I had a lot of fun talking to Michael Dortch recently. For those of you who don’t know Michael, he’s a charismatic IT analyst who has a great perspective on IT and who likes to share it. The man’s one of the toptweeting IT analysts and has written extensively about IT infrastructure, collaboration, and cloud computing — all of which are right up our alley at Zoho and ManageEngine.

So Michael came to Pleasanton, and we talked about what is on the minds of IT managers today. Feeling Dickensian, we agreed that it is both the best of times and the worst of times for IT managers. A lot of exciting technology is making its way into business, and some of those technologies — mobile tech like smartphones and tablets, and social tech like Twitter and Facebook — are game changers. Some have introduced dramatically improved levels of productivity; others have changed entire business models.

That’s the best-of-times view.

The worst-of-times view takes in these same game-changing technologies but looks at them from the perspective of IT professionals struggling to deal with them. How do we incorporate them into our infrastructure? How do we manage them for the enterprise? How can we make the most of them ourselves to deliver IT services more effectively and play a larger role in the delivery of value to the business and our customers?

Sure, CIO’s are all talking about using technology to grow their businesses, improve service delivery, align more effectively with business units, become more agile, establish a common language between IT and business groups, and so on. Wow, sounds good, right? But now, turn your gaze away from the big screen. Pay attention to your colleagues behind the curtain — the ones in charge of keeping the server lights green and the networks up and running. “It sounds nice,” they mutter, “but it’s not going to happen at the pace that it should.”

Why not? Well, as most industry analysts indicate and discussions with IT professionals validate, it comes down to budget and hours in the day. Most analysts say that 60-85 percent of IT budget dollars are spent on “keeping what they have working and making what they have work together.” Not surprisingly, IT professionals spend about the same percentage of their time on the management and maintenance of existing technologies and projects — leaving virtually no time to execute the forward-thinking vision of the CIO.

Michael and I reached the conclusion that until IT organizations can get their arms around the technology they already have and until they can drive down the maintenance costs, the cool new stuff will take a backseat. It’s a bit of a catch-22, sadly: The new technologies may very well contribute to greater productivity and lower costs but only if the IT organization can find time to explore them, envision and test new business and service delivery models, and then deploy those technologies — which, of course, they can’t do until they can free up some time.

It would be great to get a larger population of IT professionals to weigh in on this topic. Let us know: Are you able to adopt new technologies fast enough? And if not, why not?