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ORLANDO, Fla.—Consumer technology will overtake corporations, and IT professionals need to get in front of that technology wave, Gartner analysts told attendees at the annual Symposium and IT Expo here.

A plethora of consumer technologies, ranging from podcasting to blogging, VOIP (voice over IP) and video on demand, will penetrate the enterprise workplace by the year 2012, spearheaded by a new generation of workers raised on the technologies—what Gartner analysts are calling “digital natives.”

“The impact of consumerization is the most important trend impacting IT in the next 10 years,” said Peter Sondergaard, Gartner’s head of global research, in an opening-day presentation on Oct. 9. The resulting changes will be a shift in technology ownership from businesses to consumers, as business processes run on powerful consumer platforms.

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“There will be a shift in culture reflecting the dominance of the digital natives. Consumers have faster processors and more storage capacity and more bandwidth,” said Sondergaard, comparing consumer expectations to corporate IT infrastructure. “Consumer technology will be integrated into all settings: home, home office, in transit or recreational areas. Users will initiate interactions from all of these settings.” The shift toward empowering the consumer will reverse the current pattern where business and government controls the relationships with customers and constituents, he said.

“We are soon at that trigger point,” said Sondergaard, predicting that financial services companies will lead the charge because 36 percent of consumers already use online banking. “Banks are at the forefront of the change where power shifts to the consumer,” said the Gartner analyst.

Only by enabling such consumer empowerment will businesses be able to justify premium fees, he said. Organizations will need to deliver scaled-down versions of their applications to individuals, he said. “By 2011, companies will deliver Web services to customers for personal application configuration,” said Sondergaard.

The consumer technology push highlights what may be a high-water mark of IT investment. IT budgets worldwide are up 7 percent this year, marking an increase over previous years, but are expected to rise only 4 percent in each of the next two years. The projections, the analysts said, could reflect an anticipation of a cooling economy.

Still the analysts urged the estimated 6,000 attendees to focus on delivering business value through multiyear initiatives, rather than merely cutting costs. Gene Hall, Gartner’s CEO, pointed to Gartner’s annual CIO survey, conducted in August 2006, which found that delivering projects that enable growth is the No. 1 priority for CIOs at present. Hall also reported the number of CIOs leaving their jobs doubled in 2006 over 2005. The reason: Too many were focused on cost, rather than on growth.

“Any organization that doesn’t contribute to growth is expendable,” said Gartner Chief of Research Darryl Plummer. He noted that the slowing IT budget growth may represent a belief that the current upbeat economic cycle may be on the wane. “If you don’t start your change initiatives today, you many not have another chance,” said Plummer.

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