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Andi Mann, chief technology advocate at Splunk, sees major changes afoot in how IT and business are aligning. Here, he shares his experiences working with CIOs and other IT leaders as they look to derive real business outcomes from the technology they use every day.
For years, IT professionals have been exhorted by their leaders, their colleagues, and assorted industry pundits to better connect IT to business goals. It's a core strategy many have neglected because they're locked away in data centers.
However, in the course of my business, I am starting to see an increase in the number of IT leaders using specific strategies to focus on deriving real business outcomes from the technology they use every day. The approaches they're trying include modernizing infrastructure, exploring ecommerce, and looking for opportunities with connected devices, mobile, wearables, and the sharing economy.
Traditionally, IT executives have focused on buying various components, such as servers, storage, and software from different vendors, assembling the pieces like a puzzle into their own systems, and hiring specialized staff to maintain the systems. With this model, the IT organization ends up spending more money than it should, and dedicating too much time, on an endless cycle of integration, configuration, tuning, and testing.
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As digital work environments become commonplace, forward-looking IT leaders are not content to sit back while a chief digital officer gets to own the company's modernization budget. Gartner forecasts worldwide IT spending will total $3.49 trillion at the end of 2016, a decline of 0.5% from 2015 spending of $3.5 trillion.
Instead, IT and non-IT leaders alike are choosing to spend on nontraditional digital and business technology solutions. Business technology buyers are actively finding ways to free up capital, invest in new technologies, and deploy new capabilities for new business opportunities. They're shifting investment toward modern, agile capabilities, such as cloud computing, sharing services, and bring your own device.
I'm seeing many traditional industries -- such as banking, insurance, and government -- adopting what I call "new IT" approaches to reduce capital expenditure, modernize systems, and free up budget for new business-relevant initiatives.
From where I sit, the "new IT" transition has not been easy. Poor visibility is perhaps the biggest challenge I see holding IT teams back from digital innovation. I'm talking about poor visibility into business goals, application delivery, technology operations, delivery costs, and how the customer is affected.
Visibility is further limited by new force-multipliers, such as the proliferation of user-driven applications, an increase in the number of connected systems, new automation tools, and adoption of serverless techniques like "X"-as-a-service and APIs.
Instead of trying in vain, like King Canute, to turn back this digital tide, "new IT" leaders are starting to accept this complexity and focus on improving visibility into their many disparate systems.