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OUTLOOK 2013 - ILLUSTRATION: Skip Sterling

2013 IT outlook: Innovation trumps cost-cutting

IT leaders have talked for years about the need to better align IT with the business objectives. Now there's a sense of urgency.

By , Network World
January 02, 2013 06:03 AM ET

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Business collaboration is imperative. Kaufman of Supplies Network says "we avoid silos in decision-making, so business executives aren't off making technical decisions on their own. It's a key aspect of my role to understand their needs and to provide them with the right IT solution whether it's in the public or private cloud."

Likewise, Christus Health has processes in place to deal with the pull of rogue IT projects, says CIO George Conklin.

"We have organizational commitment to governance over IT that reduces the probability that someone will go off on their own without engaging my folks to ensure we are doing the right things," Conklin says. "We have done a lot to educate people and have a governance structure in place that ensures [any SaaS or cloud services] are thoroughly vetted and part of the plan," Conklin says.

Kevin Christ, senior director of Alvarez & Marsal Business Consulting, suggests it's a better use of IT's time and energy to guide business users who want a say in IT than it is to try to stop them from being involved in purchasing decisions. With BYOD, for example, most CIOs have thrown in the towel and moved on to focus on managing the attendant security, performance and access considerations, he notes.

"Increased business involvement is a positive trend as long as it does not lead to complete exclusion of the IT function," Christ says. "IT shops that are seen as value-added are rarely left out of the decision. The IT shop that is viewed as enabling is usually consulted, while the IT shop that is an inhibitor often faces the end-run."

Finding the talent

One of the biggest barriers to IT innovation is talent. On the bright side, the jobs picture is healthy.

Seventeen percent of CIOs said they plan to expand their IT departments in the first quarter of 2013, which is nearly double the number (9%) who were planning increases in the fourth quarter of 2012, reports Robert Half Technology.

Companies have resumed hiring and expanding their workforces as the economy has shown signs of improving, but the mood remains one of cautious optimism, says Jack Cullen, president of IT staffing specialist Modis.

The biggest issue is how the tax burden for companies might change this year. But that uncertainty, while a concern, so far isn't halting hiring. "Companies need to continue to hire. There's still a backlog," Cullen says.

Finding the talent remains a challenge, however. More than half (63%) of the CIOs polled by Robert Half said it's challenging to find skilled professionals today. The skill sets in greatest demand are: database management, cited by 48% of CIOs, network administration (47%), and web development/website design (33%).

"Hiring has been a challenge [in 2012], especially in virtualization, SAN and programming," says Kaufman of Supplies Network. "We focus on hiring self-motivated employees who are strong problem solvers. If they're not quite where we want them to be technically, we absolutely will invest in training to get the right person prepared for the job," Kaufman says.

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