What does the future hold for IT?

We thought the best way to answer that question was to ask the experts, so we sought out the views of a baker’s dozen of IT visionaries that includes university professors, CIOs, IT consultants and a software vendor researcher.

We did not ask our panel about technology per se — when we will see quantum computing, what the future of microprocessor architectures is and so on. Rather, we sought their views on the economics and delivery of IT. IT is going to be much more important, much deeper, much more powerful over the next 20 years. The notion that this is becoming a commodity, back-office utility couldn’t be further from the truth.F. Warren McFarlan>Text

What’s the future of open-source software, utility computing, application services and software license practices? What will happen in outsourcing and offshoring, and how will the IT that stays in-house change? How will the vendor landscape evolve? And what does it all mean for the IT manager?

We also asked our panelists what worries them (answer: a lot) and what advice they’d give IT managers to help them navigate the coming decade. Advice ran the gamut from how much to budget for research to how to beat the competition.

One panelist outlined six software development best practices, while another gave reasons why you should cut out the cost-cutting mind-set and bone up on anthropology and sociology.

IT consultant Paul A. Strassmann compared today’s IT shops to “medieval guilds” for their do-it-all mentalities, but all of our prognosticators said that will change dramatically in the years ahead. And, although CIO Andre V. Mendes said the CIO will disappear as a separate breed of manager, no one said IT would stop being important.

Harvard Business School professor F. Warren McFarlan put it this way: “An article appeared a year and a half ago in the Harvard Business Review — ‘IT Doesn’t Matter.’ But IT is going to be much more important, much deeper, much more powerful over the next 20 years. The notion that this is becoming a commodity, back-office utility couldn’t be further from the truth.”