Out with the old, in with the new

Those who have been struggling under the FD Slimfast programme for the past few years are enjoying the irony that demands for new standards for beancounters could lead to the return of investment.

There’s even talk of a new Y2K. Most of the talk will turn out to be just talk. In the IT vendors’ case, they’ve slipped back into the bad old days’ habit of hype. Dozens of desperate companies are now claiming their ‘IT solution’ comes with added Sarbanes-Oxley fixer.

There is plenty support for this wishful thinking. AMR Research estimates $2.5bn (£1.57bn) will be spent by US public companies just on compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley.

More sober voices say that IAS will require very little in the way of new systems. But excessive sobriety has been the new over-enthusiasm since the dotcom collapse – and should come with the same health warnings. The question for IT is not whether business will need to finance a technology bonanza; the coming change is about the emphasis of business IT.

That increasingly means the management of data – more specifically ensuring that bits and bytes data turns into information and knowledge that business can use for competitive advantage.

If you’re looking for a steer on horses to back, web services, service-oriented architecture and data-mining are likely to play a part. Business monitoring software will shoot up to the top four spending priorities of nearly a third of the world’s biggest companies, according to Gartner.

It doesn’t necessarily mean an IT boom, and it certainly doesn’t hand power back to an IT departmental silo. But it does suggest a role for technology in the enterprise – albeit completely aligned to the business.

Don’t be surprised if people eventually see Enron, WorldCom et al as the start of the next stage of the evolution of IT.

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