I’ve had the pleasure of writing for this site for 5 months now, not a long time in terms of the calendar but long enough to have covered quite a few topics. As I’ve scoured the IT landscape to bring you blog posts that are hopefully of interest, and traveled to industry events to cover the goings-on, I’ve also learned quite a bit about the direction technology is headed and how forward-thinking companies are taking advantage. As we say good-bye to 2011, I reviewed all of my past posts and came up with these five technology tips for 2012.

1. Plan for innovation
At the various conferences I’ve covered these past few months, the theme of innovation came up again and again. All companies want to innovate, but few appear to have a clearly defined plan for how to do it. The author and Dartmouth College professor Chris Trimble offered his take at the CIO 100 Symposium and speakers at the event offered some real success stories, notably the insurance giant USAA. The company encourages all employees to come up with ideas, has a clearly defined process for vetting them, and lots of dedicated space to tinker. The result is not only a steady flow of good ideas, but a great side benefit, as we reported:

Overall, the strategy of opening up the innovation process to anyone in the company, and rethinking how to get new ideas into production, has lead to a dramatic reduction in the time it takes to complete IT projects. Two years ago, USAA’s time to market was about 211 days, Schwartz said, while the industry average was 235 days. Last year, the company got it down to 180 days and this year, to 149. When the RAD lab kicks into high gear, he expects the number to go down to 90 days.

The folks at Gartner likewise have some sound ideas on how to foster more innovation in IT, including the use of small teams and making sure to publicly reward those who put a lot of effort into innovative projects, even if they don’t meet with complete success.

2. Get on the cloud
In a session at the Gartner Symposium event this past fall, VP and Gartner Fellow Ken McGee offered this advice:

Eradicate “cloud-a-phobia.” Rather than wait till cloud services satisfy every little requirement you might need or want, McGee says companies should identify three applications that are candidates for the cloud and start learning about the technology. “This is a migration certainty,” he said. “The days of having all your services in-house are over.”

Companies including Revlon, Southwest Airlines and the NYSE Euronext have all found success with cloud initiatives, as we reported from VMworld. Surely you can take McGee’s advice and find some applications suitable for getting your feet wet in the cloud.

3. Extend your virtualization efforts
Seemingly every company has taken advantage of server virtualization technology to consolidate servers, cut costs and increase agility. Why stop there? Although the business case for desktop virtualization isn’t quite as compelling as for servers, at least in the short term, organizations including H&R Block and the city of Pittsburgh have shown it can provide real benefits, including helping you deal with the consumerization of IT movement. Beyond that, you can also apply virtualization to storage and even network environments, again achieving cost efficiencies as well as increased flexibility and agility.

4. Get your social plan together
Like it or not, social media is coming to your company – your employees are using it and so are your customers. So IT might as well lead the charge in terms of figuring out how to make the best use of it. That, essentially, was the message that consultant and NYU professor Clay Shirky brought to the Gartner Symposium audience in October, and he made a compelling case. When you get it right, you can really impress your customers, as the steakhouse Morton’s did in this story we recently reported.

5. Make room for tablets
This is probably the single most impressive stat I’ve come across since I started writing this blog:

Bausch + Lomb found that its customers had 80% higher recall of product details when the information was presented to them by a sales person using an iPad vs. traditional paper brochures.

The reason is easy to understand, as we reported:

Bausch has found customers to be more engaged in meetings with iPad-toting sales people, at least in part because the presentations are more interesting, with features like embedded video that are simply not possible on paper.

I suppose this gets back to the innovation topic, but you’ve simply got to find ways to make use of tablet technology in your organization.

That’s my list. Feel free to use the comments below to offer your own views. And by all means, have a happy and productive new year.

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