The Virtuous CIO  

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May 23, 2010 — Discerning Trends — Part 1

Technology leadership requires practitioners to make decisions on technology platforms and systems on a regular basis. None of us are perfect; however, the ability to make good decisions reliably is exhibited by the best leaders in the industry. This is often the result of common sense (of which we have spoken earlier), but also comes from an intimate knowledge of the technology industry, of which we are a part.

It is a pet peeve of mine to hire young people, fresh from college, and discover they have little or no knowledge of the technology industry. Not only does this dash my expectations for them, but it renders them ill suited to participate in the strategic projects I often assign. It also leaves them behind the curve as they are embarking upon a career.

To make good decisions we have to understand the trends in the technology industry. If we do not understand the industry, we will not perceive the trends. Over the next several weeks we will examine the basis for trends and why they're important.

Drivers of trends

The past one hundred fifty years of technological advance illustrates both macro and micro trends. While the technology itself generally does not repeat, we do see repeated trends generationally.

The first driver of technology trends we will examine is the advance of technology itself. Over the past 60 years a combination of events we could characterize as a perfect storm have worked in concert to advance technology beyond anyone's wildest dreams. It has been funded by the Cold War, the NASA moon shot, and almost non-existent regulatory guidance from the government. The new technology has fed upon itself, forcing the development of newer more advanced technology, and then finally funded by a rampant consumer culture in this country.

Further aggressive advances in technology drive the market forward through the usual methods of better, faster ways to do the same tasks. Automation has always been an easy, cost-effective method of implementing technology, however the availability of new technology also encourages "possibility thinking," which allows people to do things with technology which could not practically be done before.