Is continual change the enemy of IT value in a tough economy?

Businesses have been trying to use IT to deliver real value for more than 50 years. Each year sees changes both to the business itself and to the IT systems, but even given the pressures of global competition and the dramatic shifts in the economy, the rate of change in the business is dwarfed by the rate of change in the IT environment. I don’t believe anyone would argue that IT has delivered tremendous benefits to business year on year. So many manual tasks are now automated, and each new step forward from IT promises even more benefits.

But all these advances demand greater IT budgets and drive more churn within the business. So are we now reaching the point of diminishing returns on IT spend? Even though the promise of advancement is still there, is the state of the economy and the downwards pressure on every budget going to force more scrutiny on the value that each dollar of IT spend brings, and how IT truly affects the business? We can already see budgets being questions, projects being shelved, none of these being conducive to investigating new cutting edge technology, never mind investing and deploying it.This all seems to make a good case for stopping new spend, and paring the IT budget to simply maintaining what is already in place, and then looking for additional savings even beyond that.

It is likely the threat that the change demanded by IT will be seen as too disruptive and costly within the business, not the IT budget, but the wider costs of implementation. That could drive the pressure on IT more so than the absolute level of IT spend. Once this mindset sets in, the business may start to question other aspects of IT and the value it delivers, and soon IT will move from being an engine of growth and change in the business to being an absolute cost, a commodity tolerated and driven down to the bottom line.

In my view, what is likely to prevent this from happening is that very same business pain that is causing businesses to review spend anyway. Despite all the change and progress, every business still has tremendous inefficiencies, and will be receptive to the vision and potential for new business and reduced costs are presented to the business in a new IT project. This will be a risk for a business in this time, but all business is defined by risk. In anywhere there is a sure thing, the profit quickly removes itself from the picture, leaving just commoditization. The profit for a business exists where there is risk to be evaluated and exploited. The recent tsunami of change delivered by IT may look to be costly and disruptive, but in reality that change and disruption has been shown to be not just beneficial but necessary. This change should be presented as necessary to move businesses out of a downward spiral – standing still is no longer an option.

So what is this latest next step? There are of course many new products that can be evaluated, either by a business or by technology consultants but perhaps alongside a project looking to leverage technology to drive a more responsive and flexible business, such as perhaps Business Event Processing, there ought to be a combination with some SOA Governance. We have already established businesses need to control their costs. Why not therefore implement a solution that not only helps to review and control costs but also adds new value to the business by enhancing flexibility and helping to identify the core existing value within the infrastructure, across all stages of the lifecycle. Using this can drive down costs by helping to cut costs on technology at the end of life, but also demonstrate the continuing value of the infrastructure, and ensuring it is used according to business direction – something never before possible.

Change, it turns out, can be a good thing too.

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