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SOA, lean manufacturing, lead IT trends on CIO radar


A migration to service-oriented architecture and the introduction of lean manufacturing principles to data center operations are the two trends that will occupy much of the attention of chief information officers in 2007, a survey shows.

The McKinsey & Co. survey, which collected information last October from 72 senior information technology executives at North American companies, found that 64% of those polled said they expect to implement service-oriented architecture this year.

According to McKinsey, that strong showing "suggests that the thinking about IT architectures is shifting to embrace global standards for interaction, both internally and with external partners and suppliers."

Service-oriented architecture proponents say the approach to IT design will bring increased flexibility and efficiency to IT systems by facilitating communication and interaction between systems, the consultant noted.

While the concepts behind SOA have been around for some time, McKinsey said interest in it has grown as companies adopt Web services standards. Despite confusion in the marketplace caused by some vendors willing to slap the "service-oriented" label on just about anything, the potential benefits of true SOA, along with "increasingly mature offerings from vendors," are prompting more IT executives to look at adopting the approach, McKinsey said.

Also of interest is that 48% of those surveyed indicated they plan to implement SOA for integration with external partners this year. Traditionally, McKinsey said, companies first adopt new integration technologies within their own firewalls, extending those technologies to their external partners only years later. The willingness of many companies to bypass the traditional approach speaks to the high interest in SOA, McKinsey said.

Regarding the other IT trend McKinsey cites for 2007, the consultant said 28% of survey respondents had already applied or decided to apply lean principles to improve their data center operations.

Lean manufacturing is an approach centered on the reduction of various waste to improve customer value. While the technique was applied initially to manufacturing operations, it's increasingly being used in connection with services, McKinsey said.

Data centers of large corporations would appear to be particularly choice targets for a methodology focusing on reducing waste. McKinsey cites the growth in data centers over the past 10 to 15 years as IT spending has increased and cost-conscious IT executives have consolidated smaller data centers into fewer but larger ones.

In addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars in capital equipment found at the data center of a large company, the typical data center also consumes large amounts of electricity and requires a staff of hundreds of highly skilled employees to run it.

It's the labor costs, in particular, that have grown in recent years, McKinsey said, and applying lean principles to data centers can help reduce waste and improve labor productivity by as much as 40% in some processes.

McKinsey said nearly one-third of the CIOs it surveyed intend to employ lean principles in their data centers, a share suggesting that the benefits realized by early adopters are encouraging more companies' IT organizations to move in a similar direction.