The 12-fold path to IT bliss

To chart the way ahead, sometimes you have to step back and take stock of the really big picture

When people ask how IT is doing these days, I'm inclined to say, "Hey, not bad at all." By that I mean IT is faring well as an industry: As InfoWorld's Dan Tynan points out today in a quick item about the outlook for IT employment, life is good compared to the rest of the economy.

And yet IT faces serious challenges. The consumerization of IT -- a trend accelerated by Steve Jobs's ability to raise expectations about how easy technology should be to use -- has made business management and users even more impatient with long IT development cycles and lackluster applications.

[ Also check out 9 hot IT skills for 2012 and take a tour of Dan Tynan's nine circles of IT hell. | Keep up on the day's tech news with the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. ]

While the employment picture in the short term may be decent in many if not most companies, IT isn't seen as being terribly good at its job. To take one of many examples, check out this Geneca survey, in which a stunning 75 percent of project participants lack confidence that their software development projects will succeed. Over time, high operating costs and an inability to deliver workable solutions will inevitably result in IT becoming marginalized and even replaced by outside services.

You'll find no shortage of proposed cures for IT's ills. A couple of weeks ago I began pulling together good advice that has appeared on InfoWorld and elsewhere to see if I could synthesize it into a plan of action.

The result is the draft list below, divided loosely into two sections: one pertaining to management and another to technology adoption. You'll note that some of it applies only to larger organizations. Here are the six high-level management directives.

Rethink enterprise architecture: IT management must partner with business in establishing priorities and streamlining processes to focus technology investment and cut unnecessary costs.

Accelerate commoditization: IT needs to consolidate and scale non-strategic applications and create a standardized "service catalog" that supports self-service.

Plan for continuous disruption: Establish the architectures and technologies necessary for "extreme agility" in supporting strategic business initiatives that require rapid response.

Empower developers: Overly detailed and restrictive policies bring development to a halt; create feedback mechanisms to adjust policies and relax rules when data security is not at stake.

Build flatter organizations: Deconstruct old hierarchies and assemble cross-functional teams that foster innovation and creativity, with "frictionless sharing" of appropriate information.

Create a framework for consumerization: Rather than resist commercial cloud and mobile services, IT needs to get out in front and ensure they are secure and integrated.

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