Outsmarting the Trends

Tech vendors must come to grips with the fact that their products no longer evoke wonderment.

December 31, 2002

2 Min Read
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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.Looking ahead to 2003, everyone agrees that tech spending will pick up with a cyclical economic upturn. In a playful presentation at the Comdex trade show last month, National Semiconductor CEO Brian Halla went so far as to peg the tech turnaround to a specific day--June 21, 2003--based on an analysis of mathematical models, market and geopolitical trends and other factors.

But regardless of when the economy finally turns, the vendors that win will be those that cater to the structural, return-oriented shift in the way customers propose, evaluate, approve, implement, upgrade and replace technology.

How will IT buying procedures and spending priorities change at your organization next year? Are there signs that your business or industry is picking up and your tech budget is loosening up? Which "leading-edge" projects will make the cut in 2003, and which won't? Please weigh in at the e-mail address below.

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