Crystal ball gazing: Eight predictions from Gartner

As the calendar rolls over to December, it becomes time for the industry to once again engage in some pontification about what’s to come in the year to come and beyond. This is a normal and expected part of the news cycle of the year.

Analyst firm Gartner is one of the first out of the chutes this year, offering up eight predictions. As well as being among the first to look at the future in this year’s round, Gartner is distinguishing itself by making some very big, very bold predictions with a long term view – predictions that have the potential to shape not only the IT industry, but the world in which we live.

So what does Gartner predict for the next five years? Find out after the jump.

First of all, a little background: The company presented eight of its top predictions for 2011 to 2015, brought together from “more than 100 of the strongest Gartner predictions across all research areas” that were submitted for consideration. The company criteria in selecting top predictions include relevance, impact and audience appeal. In other words, they want to make the kind of predictions that will cause CIOs to say “Holy crap,” sit up and take notice.

Mission accomplished.

Here, in no particular order, are the analyst firm’s top predictions.

By 2015, information-smart businesses will increase recognized IT spending per head by 60 percent.

Alright, put your eyes back in your heads and don’t pop the champagne quite yet. Gartner isn’t really predicting that your customers will spend 60 per cent more on IT just over four years from now. Basically, Gartner argues that organizations that have made it through the recent downturn will have consolidated and optimized their operations to the point where they’re better recognizing their total IT spend much better. “This, combined with staff reduction and freezes, will reward the leading companies within each industry segment with an IT productivity windfall that culminates in at least a 60 percent increase in the metric for ‘IT spending per enterprise employee’ when compared against the metrics of peer organizations and internal trending metrics,” the company writes.

By 2015, 20 percent of non-IT Global 500 companies will be cloud service providers.

The cloud is not just for technology folks anymore, Gartner believes, saying that “the move by non-IT organizations to provide non-IT capabilities via cloud computing will further expand the role of IT decision making outside the IT organizations.” Gartner notes that it’s another opportunity for IT departments to redefine themselves as service enablers through either providing or consuming cloud-based services. Meanwhile, today’s solution providers may find themselves competing with a whole new class of organizations that are not by their nature IT companies, but “will be interjecting themselves into value chain systems and competing directly with IT organizations that have traditionally served in this capacity.”

By 2015, tools and automation will eliminate 25 percent of labor hours associated with IT services.

Here’s a thought that should resonate with managed service providers, who have been driving the idea of reducing cost of delivering technology through automation for years. Gartner cites a number of factors in driving greater efficiencies in business, including the cloud’s role, the rise of self-service and automated provisioning, and metering as factors that will boost the productivity of those delivering IT services, whether internal or external.

By 2015, new revenue generated each year by IT will determine the annual compensation of most new Global 2000 CIOs.

That efficiency becomes all the more important to IT as Gartner prognosticates that IT executives will now be measured largely on how much revenue their technology investments are driving, rather than how effectively they provide a baseline of service to employees. So can IT really move from a cost center to a revenue driver? Gartner certainly thinks so… or at least that CEOs will be expecting their IT teams to make it so, by 2015.

By 2013, 80 per cent of businesses will support a workforce using tablets.

Consider that for 2009, that number was roughly zero per cent, and you’ll see that this is a pretty lusty growth opportunity. Gartner said this year’s tech darling, the iPad has ushered in an era of “media tablets focused largely on content consumption, and to some extent communications,” especially with the arrival of Android-powered tablets from Avaya and Cisco that fit into those companies’ respective unified communications strategy. Gartner posits that tablets will continue to follow the smartphone model (arriving through the front door via the user) rather than the laptop model (arriving through the shipping department via the IT department), continuing to drive the trend towards the consumerization of IT. Speaking of which….

By 2014, 90 percent of organizations will support corporate applications on personal devices.

The era of the IT manager as “Dr. No” appears to be coming to an end, brought to its knees by the culmination of a number of the above trends, mostly the move of IT from a cost centre to a revenue driver, and the aforementioned consumerization of endpoint devices. “IT is set to enter the next phase of the consumerization trend, in which the attention of users and IT organizations shifts from devices, infrastructure and applications to information and interaction with peers,” Gartner writes. “This change in view will herald the start of the postconsumerization era.”

By 2015, 10 per cent of your online “friends” will be nonhuman.

Gartner predicts that four-plus years from now, social media strategy will have evolved to the point that “efforts to systematize and automate social engagement will result in the rise of social bots – automated software agents that can handle, to varying degrees, interaction with communities of users in a manner personalized to each individual.” But if social media turns any further away from human-to-human communication, will it truly remain human? Something to ponder. (Editor’s note: Please make your own joke about what percentage of your current Facebook “friends” are “nonhuman.” Thanks.)

And last but not least, from the “Won’t someone please think of the children!” mass hysteria department:

By 2015, a G20 nation’s critical infrastructure will be disrupted and damaged by online sabotage.

Everybody panic? Maybe not yet, but after a year that featured at least two very high-profile security attacks (Aurora and Stuxnet) that carry with them rumors or confirmations (hey thanks, Wikileaks!) of state involvement, it seems that we’re getting to the point of cyber-sabotage or cyber-terrorism becoming a real issue. Gartner notes that the multimodal nature of online attacks, going after a wide variety of would-be targets from the financial systems to the control systems of nuclear power plants. “Such a multimodal attack can have lasting effects beyond a temporary disruption, in the same manner that the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. has repercussions that have lasted for nearly a decade,” the company writes, adding that such an attack has the potential topple governments. Time to beef up that security practice, perhaps?