The tao of IT

A popular nugget of observed wisdom is that in the Chinese language, the word for crisis is the same as the word for opportunity.

This is one of many myths that permeate Western understanding of Chinese culture. But the duality could not be more appropriate for describing the situation currently facing businesses the world over.

The explosive economic boom in the world’s most populous nation is seen by many as a threat to the West’s long tenure as the financial leader of the world. But others see it as the return to power of a country that was a global trading superpower long before much of Western Europe even had currency.

Whether it is a crisis or an opportunity (and the only rational answer can be that it is both), the China boom is a macroeconomic trend that no business can afford to ignore, as all will be affected – directly or otherwise.

A special opening features section in this month’s Information Age investigates the impact of the ‘Red Dragon’ within the realm of information technology. The first examines China’s bid to become a compelling IT offshoring destination that will threaten the other Asian super-growth market of India, while the second looks into the country’s growing reputation as a principal source of information security threats.

What transpires in both cases is that the sheer scale of the Chinese economy allows for many, often contradictory, roles. In IT services, China is both a dangerous gamble and a safe bet. In information security, it is a breeding ground both for infections and for treatments.

It is the organisations that can make sense of and capitalise on this ambiguity that will ensure China’s staggering success story will be to their benefit, not their expense.

This issue of Information Age also charts the rise of another leader. Steve Mills has helped turn IBM into the largest enterprise software company. Not just through the development of the company’s own WebSphere middleware, DB2 relational databases, virtualisation and other systems, but through a series of audacious – and well-executed – acquisitions. Whether through modesty or a priority list that focuses elsewhere, though, he rarely talks to the press.

Information Age was lucky enough to get some exclusive time with Mills recently, and as is evident from our four-page Q&A, he is not exactly shy about expanding on topics as diverse as software-as-a-service (it is “tech-industry doublespeak”); Google services (not ready for enterprise IT); and VMware (“not even in the same universe as IBM’s virtualisation”.

When someone is generating $20 billion in annual sales and 40% of IBM’s profits, they are clearly capable of making a distinction between IT as fashion and IT as a route to business value.

David Cliff

David Cliff is managing director of Houghton le Spring-based Gedanken, a company specialising in coaching-based support and personal development. Cliff is an experienced trainer, manager and therapist,...

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