressure to maintain the status quo in their operations before considering improvements to their technology. The 80/20 rule governs IT spending for most, and the balance can even tip toward cost-cutting in uncertain economic times. In order to take a position of technology leadership, businesses of all types must fight the impulse toward false choices and short-term thinking.

Realign or risk future competitiveness
By focusing on long-term planning and technological innovation, businesses can realise the potential of empowered users and newly-widespread remote access and storage tools without losing security or flexibility. Innovation and technology investment are the keys to realising 2012's potential as the Year of the Technology Leader.

Those who do not innovate to meet these challenges risk putting themselves at a major strategic disadvantage in the future. Rapid changes in business infrastructure mean that in order to realise the technology benefits they know exist, businesses must invest in the technology tools which will shape the businesses of 2012.

This was first published in January 2012

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