October 19, 2011 – Against the backdrop of mass collaboration driven by the consumerization of IT, leaders in information technology must re-imagine their role and “lead from the front,” note analysts at Gartner Inc.

Gartner analysts addressed an audience of 8,500 CIOs and IT leaders yesterday in Orlando at its annual Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, explaining the three initiatives they recommend to implement to re-imagine IT: simplicity, post-modern business and creative destruction.

“We live in such a complex, time-crunched world,” said Hung LeHong, research VP at Gartner. “The result is that we all crave simplicity, and so in re-imagining IT, IT leaders have the opportunity — no, the responsibility — to deliver simplicity to their customers and employees.”

Gartner analysts said evidence of this demand to simplify has been the shift from PCs to mobile. As individuals gravitate to the simplicity of mobile and tablet experiences, and developers are following.

“By 2015, mobile application development projects targeting smartphones and tablets will outnumber PC projects by 4 to 1. The PC is no longer king,” LeHong said. “IT needs to be part of building out this future. Things should be so simple that people should be able to do what they need to do on any device.”

Thanks to the shift to mobile computing, context-aware computing will be crucial, because it helps IT leaders understand intent, so that they can create simpler, yet richer experiences, says Gartner. “Context-aware computing is the intersection between our separate lives in the digital, mobile, social and physical world,” LeHong said. “Context-aware applications take context about me in the physical world — such as my location, time of day — and my usage patterns in the digital world, and deliver it to the me in the mobile world.”

“Simplicity done right does not eliminate complexity, it makes it invisible,” LeHong said. “You’re not trying to ‘dumb down’ an experience; you’re trying to enrich it.”

This means IT leaders will need people on their teams who know how to get context, such as from a location from a smartphone, or understand intent based on past behavior, or infer it from social network activity, in a way that is natural, invisible and enriching to employees and customers.

A second imperative involves post-modern thinking. Gartner describes a post-modern business as one that completely rethinks the status quo of business and embraces dramatically new relationships with its customers, suppliers and partners, explained Daryl Plummer, managing VP and Gartner fellow. “In the post-modern business, your business has no walls. It must be everywhere. It will be a virtual and fluid business that changes as customers change. In the post-modern business, you will forget phrases such as ‘business architecture’ and embrace phrases like customer delight, customer involvement and customer intimacy. In the post-modern business, customer and constituent demands on you will change faster than your architectures.”

Finally, the analysts told their audience, organizations need to be aware of how “creative destruction” can impact the business.

“Most IT organizations have 70 percent or more of their time, money and mindshare locked into reliability, keeping things going,” said Tina Nunno, VP and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “Yet, demands for game-changing IT capabilities are growing every year. IT leaders must transform their businesses, products, services and value proposition to the external customer, and challenge traditional ways of thinking.”

Gartner recommends that IT departments start thinking in proactive terms. Instead of accepting their area of expertise as merely an excellent service provider, IT departments should stop taking demands and requirements and start making recommendations. They need to turn those requests into strategic discussions.

Gartner recommends IT leaders implement the concept it calls the “Pace Layered Application Strategy.”

“Pace layering is a technique to help IT leaders make decisions about what assets in their portfolio would be candidates for creative destruction. The model borrows from the way architects design buildings — separating what has to change frequently — from what is foundational and longer-term in nature,” Nunno said. “You have systems of record, systems of differentiation and systems of innovation, each with their own natural lifecycles and place in the business ecosystem.”

Nunno told the audience that IT leaders must destroy perfectionism and embrace calculated risk. “Never taking risks means you are predictable and an easy target for your competition,” Nunno said. “Strive to take calculated risks and surprise both your business and the competition.”

This story originally appeared on Insurance Networking News.

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