by Abbie Lundberg

Despite Tough Economy, CIOs Still Need to Innovate

Mar 15, 20033 mins

If you look at the numbers these days, it doesn’t seem like there’s a whole lot going on. For many businesses, revenue and profits are down. Investment and employment, especially in IT, are also down.

But corporate performance and spending aren’t on their own reliable indicators of activity. And one thing that has been up pretty dramatically is productivity. People are working harder and in many cases better than we’ve seen in a long time.

Some of this increased activity is certainly the result of downsizing. With fewer people to do the company’s work, everyone has to do more to earn his keep. But making ends meet is just part of the picture. As the economy drags along, every organization is raising the bar on performance and execution?making sure that every aspect of the company’s activities is optimized. And there is increasing interest in new initiatives that will stimulate and reenergize the business.

From an IT perspective, new initiatives can be a scary thing right now. With budgets slashed and zero tolerance for any project that doesn’t deliver, who wants to try something new?

In fact, interest in new technologies has plummeted during the past 12 months. One sign of this comes from a recent CIO magazine survey of more than 1,000 of our readers. The percent of respondents who said coverage of emerging technologies was “useful to my job” dropped by almost half since the year before. Still, pressure is building for IS departments to deliver new capabilities, and it’s only a matter of time before IT innovation kicks in again.

But timing is everything. CIOs who read John Edwards’ piece on blade servers (Page 98) may conclude this is a promising new technology?but one that can wait a while. The Emerging Technology item on the Semantic Web (see “Searching Through Babel,” Page 104) presents an even longer time horizon.

Our cover story on open source, however, demands your attention now. Why? Because the decisions you make about platforms today will have a dramatic impact on your cost of doing business for many years to come. (Please see “Your Open-Source Plan,” Page 52.) Controlling those costs with an open and flexible platform will pave the way for all those new IT initiatives that are filling the pipeline.

What pressures are you feeling from your business colleagues for new IT development? And how do you know when the time is right to invest in a new technology? I’d love to hear from you.