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Information technology has gone through something of a sea change over the last five years, largely thanks to two compelling events: the discovery of the millennium bug and the rise of the Internet. Y2K, as we are all now calling it, has focused management minds on the overwhelming importance of computer systems to business; in a way, it has proved that you never really appreciate something until it is gone, or at least under threat of going. The severity of the problem, and the multi-billion dollar cost of fixing it, has forced us to accept what most finance directors knew all along: IT costs a lot of money. From now on, it must be forced to pay its way. Fortunately, the IT industry has more to offer than just bugs, and the Internet has opened up new revenue streams and opportunities for colossal cost savings, as well as shrinking the planet to the stage where being distant does not mean being remote, just in different time-zones. Far-sighted companies are exploring this new frontier and will be ready for business in the 21st century, because together, these trends – recognising IT’s importance and embracing the change it delivers – will radically alter not just how we do business, but how we think about business. And that means thinking even more carefully, even more cleverly, about the deployment of technology. It’s payback time for IT.

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