Managing IT has never been easy and yet, to a large degree, the challenges associated with managing IT are of our own making. That's why you hear a lot of talk about IT maturity models and the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) alongside the need for more agility in the IT organization -- essentially calls for more focus on the process of managing IT, rather than acquiring IT.
A difficult 2009 exposed a lot of fault lines within the IT organization. In particular, virtualization made obvious the inefficient use of hardware. We became cognizant not only all the money being spent on systems, but the small fortune spent powering and cooling these systems became a cause for shame at a time when companies were laying off workers. And while great progress was made on this front in the past year, there is still much to do in terms of rationalizing the number of applications that need to be supported and increasing the number of systems that each administrator can reasonably manage.
The economy promises to be more settled in 2010, but that hardly means returning to IT's old ways. If anything, it means managing IT will be more challenging than ever as the business as a whole wants to grow with few major investments. That means that IT organization will be asked to support an expanding number of business processes, while either continuing to reduce, or at least maintain, current levels of IT spending.
To accomplish that, IT organizations must focus more on process amid its traditional realm of products, people and process. Throwing products and people at it won't be an acceptable answer to any given problem. That means mastering IT automation tools that will allow the same number of people using the same amount of products to do more.
Industry analysts like to refer to this trend as increasing the maturity level of the IT organization. That's a nice way of saying companies need to bring more professional business management to their IT operations to get the most out of investments that for the past several years have been allowed to claim an increasing share of the overall corporate budget.
For the people in charge of those budgets, that means coming up with a plan that shows how they plan to become a whole lot more efficient so the rest of business can grow. Anything less won't meet expectations, which will almost certainly be followed swiftly by the usual draconian response from people that live and die by spreadsheets. So this is what business executives are really saying to IT managers in 2010: Grow up or get out.
You'll hear the same business mantra everywhere, so you might as well resolve to stay put and start maturing from where you are now, rather than going somewhere else to find the same set of problems.