Thornton May: IT needs to plan for what comes between now and later

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That middle time period, the meso-future, is too often ignored by management teams

To be sustainably successful, enterprises have to manage the technologies of now, the technologies of next and the technologies of later. Of those, "now" and "later" get a lot of attention. Every organization understands the current period budget (though perhaps they aren't delighted with it). And most organizations have a vision of how they want the enterprise to look in the distant future, 60 months out or more.

But very few enterprises are masters of the technologies needed for the critically important middle period, the meso-future. The meso-future occupies a no-man's land that's outside both the current period budget and the imagined future end state. This time horizon, lying three to five years out from now, is where IT heroes are created and competitive advantage is born, which means it shouldn't be so frequently ignored by management teams.

Geoffrey A. Moore, author of Escape Velocity: Free Your Company's Future From the Pull of the Past, likens IT's three-pronged management task to agriculture. Farmers must "simultaneously harvest the current crop, till the ground for next season, and investigate new crops for the future." But not enough organizations invest in tilling the ground for the next crop of high-value technologies.

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