Analyst Gartner has outlined the technologies it believes IT directors should be considering seriously, and those that can be shelved for a few years yet.
The company is starting to see more economic confidence among IT heads, with many predicting that budgets will improve over the next 12 months.
Europe is more cautious, however, where growth of about 2.5 per cent is expected, compared with between five and six per cent in the US.
With this in mind, the priorities for IT heads are beginning to change, moving from "cruise control", where the focus was on cutting costs, to driving growth through innovation and cost containment.
"We are travelling at high speed on a straight, and about to hit a curve in the road," said Michael Fleisher, chairman and chief executive at Gartner.
"The winners of tomorrow are seeing the curve and will support cost containment and innovation for growth."
The upward trend will not be without pain for some but, in general, the long term outlook is excellent, according to Steve Prentice, chief of research at Gartner.
"We're not saying that there will no longer be a focus on cost containment, but it's moving into growth," he said.
Among the key trends that IT heads should be considering now are:
- Network convergence (with wireless dominating).
- Middleware infrastructure supporting a real-time enterprise environment.
- Service prices declining.
- Continued growth in offshore outsourcing.
- Better IT governance.
Gartner also believes that budgets will move over to business process owners. This, it said, is a strong trend, because investment in a company's processes will deliver better returns than investment in pure IT.
To prepare for these changes, the analyst outlined a hit list of actions companies should take:
- Evaluate communications network strength and reliability, and think seriously about migrating to an IP VPN or MPLS infrastructure.
- Exploit broadband, where possible driving a hard bargain over costs.
- Switch to IP telephony if there are clear management and cost benefits.
- Evaluate server and storage use.
- Consider upgrading desktops while over-capacity is forcing down prices.
But Gartner warned that maintenance and support contracts should be scrutinised, as this is where many vendors recoup their loses from offering discounts, and that hype around certain technologies should be ignored.
The analyst also said that the move to IPv6 is strictly a problem for operators, and that 3G would be irrelevant until 2007, although some services would begin to come online.
Companies should exploit wireless not Bluetooth, avoid 64bit computing on the desktop and leave Radio Frequency ID tags to the retail sector.
And for one of the biggest areas of hype - on-demand computing - Gartner said the marketing is way ahead of delivery, and that the infrastructure is not yet in place to exploit it.
"The idea of a true on-demand architecture does not yet exist. It's in the future," said Prentice.
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