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At the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in San Francisco on Monday, a series of Gartner analysts put out the call for information technology heroes -- those IT pros willing to reject mediocrity and embrace innovation.
Innovation is in short supply inside corporate IT organizations, according to Gartner VP Steve Prentice. "IT is a stagnant and declining market," he lamented, laying the blame at the industry's absence of ambition.
To illustrate his point, he made an example of Sprint's marketing. No longer does Sprint advertise call quality, as it did with its "pin-drop" commercials. Now the telecom company's message is that it has the fewest dropped calls.
In plainer terms, Sprint's ad copy might read, "We suck less than the rest."
"What kind of message is that?" Prentice complained. "Have we become so satisfied with mediocrity?"
We have, according to Prentice.
And the consequence of that complacency was made clear by Gartner research director Sandy Shen, who predicted the rise of China not just as a manufacturing power but as an innovator. "They could be the ones that come and eat your lunch," she warned.
Behind her, the projected image of a menacing dragon emphasized that point.
That's to say nothing of India, which receives some 80% of the global spending on IT outsourcing, according to Gartner. Other nations are rising, too. The competition will only get more intense.
In order to respond, organizations will have to innovate. And that isn't easy when IT today focuses on control. "Most IT organizations can't deliver new value because their DNA is fundamentally about control," said Gartner fellow Jennifer Beck.
Asking a question that she had already answered to her own satisfaction, Beck mused, "Are we predicting the demise of the conventional IT organization?" She paused for a moment before concluding, "Yes."
The road to redemption lies in service rather than technology. "Users don't care about which database you use," said Beck.
Make technology friendly and make it work, brands be damned, was the message of the morning. "Insulate users from technology, don't isolate them from it," said Gartner fellow Daryl Plummer.
And network architecture needs to reflect a service orientation, too. It has to be flexible to accommodate new and changing services. "The winning companies will be the ones that deliver the best service," Plummer said.
Toward the end of the keynote, Gartner fellow Mark Raskino called the entire proceeding into question with a quote from George Bernard Shaw.
"The golden rule is there are no golden rules," Raskino said, which he followed with a challenge to go forth and innovate.
Presumably, Gartner clients get a bit more guidance.