IT’s Most Influential Person Is No Surprise

It’s not much of a surprise, but according to a survey of attendees at this week’s SHARE user meeting in Boston, the person to have had the greatest impact on IT in the last 50 years is no other than Bill Gates. Microsoft’s co-founder received 55 percent of votes (out of 444 respondents). Other luminaries who topped the charts are Thomas J. Watson Jr. (40 percent), Gene Amdahl (39 percent) and Tim Berners-Lee (31 percent).

SHARE is an IBM user association with more than 2,100 organizations among its active member ranks.

Survey participants were also asked to choose one of a number of emerging trends that will most likely influence business computing over the remainder of the decade. Information security topped the list at 31 percent, followed by shortage of qualified enterprise-class IT talent at 17 percent, and outsourcing/offshoring of application development and maintenance at 14 percent.

The most significant to IBM product or service in the past 25 years is DB2 Universal Database, followed by CICS, MVS, z/OS and the IBM PC.

Survey participants were asked to imagine it's the year 2015 and decide which on a list of options they believe will prove to be the least effective or the most wasteful use of IT resources. Sarbanes-Oxley compliance topped the list at 28 percent, followed by the deployment of unproven technologies at 23 percent, the purchase of unneeded technologies at 19 percent. Seventeen percent of respondents cited the continuing support for outdated technologies.

Respondents cited the Internet, PCs, IBM System/360, the World Wide Web, mainframes, integrated circuits and TCP/IP (in that order) as the most influential technologies of the last 50 years.

SHARE board members weren’t too surprised with the overall results, though they noticed some interesting findings.

Deploying unproven technologies finished behind SOX as a potential waste of time—a finding that encourages SHARE to promote its best practices more, says Pam Taylor, the organization’s director of marketing. “We have a lot of practitioners out there with a lot of different technologies,” she says. “They can show what they’ve tried and what they learned did and didn’t work.”

SHARE offers a slew of Linux sessions, but Linux and its founder, Linus Torvalds, didn’t crack the top three that influenced business computing.

“Microsoft, through whatever Bill [Gates] had to do with it, has taken over ownership of desktop,” Taylor says. “This generation that’s grown up doesn’t know anything else besides a Microsoft environment. Now that they’re leaving university and working in a corporation’s IT infrastructure, [Linux is] new and they didn’t have a lot of exposure to it.”

Share plans on using the poll’s results to expand its programming in certain areas, such as security and information management. “We have a really strong database program, but we need to show customers what to do with the data and how to turn it into business intelligence,” Taylor says.