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Is 2011 the year where technology drives IT strategy?

by Mark P. McDonald  |  September 28, 2010  |  4 Comments

This question came up in a discussion with a CIO and their IT strategist. They raised the point after we talked about the impact of new ‘lightweight’ technologies on IT such s virtualization, cloud computing and social media. These and other technologies can have a profound impact on IT services, economics, resources and strategy,

Their idea was that it a focus on technology may be the best way IT to create value in the coming year. The shift to ‘foundational’ technologies in 2011 would give IT a stronger position to create business value in the future,

They pointed out the past, technology change often drove IT strategy for example the move from batch to online, online to client server, etc. Those investments were strategic to IT and transformational to the business.

The strategist commented that there was precedence for making this move as past technology waves required IT to exchange immediate business projects for longer term technical capability. The strategist agreed that they had not faced this choice in almost 10 years when they dropped everything to concentrate on the Internet. They pointed that back then a technology intensive IT strategy served the company well, so why not now.

The clincher in their mind was the observation that the company would probably not ask for much from IT in 2011 as demand for new solutions was down in the face of the recession. More cost cutting, yes, but the business was not signaling that there would be a major business initiative in the coming year.

The strategist has a point in that new technologies and service models are changing the foundation and underpinnings for IT. The move from IT functions, to solutions and now to services reflects a major change in the way IT works that will require CIOs and leaders to prepare.

At the same time, IT seems to be turning the corner in terms of its business relevance and importance as economic conditions stabilize, business demand for IT returns and IT has a backlog of issues to deal with. A shift back to a technology focus at this time seems inappropriate given the progress to date and challenges facing the future. However, realizing much of this opportunity requires changing the IT model as current organizational structures, techniques and approaches are losing their effectiveness.

What is your opinion? The obvious answer is that you need to do both, but what if doing both causes you to be mediocre in both rather than really good in one or the other. Lets use that idea as a constraint, as you only have the resources to be excellent in one area. So you have to make an either or decision, what you recommend and why? Do I lay down the technology foundation for the future now or do I muddle through and deliver the business solutions required by the business as it takes the turn out of recession.

Category: strategy  

Tags: 2011-planning  business-strategy  it-strategy  strategy  strategy-and-planning  technology-leadership  

Mark P. McDonald
GVP EXP
8 years at Gartner
24 years IT industry

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a former group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs. He is the co-author of The Social Organization with Anthony Bradley. Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Is 2011 the year where technology drives IT strategy?


  1. Bruce says:

    Absolutely! This is indeed the tipping point between not only technology generations but also between the baby boomers (like me) and the Gen Y and X’s. As more X and Y’s infiltrate the ranks of corporate America, the technical bar is raised to levels never seen before in the enterprise. We (here) have desktop virtualization in the labs and ready to roll out so we can deliver traditional Windows and Office anywhere, anytime and on any device. Even traditional projects like BI are turned sideways by new technology. We’re not in Kansas any more.

  2. 100% agree. After the cost-cutting craze and project outsourcing catastrophes of the past decade, finally IT becomes exciting again. What I see over here in Europe is a surprising trend towards insourcing of certain activities, especially development teams. The IT infrastructure is being increasingly outsourced, though (virtualisation); however, security concerns are quickly raising and I expect that companies will look for an alternative concept for strategic corporate data (instead of effectively publishing everything on the global cloud).

  3. […] McDonald at Gartner writes; (emphasis mine) The strategist has a point in that new technologies and service models are […]

  4. […] goals. And that can include the tactical decisions you make to support those goals.Mark McDonald at Gartner writes; (emphasis mine)The strategist has a point in that new technologies and service models are […]



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