If you think businesses are souring on their IT processes, you should see networking. A decade ago, 18% of the CIOs who responded to my survey named networking as the focus point around which they built their IT plans, and 37% said it had equal weight to IT, meaning computing. This year, 12% said networking is their focus point, and 30% said they give equal weight to network and IT considerations.
That's a pretty astounding dip, and you have to wonder what caused it. The same surveys point to three primary factors, and even to a possible solution.
Politics and perception
The first cause is political -- the rise of the CIO as the "Compute and Information Officer." Even in 2006 companies were combining networking and computing under a single executive, and since then computing has commanded the largest share of the budget and has been perceived to be the most directly coupled to business operations. While early CIOs had co-equal computing and networking managers reporting to them, by 2010 that co-equality had largely vanished. Today, my research shows that more than 90% of CIOs are drawn from computing career paths.
None of these compute-dominating drivers are turning around, either. My model says that by 2020 networking will dominate in only 11% of cases and secure equal weight in budget planning in only 28%. More and more companies say that networking is almost a staff function.
The second cause is the shift from an information distribution to an information creation model. Remember that computing initially focused on creating massive repositories of information, and the issue of making the most of that information was at first simply getting it into workers' hands. Planning focused on the squeaky wheel, of course, and so even computing technology was network-centric.
The middleware responsible for the linkage between workers and data/applications was known by name by everyone in IT or networking and by nearly all the line managers (remember IBM's Customer Information Control System, or CICS?). In one survey I did 20 years ago, almost half the office workers knew of CICS. What, today, is the linking technology? Nobody knows, even the majority in IT jobs.
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