Management must-dos in 2009

* 2009: The year of must-have management-focused IT projects

There comes a time when a nice-to-have tool evolves into a must-have technology. 2009 marks the year that several management-focused IT projects will move from the nice-to-have to the must-have column on network managers' checklists.

"IT departments are going to find that mostly due to the economy that they will be forced to do many things they should have been doing all along," says Glenn O'Donnell, senior analyst with Forrester Research. "Process improvements, advanced automation and other projects will be pushed up to the top of many lists."

For instance, companies once considering best practices frameworks such as ITIL could focus IT's attention on process improvements -- which some say will deliver benefits without requiring capital investment. ITIL and other frameworks such as COBIT, Six Sigma and ISO do require large time and staff investments, but not as many budget dollars.

"Process -- or the lack of it -- is what is really killing IT. The way things are still done in a sloppy fashion is inefficient; it wastes money and trust me there isn't a CIO out there that can tolerate any wasted money," O'Donnell says. "IT leaders will realize this is a time to mature processes and prove IT can become more efficient in a down economy."

Another area that will garner more interest from IT management is software-as-a-service (SaaS). And industry watchers argue IT managers might be pressed to experiment with the hosted delivery model for their management applications in 2009 when budgets are stretched too thin. With little upfront costs and virtually no maintenance, SaaS could help deliver the benefits of IT management applications without any of the headaches, industry watchers say.

"Anything to do with SaaS will be hot in 2009," says Jasmine Noel, founder and principal analyst at Ptak, Noel & Associates. "It may be shocking what SaaS does to the market in terms of the purchasing perspective. It might force a lot of vendors to change how they deliver software and how they incorporate processes into SaaS. I don't think people will stop buying software altogether, but there will be a shift and SaaS will drive that."

Lastly, automation technology that has been on the minds of many for years could become a reality in IT shops in 2009. Every management vendor in 2008 made management a priority, but the need to reduce manual effort with smaller staffs and less money will drive more IT buyers to purchasing such technologies.

"Even though there is a spending freeze in most organizations, automation is still a pretty high priority for 2009," says Andi Mann, research director at Enterprise Management Associates. "During the first half of 2009, as unpleasant as it is, many in IT will be looking to cut budgets via headcount reduction, and automation for better or for worse is a tool that lets you do that."

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