News

Four things the 2012 CIO will need to focus on

Anthony Caruana

Like many senior IT managers, my attention has shifted over recent weeks from 2011 to 2012. I've been jokingly telling my team that I've already flipped my calendar over as my focus is very much on next year. So, what trends will be influencing my planning for 2012?

VoIP and Unified Communications

Although VoIP isn't all that new and sexy it's finally hitting a new level of maturity that's reflected by the shift from networking companies to mainstream IT providers. The

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Microsoft Lync platform is a significant indicator of this shift and, for many businesses, delivers significant capability with incremental costs. Similarly, HP has released a new range of Lync-ready phones.

The takeaway message for CIOs is that if you haven't moved towards an IP-based telephony system that the time is coming. Start transitioning your infrastructure towards VoIP-readiness.

Device Independence and Consumerisation

Back in late 1990s, a transition occurred in the delivery of technology. Cable and ADSL internet services delivered faster connectivity at home at a lower price than enterprises were able to give to staff in the office. Suddenly, it was possible to access important resources faster at home than at work.

Through the middle of the 1990s, PCs became ubiquitous and by the middle of the 2000s we started to see a shift towards smartphones. Those moves were largely resisted in the enterprise by CIOs playing the "standardisation" card as a way of maintaining a stable environment.

The world is moving on. Almost every corporate function, other than bespoke enterprise applications, can be delivered through a virtualised desktop or web browser to any device with a screen.

The combination of fast, personal Internet connections, powerful end use devices and increasingly mobile workforces means that the IT department needs to deliver more flexible and reliable systems.

Perhaps 2012 will be the year when smart CIOs release the shackles of the SOE and move to a more flexible service delivery model that is focussed on delivery of a consistent user experience on a wide variety of end-user devices.

Security

That increase in flexibility and potential hardware diversity is going to lead to some new security issues for the smart CIO to consider.

In the past, when the majority of system access was via either owned devices or a narrow range of platforms, it was enough to ensure that there was current antivirus software, a solid firewall and a robust VPN solution. However, when system access is happening outside the firewall on a smartphone, personal tablet or other device the potential security risks change. It becomes a question of ensuring that the data on the device is secure and that it can be protected if the device is lost.

If you haven't already done it - it's time to look at your security policies and revise them so that they are aligned with the new world. You'll also want to plan some user education from everyone in the C-suite down. IT security is no longer only the responsibility of the IT department. Every user that takes data out of the business on a USB stick, tablet, notebook or smartphone is responsible for the business' data.

Once you come back from your Christmas and New Year holiday, it will be time to engage the business and put some policies and processes in place to secure the growing volume of data that's being carried around in the pockets and bags of your staff.

Big Data

The volume of unstructured data in your business is probably growing at a rate that far exceeds your structured information. All those documents, spreadsheets, notes and other bits of important corporate information are being held on file-shares, personal hard drives or other locations.

Although we constantly hear that storage is cheap, the recent flooding in Thailand has highlighted that storage can be a finite resource.

It's time to look at your storage strategy and take it beyond a simple growth plan. The rapid growth that we've seen across large businesses suggests that backup and archiving strategies might need to be reviewed. It may also be time to invest in some smarter management tools so that data duplication is minimised and information is stored closest to where it's needed so that impact on the network is managed.