After I made my case for IT consolidation -- in sum, that it will be unavoidable, necessary, painful, sweeping, and marvelous -- I got e-mail from InfoWorld readers and from fellow journalists asking me when it would happen. For some, if it isn’t happening now, it isn’t worth paying attention to. I’m supposed to be ahead of the curve, but those who resist my crystal-ball gazing have a point. What effects of consolidation can we see right now?
Start with people. I believe that an interesting phenomenon presages, perhaps even models, the way technology consolidation will play out. PATH’sOdedNoy, a member of InfoWorld CTO Advisory Council, put a point on it for me in the hallway at CTO Forum. He noted that far fewer people were at the conference, but that our smaller numbers was a good thing because the attendees were talking with one another. He also noted a greater proportion of women in attendance than usual.
Oded is right. CTO Forum is always a worthwhile conference for me, but this year’s stood out. It was an intensely thoughtful and collaborative gathering. The best way I can summarize it is that everybody came to work. It was not a junket or a perk for anyone I met. As for Oded’s observation about the greater participation of women, it’s certainly accurate, but I’m not qualified to interpret it. I hope it means that consolidation is knocking down some arbitrary cultural barriers in addition to the technical ones.
The economy gets most of the blame for job cuts, with corporate greed and lack of regard for workers cited as other explanations. In a way, these reasons are a cover, just surface reasons for consolidation. The unacknowledged rationale for consolidation is one that experienced businesspeople and technologists have understood all along: Consolidation is good. The periodic housecleaning of human and technical middleware doesn’t count; that’s usually just for show. And some cuts made early in the recession were perhaps reckless. But in all of the cases with which I’m familiar, later culling was done more carefully and purposefully. For what it’s worth, this thinned herd at CTO Forum was noticeably stronger.
CTO Forum is a good external example. But turning inward, I’m moved to look at my own management. It is a mark of stature in IT to roll your eyes, doodle, yawn or -- worst of all -- check your e-mail during gatherings of corporate executives. Whomever is sent in to fly IT’s flag at these meetings is expected to regale the technical staff with cynical jokes about empty suits and wasted time. Recently, I shifted gears so abruptly that co-workers remarked on it. I became interested in the pie charts, research statistics, and sales trends that used to put me to sleep. It certainly helps that I’m now grown-up enough to sit still and listen. But I don’t think an executive could get away with presenting the same slide deck at the Q1 and Q2 quarterly meetings. If he or she did, there would be an empty seat for the Q3 gathering.