IT Trends in 2013: A Fresh Spring Perspective

You are here

January 2013
In This Issue:

"No matter what goals your company has set or planned for 2013 -- a clean end game for an ongoing set of initiatives, an accelerated start for new ones, radical changes, or battening down the hatches -- now is the time to take stock and turn plans into action."

-- Joseph Feller, Editor

Welcome to another year of Cutter's quarterly Cutter Benchmark Review. I'm in an introspective mode this week, so bear with me for a paragraph or two and I promise I'll get to the point.

I like the start of spring. On a literal, physical level, the reason is simple: sunshine. Winters in the south of Ireland are hardly those of northern Sweden, but they are still dark and gloomy -- and long. I go to work in the dark and I come home in the dark. Then March changes things; suddenly, someone turns on the lights and Ireland wakes up, all green fields and lambs and daffodils. It's the Ireland that the tourist board wants you to imagine.

Psychologically, metaphorically, the reason is the same. This is the time of year when my brain comes out of hibernation. Januarys are full of resolve -- setting goals and making plans. Februarys are (I'm embarrassed to say) characterized by false starts, harsh reality checks, and frantic renegotiations. But then March and the start of spring comes along and everything is different. This new season sheds a little light on everything. It's when I can put things into perspective and start to see things clearly -- from all angles.

And that is, of course, the whole point behind Cutter Benchmark Review. This journal exists so you can stop guessing about what your peers -- suppliers, customers, allies, and competitors -- are doing and thinking, and clearly see the answer in our "fresh from the field" survey data. More than that, CBR is about getting a variety of perspectives -- looking at the data not just through your own eyes, but also through the eyes of experts (one from academia and the other from industry) who come to the data with a different set of experiences, assumptions, and insights from your own.

So simply put, that's our mission: to shed a little light on things.

That is particularly the case for this issue, our annual IT trends issue (now in its eighth year). While other installments of CBR dig deep into a continually changing selection of specific subjects, the annual trends issue takes a more holistic approach, giving us a broad view of what's happening in the field across a wide variety of topics. This annual installment also provides an historical perspective, as the survey stays largely consistent from year to year.

It's a winning formula: figure out where we're coming from, understand where we are, and take a moment to think through where we should be going and how to get there. No matter what goals your company has set or planned for 2013 -- a clean end game for an ongoing set of initiatives, an accelerated start for new ones, radical changes, or battening down the hatches -- now is the time to take stock and turn plans into action. To help us do that, this issue of CBR provides us interesting data with two compelling perspectives from our authors.

First up, we have our academic author, Dennis Adams. Dennis is an Associate Professor in the Department of Decision and Information Sciences in the C.T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston and has served as our academic voice for the annual trends issue since the beginning. As well as contributing frequently to Cutter's journals, his work on business leadership, the value of IT, and related topics has been widely published and well received by both the research and practitioner communities.

In last year's CBR trends issue, the survey revealed a fairly stable IT environment, which Dennis greeted with optimism; it was a welcome change from the free fall of the previous few years. This year's survey also shows a more or less steady state of affairs. However, there is a thin line between stable and stalled, and this time around Dennis takes, on the whole, a more conservative view. His article begins by raising some compelling points about discrepancies between last year's hiring plans and this year's reality, and about hiring projections going forward. He also draws our attention to a renewed pragmatism in hiring priorities (as Dennis puts it, firms are focusing on "developing and delivering applications that might generate revenue or cut costs rather than those items that, although important, don't directly contribute to the bottom line") and to the changing profile of outsourcing practices. He then turns his attention to three key IT trends (analytics, cloud computing, and engaging with "the crowd"), before concluding with a short discussion of the externalities and environmental factors that shape our business strategies, models, and operations. As always, Dennis punctuates his analysis of each topic with some direct and useful advice directed at the "wise manager."

Our second article, giving us the practitioner's perspective, comes from Jim Love, a Senior Consultant with Cutter's Business Technology Strategies practice and CEO of Chelsea Consulting. Jim has over three decades of industry experience to share with us. His valuable insights into emerging IT trends, collaboration, and managing relationships with both customers and IT staff are well known to Cutter readers through his many Executive Updates, Executive Reports, Advisors, and contribution to Cutter's journals. This was my first opportunity to work with Jim and I am grateful for his straightforward and very practical contribution to the issue.

Like Dennis, Jim kicks off with a look at the survey's hiring and outsourcing data (although he takes a more optimistic position on the matter). It's not just the fact that the majority of respondents have stable or growth plans for 2013 hiring that catches his eye; rather it's who they are hiring. Using both the survey data and a mix of anecdotes from the field, Jim paints a picture of an industry simultaneously getting back to the basics (hiring the "holy trinity" of developers, business analysts, and project managers and investing in enterprise architecture) as well as looking forward to the challenges of mobility, next-generation business intelligence, and the cloud. He follows up with some provocative analysis and advice about SaaS and other *aaS phenomena, the coming of age of social networking and mobility, BYOD policies, and related trends. Sticking with my spring theme, there is no doubt that Jim is throwing open the windows, shaking everything out, and taking stock of where we stand.

I have no doubt that this issue's survey data, along with the wealth of insight in both articles, will help us achieve our goal of "shedding a little light on things." To reinforce such matters, in my conclusion later in this issue I'll throw in my two cents and share what I see to be the key takeaways and action points from this issue. I'm sure you'll have many more of your own to add.

What you do next is, of course, up to you. But whatever your plans, you have my best wishes for a clear vision and wild success for the remainder of 2013.

ABOUT THE EDITOR

No matter what goals your company has set or planned for 2013 -- a clean end game for an ongoing set of initiatives, an accelerated start for new ones, radical changes, or battening down the hatches -- now is the time to take stock and turn plans into action. To help us do that, this issue of CBR provides us interesting data with two compelling perspectives from our authors.