However, the best talk IMHO came from Robert Beauchamp, CEO of BMC software. He's a very down-to-earth, articulate guy-even in front of 1,000 people. I was most impressed by his Shoemaker's Children analogy... that the IT (alright, BT) organizations in enterprises are arguably the least automated departments around. ERP is automated. Finance is automated. Customer interaction is automated. But IT is still manually glued-together, with operations costs continuing to outpace capital investments.
This is a gorgeous observation; so simple, so articulate, and--most importantly--so true! I have always been amazed at the amount of manual labor that goes into delivering technology that makes some other schmuck's life more labor free. Programming is a great example of this. (Even with advances in code building, IDE templating and wizard-based programming, I bet the vast majority of developers out there still shudder at the term "code generation".)
Server provisioning (bare metal or virtual servers) is also a great example. In a prior life, I worked for one of the most forward thinking technology companies out there. However, when it came to pushing code to production, it was still a server-by-server hand install job. Provisioning 4 front end portal servers took anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days.
Another example is trouble ticket response. How many of the system operators out there still carry pagers, and are forced to get out of bed in the middle of the night to respond to a system event? If you say "not at my company", I bet you have overseas support to back you up overnight. The response remains completely manual.
That is why I am so excited about the Service Level Automation space, its role in utility computing and its role in automating IT processes. It is time this happens, and I hope your "BT" organization is considering it.