Restructuring your company's technology systems is like trying to repaint San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, says Gartner analyst Dale Vecchio: By the time the crew reaches the far side of the bridge, it's time to start all over again. "Most IT organizations seem to be engaged in a never-ending task of IT renewal," writes Vecchio, Gartner Research vice president and author of "IT Modernization: The Changing of the Guard," a new report. Vecchio writes that the complexity of evolving infrastructure and delivery mechanisms demands a greater focus on enterprise architecture than ever before.
"This never-ending cycle of renewal would not be an issue if it was achieving the goals set for IT by the business: simple, effective solutions delivered at an acceptable cost that can be quickly modified to meet changing business demands," he writes. In a February modernization report, Gartner found that by 2010, more than one-third of all application projects will be driven by the need to deal with the obsolescence of either technology or skills.
Gartner lists the following current IT demands:
- increased access to new constituents beyond the walls of the enterprise;
- improved decision-making through higher-level data mining;
- expansion of content beyond traditional accounting functions; and
- responsiveness to the ever-changing dynamics of business and technological possibilities.
In the February 2008 report, "What the CIO should know and do about IT modernization," authors Andy Kyte and Vecchio wrote that:
- with vendor consolidation on the rise and the reduction of the need for legacy-based technology skills, IT teams are in a potentially hazardous situation;
- the focus on short-term initiatives causes many management teams to lose the capability to plan for long-term IT projects;
- modernization often demands bold strategic planning; and
- urgent action is advised to scope the problem and to acquire or develop new planning skills to drive the IT agenda in the future.
"IT modernization requires a substantial culture change in the IT organization, and in the relationship between business users and IT," Vecchio and Kyte wrote in the February report. To remedy the enterprise-modernization dilemmas, Gartner says management teams must first address:
- The agility gap: Organizations must match business-user demands with IT management responsiveness.
- Technology obsolescence/opportunity: As technology becomes more innovative, organizations must recognize the risks of keeping legacy and obsolete applications.
- The skills crisis: According to Gartner, 25 percent to 30 percent of enterprise employees with legacy skills will be eligible to retire in the next three years. The pending retirement of the baby boomers will greatly impact the application systems and the evolution and implementation of new technology.
- Portfolio diversity: Be aware of supplemental costs due to acquisitions, mergers, and internal reorganization.
To face the changing demands, Gartner recommends remaining responsive to changing dynamics and growing business possibilities. "If the path were easy, every enterprise would have done it by now," Vecchio says.