IT Managers Are Mediocre

Larry Dignan of ZDNet blogged about the sad state of corporate IT. He mentioned a speech from Gartner analyst, Steve Prentice:

“This industry is in danger of becoming one of failure. We’ve come to accept mediocrity as the norm. It’s not a lack of technology or skills. The problem comes down to a lack of vision.”

His key reasons included:

  • Consolidation in the hardware and software markets is slowing innovation and managers are just waiting around for upgrades.
  • Technology managers aren’t innovating, their waiting for their Enterprise software upgrades and CEOs want innovation.
  • India is leading the way on innovation now.
  • Technology is getting consumerized, but most companies are trying put up higher walls to block out IM clients, wikis, Google apps, etc.
  • Software as a service is going to dominate, but corporations try to just keep buying enterprise solutions that have to be installed, customized, and maintained in-house.
  • Green IT matters.
  • CIOs that focus on the status quo and just keeping existing systems up and running will be replaced.
  • Legacy systems just keep growing. This piles on complexity with difficult to maintain applications.

It’s a long list and despite the need to take anything from Gartner with a large grain of salt it fits with my past and present experiences. The basic message is corporate IT is largely content to tread water. The pattern is:

  • Keep your current systems up and running.
  • Continue to build out your legacy mainframe or client server applications because it’s easier than thinking about how to wall them off and gradually replace them with newer, more maintainable systems.
  • You put your trust in big Enterprise vendors and then wait years between updates paying expensive maintenance fees every year. And when you buy new servers you can double your costs overnight with per core and per processor licensing schemes.
  • Try to keep your users from using any software outside the firewall, slamming them with the security club until they submit. Smaller, newer companies are able to get up and running at a small fraction of the cost. They don’t let security trump all efficiency arguments.

The good news is there’s still plenty of time to reverse the trend and the end users may well force the issue much as they did with PCs and web.