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From IT to ET: Cloud, consumerization, and the next wave of IT transformation

By Johna Till Johnson
April 23, 2012 07:32 AM ET

Network World - IT as we know it is over.

That's hardly a new observation. It was most notably made in 2003, in a now-famous Harvard Business Review article by pundit Nicholas Carr called "IT Doesn't Matter." The gist of Carr's argument: IT has become a commodity, like electricity. It's no longer a sustainable differentiator (when was the last time you heard a company brag that it did a better job than a competitor because it had "better electricity"?).

And, according to Carr, the management of IT is therefore withering into a simple discipline of risk-management and cost-optimization. IT managers should no longer worry about delivering cutting-edge solutions that make their companies more effective -- they should stick to the knitting of minimizing costs and risks from services that are increasingly procured as outsourced (utility) services. In other words, IT organizations are effectively on the same level as janitorial services -- necessary maintenance, but hardly innovators.

Predictably enough, Carr's article launched plenty of debate.

Nicholas Carr: The Internet is hurting our brains

On the one hand, the rise in outsourced, hosted, and cloud services would seem to indicate that Carr's correct. Over 90% of IT organizations use some form of managed, hosted, or cloud services.

But here's what Carr missed. Yes, IT -- at least as we've known it for approximately 25 years -- is indeed transforming. But far from becoming a commodity, technology is more important than ever. Businesses, schools, and governments desperately need tech-savvy managers who can innovate quickly, operationalize effectively, and keep their organizations competitive. In other words, IT is being replaced by "enterprise technology" (ET): Technology that's no longer confined to offices and office workers, but is embedded throughout the enterprise.

ET, in a nutshell, is the combination of technologies that enables embedded, networked, intelligence. It includes a range of wireless/mobile technologies (from smartphones to wireless sensor networks); display and form-factor technologies (organic LEDs, miniaturization, enhanced battery technologies); next-generation computing (such as quantum computing); and last but not least, so-called big data, which includes vastly improved data-mining and data-analytics capabilities that enable the enterprise to rapidly and efficiently sift through the increasing flow of real-time data to uncover actionable information.

From MIS to IT to ET

Some historical perspective: When computers were first introduced into businesses in the 1950s and 1960s, they revolutionized the back office. By automating repetitive processes, mainframe computers (and the software ecosystems that grew up around them) were able to accelerate data processing in ways that were, at the time, unheard of. Functions like accounting and payroll were revolutionized. The management of information services (MIS) became a specialized discipline focused on operationalizing this technology: ensuring that systems were reliable and scalable and otherwise bulletproof.

Originally published on www.networkworld.com. Click here to read the original story.
Reprinted with permission from NetworkWorld.com. Story copyright 2012 Network World, Inc. All rights reserved.
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