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IT -- from pinch hitter to player

At the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in San Francisco Monday, Gartner said successful IT staffs have to contribute to growth, not just enable operations.

SAN FRANCISCO -- At the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in San Francisco Monday, analysts Ken McGee and Daryl Plummer discussed the current and future state of IT, and the next big decisions facing IT professionals in 2005 and 2006.

Gartner said the role of the folks in and around the data center is shifting -- from one in which they work simply to ensure the nuts and bolts are working properly, to one in which they help decide what the nuts and bolts are going to be and how they should be deployed going forward.

According to McGee, CIOs are once again at a crossroads trying to figure out a clear role for their IT infrastructure in this evolving new business environment. IT departments that come through with deliverables, such as streamlining business operations and contributing to revenue growth, Gartner refers to as "contributing organizations." Though McGee considers less than 10% of IT staffs worldwide contributing organizations, it's a trend Gartner sees as on the upswing, and one that forward-thinking IT professionals need to consider in the next 18 months.

"An enabling organization is told about the merger that's about to take place. A contributing organization is at the table helping to decide whether that merger should take place," McGee said during the keynote address.

It's no secret that one of the major areas where IT staffs can contribute to revenue growth is by streamlining the data center. Plummer said companies stuck pouring capital into dated applications are hurting their chance to make the data center more cost effective and agile, and are making it difficult for IT to integrate with the rest of the company's business agenda.

"Stop investing in old applications infrastructure," Plummer told attendees. "We've been sticking money for implementation, maintenance and upgrades of the same application resources year after year after year, and we haven't been able to use that money to invest in things that might be more efficient for us and get us to where we want to go."

Harcharan Dillon, a network operations manager for State Compensation Insurance Fund in San Francisco, agreed with Gartner's take on the changing role of IT. Dillon said it's especially critical for customer-oriented businesses that rely heavily on its IT staff to deliver technology in a landscape where change occurs often.

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Though not every company leans on its IT staff as much as it should, Dillon said the ones that do had better link the goings on in their data center with the rest of their plans, or risk a slow but fairly certain extinction.

"IT and the business have to work together. That trend is very visible now," Dillon said. "That integration is very important … they have to align in a way that they can achieve their objectives, and those companies that don't, will be left behind."

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Luke Meredith, News Writer

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