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Outsmarting the Trends

Cell phones with embedded fingerprint readers may be clever devices, but are they the stuff that will propel tech spending and business innovation in the months ahead? Web services could indeed transform the way applications are built and integrated across enterprises, but will companies be ready to deploy these services in 2003 when the developers aren't up to speed and the technology is still insecure? "Cool" and "transformational" technologies are out; near-term solutions and clear returns are in.

Room for Imagination

Granted, high tech isn't the only sector that tends to get ahead of itself. Vendors in every industry are in the business of capturing their customers' imaginations--even if they haven't quite fulfilled all of those customers' mundane needs. Vendors that stop thinking ahead of their customers are bound to fall behind them. "Concept cars," for instance, still dominate the auto shows even though they have zero chance of cruising the roads. Financial firms tout their one-stop online banking and stock trading services to customers who are more interested in investment advice they can trust.

But tech vendors, in particular, must come to grips with the fact that their products no longer evoke wonderment. IT organizations aren't so easily enamored of the feature-enriched, exponentially smaller and faster products that come their way. Other business departments aren't so easily impressed with the latest high-tech elixir peddled at their doorsteps. Technology buyers are smarter buyers. As a result, technology sellers will never again party like it's 1999.

Technologists and non-technologists who sweat over profit and loss statements are interested in technical innovations that will help them manage their environments better and grow their companies' profits larger. That's the new, permanent language of business technology. Vendors are wise to start speaking it.