2 | 2014

"Like all issues of CBR, each IT trends issue gives you an up-to- the-moment look at the 'vital signs' of the industry. But more importantly, because we are able to look at how signs change over time, every year each IT trends issue just keeps getting smarter and smarter."

-- Joseph Feller, Editor

Real estate people say that only three things matter: location, location, and location. In abstract terms, I suppose this is true for most business decision makers, albeit with a twist. I believe that to make solid decisions -- both strategic and operational -- we need to know (1) where we've been (past location), (2) where we are (current location), and (3) where we want to be (future location).

In other words, we don't just need to know location -- points in space -- we need to understand trajectory -- the lines between the points.

Most issues of Cutter Benchmark Review analyze fresh data focused primarily on "where we are" in relation to a new technology or set of business practices. This is a necessary precursor to "trajectory" thinking, and is a very valuable resource to our readers (who can take this picture of the state of the industry and then fill in the blanks with their own organization's past experience and future intentions).

However, some issues of CBR can deliver more than that, drawing a "bigger picture" by looking not just at the current state of the industry, but also at how it has changed over time. You are reading one such issue right now.

This is CBR's ninth annual IT trends issue. For nearly a decade we've gathered and analyzed data across a broad range of IT topics: analytics, IT spending, hiring and outsourcing, IT's role in innovation and value creation, social media, mobile computing, the cloud, security, and so on. Like all issues of CBR, each IT trends issue gives you an up-to-the-moment look at the "vital signs" of the industry. But more importantly, because we are able to look at how signs change over time, every year each IT trends issue just keeps getting smarter and smarter.

That last sentence is perhaps a bit misleading, since data on its own is neither smart nor dumb. What I mean, of course, is that year over year our analyses reveal increasingly more insight, and that's due not just to the availability of longitudinal data, but to the experience and knowledge of our contributing authors (one from academia and the other from industry). It is my pleasure to introduce them now.

Our first author, in the academic corner, is Dennis Adams, a Cutter Senior Consultant who has worked in higher education for over three decades in the areas of information systems, leadership, entrepreneurship, and strategy. Dennis is uniquely suited to leverage the longitudinal nature of the CBR trends data, having acted as our academic author for the annual series since the very beginning. His particular research work investigating business leadership, the value of IT, and related topics, has been highly influential.

Dennis kicks off with an anecdote that resonates with my own experiences of late, highlighting the increasingly security-aware mindset of today's organizations. He then examines our survey data regarding data analytics, discussing the shift we are witnessing from customer-focused to financial-focused analytics activity and advising that wise managers will embrace analytics in both the back and front offices. Dennis then turns to the data on hiring and outsourcing, providing a very useful and detailed account of what this year's data says about the skills wish list emerging in IT. He next explores how we spend our money (and where we see the best ROI) in terms of three key types of IT: systems that make money, systems that save money, and systems that simply keep us compliant with regulatory obligations. Dennis wraps up by returning to the issue of security, closing with the sound advice that we must stop viewing security as a fire to be fought, and instead start managing and evaluating it as just another key part of our IT portfolio.

Our second author, in the practitioner corner, is Jim Love. Jim, the CIO at IT World Canada and a Senior Consultant with Cutter Consortium's Business Technology Strategies practice, examines our trends data through the lens of more than three decades of professional experience. Cutter subscribers know Jim well through his many Executive Updates, Executive Reports, Advisors, and Cutter IT Journal articles exploring emerging IT trends, collaboration, and relationship management. Jim joined us last year for his first contribution to our annual IT trends issue. I guess he enjoyed it because this year he has come back for more, offering us another straight-talking and practical contribution.

Jim opens his article by looking at the hiring data in our survey, reporting good news. It appears that the optimism we've seen returning to the industry over the past year or two is continuing. Like Dennis, he takes a very close look at the skill set we intend to hire over the near future. Much of his analysis examines areas obviously critical to contemporary organizations but which appear to be underrepresented in terms of hiring intention (security, networking, and business intelligence), offering some excellent food for thought. Dennis then tackles a number of topics, including outsourcing, cloud/APIs, user experience, analytics, social computing, mobility, architecture, and more. In each section, he pays particular attention to the shifts between last year and this year, helping reveal the trajectory that is so critical to strategic decision making.

So without further ado, let's have a closer look at the current state of play, brought into focus by the past, but always with one eye planted firmly on the future.