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Mon 5 Jan 2009 04:00 AM

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Power of prediction

It’s official – silly season is underway.

It’s official – silly season is underway.

Pundits are now out in full force, making predictions for what 2009 holds in store for IT departments and CIOs – and as usual for analysts, it’s not looking good.

CDW’s polling predicts that the number of unemployed IT professionals will be on the rise, with 11% of decision-makers expecting decreases in the next six months. More than 30% of government sector CIOs expects significant budget cuts as well. (These numbers are for the United States – more on that later).

It’s not great for vendors, either. Acquisitions will become the order of the day. Forrester expects software giant CA to become an acquisition target in 2009, possibly by fellow vendors Microsoft or SAP as a means of filling the holes in their respective portfolios. Software-as-a-service vendors aren’t safe either – IDC predicts that Google or Cisco will be on the prowl for companies like Salesforce.com as cloud computing continues to gain ground.

It’s not just software vendors – hardware providers are equally at risk. IDC believes that PC makers could be looking at emerging markets as an opportunity to snap up regional vendors in the hopes of increasing their customer base – something which would be far more difficult in their more mature home markets.

It all seems quite black, really – but I find it hard to buy into all this negativity. For one thing, most of these predictions have their basis in the US market, which is a very different beast to ours in the Middle East and has to deal with very different pressures.

Furthermore, my conversations with regional CIOs have revealed that few plan to either cut budgets or reduce headcount, with most preferring to instead reduce their active workload or stretch large projects over several years. It’s a canny move – cutting costs while reassuring staff that they still have a place within their respective organisation.

Secondly – firms that are in the business of making predictions (such as analysts) are rarely held accountable for whether those prognostications actually come to fruition. What usually happens is that at the end of the year, rather than a checklist of which trends were correctly predicted (or not), we’re usually instead presented with a fresh list to chew over in the new year.

The real bottom line is, I think, best expressed by William Goldman in his famous memoir, Adventures in the Screen Trade: Nobody knows anything. The truth is the current global situation is completely unprecedented; far outside the scope of the earlier Depression or post-war situations.

Ambitious predictions are likely to end up far off target, so CIOs will more than ever need to rely on their own instincts – rather than previous experience or accumulated knowledge – to navigate the treacherous waters of 2009. With the relative youth of the regional IT community, that wealth of experience will be hard to come by in any case.

The Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, probably put it best: “If past history was all there was to the game, the richest people would be librarians.”

Imthishan Giado is the deputy editor of Arabian Computer News.

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