IT blueprint for 2005 

Supply chain, content management, storage, and wireless poised for a big year 

This week’s issue recognizes the smartest, most creative, and, well, coolest IT projects of 2004. But the InfoWorld 100 is more than simply another collection of well-meaning (and well-deserved) awards. It is also a blueprint -- a living document that provides real, useful editorial direction.

Here’s how it works: In addition to scrutinizing every project submitted for innovation, scope, and audacity, we analyze the kinds of solutions and technologies our readers are employing. And that analysis will be reflected in cover stories, issue themes, reviews, and columns throughout the next 12 months. To put it another way, if you’re doing it, we want to be writing about it.

So what themes jumped out this year? A quick gaze at our top seven honorees reveals a lot of innovation in the supply chain. In fact, many of the projects submitted were complete overhauls of paper-based processes. Our awards judges were also struck by the hefty number of content management projects, probably embarked upon in response to an explosion in corporate data and a bevy of new compliance regulations. Storage initiatives were another big winner, far outstripping last year’s entries, as organizations got serious about business continuity, lifecycle management, and a host of backup projects. Wireless and voice-dependent projects were also on the rise. Could it be that IT finally considers those technologies ready for prime time?

The big winner from last year’s InfoWorld 100 -- the enterprise portal -- continues to have legs, and integration projects (a perennial favorite) showed up with great frequency. Turning away from the technologies themselves, however, we also look to this tremendous pool of IT projects as an economic (if trailing) indicator: By calculating what IT departments spent on major initiatives in 2004, we can gauge their confidence in a potential recovery and get an idea of what budgets will look like moving forward.

Comparing this year’s budgets to those of previous InfoWorld 100 winners, it’s clear that financial prudence ruled the day in 2004. While $1 million to $10 million still seems to be a sweet spot for many projects, the rising number of initiatives costing less than $100,000 is conspicuous. Frugality plays a major role here; but it’s also true that hardware commoditization, open source software, code reuse, and outsourcing are allowing IT managers to get more bang for limited bucks.

Another big jump from previous years is the number of respondents who declined to disclose project budgets. According to many of our entrants, nondisclosure agreements with vendors account for some of these nonanswers. I suspect a growing concern for, and awareness of, privacy is another factor. Sounds like that too might make an interesting topic for InfoWorld coverage in 2005 and beyond.