Jan 26, 2003 (07:01 PM EST)
After The Slump

Read the Original Article at InformationWeek

Can we see the future clearly? Can we even see what's coming at us next month? Next quarter? What if you gathered many of the brightest minds in an industry and asked them to jot down their most educated ideas about what's to come? That would yield an issue such as the InformationWeek you have in your hands (or online), packed with insight and perspective directly from chiefs of the leading IT companies, well-known business-technology decision makers, and influential advisers. Rest assured, these folks aren't pulling out crystal balls or binoculars. They're going on the record with candid opinions and field-tested analysis of where the industry is headed, how business and technology priorities stack up, where problems still exist, and where the growth potential is.

We hope it will help guide you to successfully navigate the year ahead. You'll see a lot of bets being placed on Web services, open-source computing ("We're seeing Linux absolutely go over the moon," remarks Oracle CEO Larry Ellison), and real-time tools and strategies ("Successful companies ... will be those that have the information to make on-the-spot decisions around the world and around the clock," observes Ralph Szygenda, General Motors' group VP and CIO). You'll see a huge emphasis on business-process management--especially from the CIOs driving process changes within their organizations and from the technology companies supporting those strategies with software and services.

Wouldn't it be nice if a bell would ring indicating that the worst of the downturn is over? Alas, no one's going on record saying that the oft-debated recovery is in full force. Which puts these industry leaders in good company: yours. While a minority of organizations plan to increase IT spending this year, more than half of the organizations polled by InformationWeek are requiring business-technology managers to match or exceed 2002's achievements with fewer investment dollars. (That has a familiar ring to it, doesn't it?)

Yet some things are looking up. In the following pages, you'll hear from company leaders who are rocket-boosting their R&D investments, finding new ways to innovate, cultivating their companies' cultures and employee morale despite the downturn, and constantly striving for new ways to improve customer relationships. In many ways, reuniting growth and innovation in this industry is extraordinarily complex and challenging at a time when many people have low risk tolerance and slimmer IT budgets. But IBM CEO Sam Palmisano sums it up quite succinctly: "The next trillion dollars of IT investment will come from something basic: reorienting the IT industry around the needs of the customer."

What you won't see in the pages that follow is agreement on issues such as legacy systems, consolidation, and best-of-breed approaches to building a technology architecture. Overall, however, I think you'll walk away with a sense of optimism from today's IT leaders. Of course, as HP CEO Carly Fiorina notes, "optimism doesn't mean lack of realism or pragmatism." You'll also walk away with a clear message that if you haven't already begun to prepare for the turnaround, you'd better get started. "Innovate or stagnate," warns Dell CIO Randy Mott. "It's important that companies recognize that the economic recovery will one day be characterized by steady growth, as opposed to the fits and starts of last year," notes Randolph Blazer, CEO of BearingPoint. "Companies ought to position themselves for the turnaround."

One thing we can see clearly: the linkage between IT and competitive business value and productivity hasn't been fully reached, and the year ahead offers a tremendous opportunity to get closer to that goal.

Stephanie Stahl, Editor (sstahl@cmp.com) and Rusty Weston, Editor/Research/informationweek.com (rweston@cmp.com)