As we move into 2003, an atmosphere of trepidation, if not gloom, extends across much of industry. It is especially obvious among suppliers of IT products and services. Many have already endured two years of shrinking sales, and are not well equipped to undergo a third or a fourth.
For buyers and users of IT, the troubled condition of the supplier community creates problems. Consolidation, which will dramatically accelerate, means that there will be new faces on the other side of the negotiating table, there will be new software upgrade paths, there will be new prices and contracts. Sometimes, there will be conflicts of interest and incompatibilities. Occasionally, a company will disappear altogether, creating a crisis of development and support.
The overall impact on customers is not negative, however, but clearly positive. Not only is that providing a one-off windfall to big IT buyers, but it also represents a long overdue correction. When the charge-out rate of a junior Java programmer matched that of a corporate lawyer, clearly something was out of kilter.
That is not the only correction underway. Throughout this issue of Information Age, there is a theme that runs through many articles: the IT fiefdom within companies, and the power and influence of IT companies generally, is being questioned and in some cases broken up or overturned. This should not be resisted, but welcomed. It is a sign that businesses are at last finding a role for IT that extends beyond its self-propagation: to be unequivocally useful and powerfully supportive of business goals.
For those fascinated by new technology and gadgetry, it may be a little less interesting for a while. For those who are more concerned with its successful business application, now is the time to really make it work. The information age is not over, but growing up.