Why the New Normal Could Kill IT

By Thomas Wailgum, CIO |  IT Management

Plenty of seismic shifts have rocked and reshaped IT in the past. Some big rumblings' epicenters had origins in an unstoppable technology shift; other fissures had nothing to do with PCs and servers. Consider the recent shocks: the Internet revolution and dotcom bust; Y2K and 9/11; the consumerization of IT; and the unstoppable broadband and mobile explosion.

However, the latest shock--the global financial meltdown--is like the recent 8.8 earthquake that shook Chile and knocked the earth off its axis. And for IT leaders today, it's important to realize that the aftershocks are still coming.

First off, here's what happened: Things haven't gotten necessarily more technologically complex as of late. Sure, Web-based computing, the "data, data everywhere" phenomenon and IT consumer trends have made IT's life tricky. But they aren't exactly breaking news anymore.

No, this all started on Wall Street, spread across financial markets and propagated pandemic-style to the general public. The subsequent global financial meltdown and Great Recession forced companies to scrutinize and examine factors that once never saw the light of day. For IT, in particular, a harsh light finally glared on unfavorable licensing agreements and much-too-much shelfware; ill-conceived purchasing and integration strategies; and questionable software married to entrenched business processes. And non-IT executives seated at the boardroom table were more than likely horrified by what they found during closer inspection of IT's operations.

In many corners of the corporate HQ, in fact, there are plenty of execs who, from time to time, would probably take pleasure in watching IT fail, a la Lehman Brothers. This most recent inspection of IT's ledgers and strategy probably amplified that feeling.

But those frustrated executives are nearly powerless to do just that--to let IT fail. That's because the modern-day IT shop--a fiefdom that has long wielded influence even though it suffered from a perception of little business competence--has become too big to fail today. Let IT keel over, and watch everything you hold dear go to hell. Just try it.

Why is that? Look at ERP systems, for instance. These are the financial, administrative and procurement backbone of every organization. ERP spend gobbles up huge chunks of the corporate allocation pie.

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