Michael Fleisher

AGE: 37

CLAIM TO FAME: Took Gartner Group Inc. public in 1993; became its CEO in 1999. His firm predicted the burst of the dot-com bubble in late 1999.

WHAT HE'S DOING NOW: Chairman and CEO of Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

Michael Fleisher is fond of saying that the technology industry is still in its adolescence. And like many a stubborn teenager, the industry didn't want to hear what he had to say in late 1999.

"No one wanted to hear we were at the top of a bubble," he says. "No one wanted me to speak at their conferences."

Now that technology has been grounded, Fleisher says he expects it to mature greatly over the next 10 years. Its maturation will be marked by a "huge wave" of consolidation among IT companies and "a greater balance of challenges and opportunity," he says.

Fleisher says he expects consolidation to lead to stronger, wiser management teams that won't implement technology for its "gee-whiz" value. "We shouldn't expect innovation to be technology's growth driver in the next 10 years," he says.

Instead, equipment replacement will drive IT spending in the next two years. Then growth will come as companies use IT to help themselves and their customers lead in their markets.

"That will be a big change engine," Fleisher says, warning that IT professionals will need to be more business-savvy than ever to thrive in that environment.

That's not to say exciting innovations that drive demand won't appear. Fleisher looks to a toddler -- his son -- for signs of what IT will be as an adult. He notes that his child already takes for granted broadband Internet access and applications with sound and colorful graphics and animation.

"What's he going to consider interactive and entertaining when he's 20?" Fleisher asks. His prediction: "The power of what a 4-year-old and what an enterprise can do will be stunning."

Sharon J. Watson is a freelance writer in Chicago. Contact her at sjwatson@interaccess.com.

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