Surveys of CIOs and CFOs this week show a level of agreement that would be more alarming to traditional IT vendors, if they could be any more alarmed than they already are, and make even slightly less junior IT managers more anxious, rather than less, about the coming year.
According to a Gartner survey of more than 2,000 worldwide, CIOs put cloud computing, virtualization, SAAS and other ways to get best-of-breed technology without paying the capital costs, hardware or, often, people required to make them work.
CFOs expect to spend 5 percent more for IT this year, but are keeping the lid on spending as tightly as possible and asking CIOs to save money by handing work off to other companies rather than incurring capital and ongoing operational costs themselves, according to the latest in an ongoing series of surveys of U.S.-based CFOs conducted by Duke University and CFO magazine.
"Right now, any kind of spending decision requires more scrutiny," Bob Martins, a CFO at Tatum LLC told Computerworld for a story based on the study.
That means using systems that are already in place to get better information more quickly to the people that need it, combine merged companies quickly, and putting together cost/savings projections that are more reliable than is typically possible with in-house IT projects, other CFOs said.
A lot of that matches right up with the intentions CIOs expressed to Gartner to use cloud-based services to expand capacity and SAAS to add new functions, but not get loaded down with big payments upfront or long commitments typical of in-house projects, or even co-location arrangements that require customers to own their own hardware.
The 'uh-oh' moment comes when you realize how much of those two sets of plans involve more than abstracting technology and begin abstracting people.
Cloud computing is not technically considered to be outsourcing, but only as a courtesy.
Forrester Research expects the U.S. IT budgets to be just over 7 percent and for outsourcing to rise at only 6.8 percent.
The International Association of Outsourcing Professionals expects more like 10 percent growth, and the number of both services and providers to increase.
And nearly everyone expects cloud computing to grow so fast that by 2014 cloud providers will have outsourced to other cloud providers who will push the outsourcing handoff so far around the Circle of Outsourcing that the slowest-adopting end-user companies will become cloud providers themselves because they're the only ones left who actually own their own servers.
Whether that's true or just ridiculous, there's going to be a lot of offloading of IT and IT-enabled business functions this year, and there won't be nearly as much need for skilled, experienced IT managers to keep an eye on what's left.
Most companies will still need developers and network managers and sysadmins and data-center managers and all the other nuts-and-bolts skills that keep the lights on and the hardware running.
In the seniority levels between them and the CIO -- those that weren't flattened, laid off or reorganized out of existence during the recession -- I'm not sure that will be true.