Posts Tagged social networking

New Enterprise Systems Maturity Model

Does your shop use maturity models to measure where you stand and where you should be going compared with industry trends and directions? Savvy IT managers often would use such a model to pinpoint where their organization stood on a particular issue  as part of their pitch for an increased budget to hire more people or acquire newer, faster, greater IT capabilities.

Today maturity models are still around but they are more specialized now. There are, for instance, maturity models for security and IT management. Don’t be surprised to see maturity models coming out for cloud or mobile computing if they are not already here.

Earlier this year, Compuware introduced a new maturity model for the enterprise data center.  You can access it here. Compuware describes the new maturity model as one that helps organizations assess and improve the processes for managing application performance and costs as distributed and mainframe systems converge.

Why now? The data center and even the mainframe have been changing fast with the advent of cloud computing, mobile, and big data/analytics. Did your enterprise data center team ever think they would be processing transactions from mobile phones or running analytic applications against unstructured social media data? Did they ever imagine they would be handling compound workloads across mainframes and multiple distributed systems running both Windows and Linux?  Welcome to the new enterprise data center normal.

Maybe the first difference you’ll notice in the new maturity model are the new types of people populating the enterprise data center. Now you need to accommodate distributed and open systems along with the traditional mainframe environment. It requires that you bring together completely different teams and integrate them. Throw in mobile, big data, analytics, and social and you have a vastly different reality than you had even a year ago.  And with that comes the need to bridge the gap that has long existed between the enterprise (mainframe) and distributed data center teams. This is a cultural divide that will have to be navigated, and the new enterprise IT maturity model can help.

The new data center normal, however, hasn’t changed data center economics, except maybe to exacerbate the situation. The data center has always been under pressure to rein in costs and use resources, both CPUs and MIPS, efficiently.  Those pressures are still there but only more so because the business is relying on the data center more than ever before as IT becomes increasingly central to the organization’s mission.

Similarly, the demand for high levels of quality of service (QoS) not only continues unabated but is expanding. The demand for enterprise-class QoS now extends to compound workloads that cross mainframe and distributed environments, leaving the data center scrambling to meet new end user experience (EUE) expectations even as it pieces together distributed system QoS work-arounds. The new enterprise IT maturity model will help blend these two worlds and address the more expansive role IT is playing today.

To do this the model combines distributed open systems environments with the mainframe and recognizes different workloads, approaches, processes, and tooling. It defines five levels of maturity: 1) ad hoc, 2) technology-centric, 3) internal services-centric, 4) external services-centric, and 5) business-revenue centric.

Organizations at the ad hoc level, for example, primarily use the enterprise systems to run core systems and may still employ a green screen approach to application development. At the technology-centric level, there’s an emphasis on infrastructure monitoring to support increasing volumes, higher capacity, complex workload and transaction processing along with greater MIPS usage. As organizations progress from internal services-focused to external services-focused, mainframe and distributed systems converge and EUE and external SLAs assume a greater priority.

Finally, at the fifth or business centric level, the emphasis shifts to business transaction monitoring where business needs and EUE are addressed through interoperability of the distributed systems and mainframes with mobile and cloud systems. Here technologies provide real-time transaction visibility across the whole delivery chain, and IT is viewed as a revenue generator. That’s the new enterprise data center normal.

In short, the new enterprise maturity model requires enterprise and distributing computing come together and all staff work together closely; that proprietary systems and open systems interoperate seamlessly. And there is no time for delay. Already, DevOps, machine-to-machine computing (the Internet of Things), and other IT strategies, descendents of agile computing, are gaining traction while smart mobile technologies drive the next wave of enterprise computing.

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Five Reasons Businesses Use the Cloud that IT Can Live With

By 2016, cloud will matter more to business leaders than to IT, according to the IBM Center for Applied Insights. In fact, cloud’s strategic importance to business leaders is poised to double from 34% to 72%. That’s more than their IT counterparts where only 58% acknowledge its strategic importance.

This shouldn’t be surprising. Once business leaders got comfortable with the security of the cloud it was just a matter of figuring out how to use it to lower costs or, better yet, generate more revenue faster. IT, on the other hand, recognized the cloud early on as a new form of IT outsourcing and saw it as a direct threat, which understandably dampened their enthusiasm.

IBM’s research—involving more than 800 cloud decision makers and users—painted a more business-friendly picture that showed the cloud able to deliver more than just efficiency, especially IT efficiency. Pacesetting organizations, according to IBM, are using cloud to gain competitive advantage through strategic business reinvention, better decision making, and deeper collaboration. And now the business results to prove it are starting to roll in. You can access the study here.

IT, however, needn’t worry about being displaced by the cloud. Business managers still lack the technical perspective to evaluate and operationally manage cloud providers. In addition, there will always be certain functions that best remain on premise. These range from conformance with compliance mandates to issues with cloud latency to the need to maintain multiple sources of IT proficiency and capability to ensure business continuance. Finally, there is the need to assemble, maintain, and manage an entire ecosystem of cloud providers (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, and others) and services like content distribution, network acceleration, and more.  So, rest assured; if you know your stuff, do it well, and don’t get greedy the cloud is no threat.

From the study came five business reasons to use the cloud:

1)      Better insight and visibility—this is the analytics story; 54% use analytics to derive insights from big data, 59% use it to share data, and 59% intend to use cloud to access and manage big data in the future

2)      Easy collaboration—cloud facilitates and expedites cross-functional collaboration, which drives innovation and boosts productivity

3)      Support for a variety of business needs by forging a tighter link between business outcomes and technology in areas like messaging, storage, and office productivity suites; you should also add compute-business agility

4)      Rapid development of new products and services—with  52% using the cloud to innovate products and services fast and 24% using it to offer additional product and services; anything you can digitize, anything with an information component can be marketed, sold, and delivered via the cloud

5)      Proven results –25% reported a reduction in IT costs due to the cloud, 53% saw an increase in efficiency, and 49% saw improvement in employee mobility.

This last point about mobility is particularly important. With the advent of the cloud geography is no longer a constraining business factor. You can hire people anywhere and have them work anywhere. You can service customers anywhere. You can source almost any goods and services from anywhere. And IT can locate data centers anywhere too.

Yes, there are things for which direct, physical interaction is preferred. Despite the advances in telemedicine, most people still prefer an actual visit to the doctor; that is unless a doctor simply is not accessible. Or take the great strides being made in online learning; in a generation or two the traditional ivy covered college campus may be superfluous except, maybe, to host pep rallies and football games. But even if the ivy halls aren’t needed, the demand for the IT capabilities that make learning possible and enable colleges to function will only increase.

As BottomelineIT has noted many times, the cloud is just one component of your organization’s overall IT and business strategy.  Use it where it makes sense and when it makes sense, but be prepared to alter your use of the cloud as changing conditions dictate. Change is one of the best things at which the cloud is best.

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Make Your Digital Presence a Valuable Asset

Do you recognize your organization’s digital presence as a valuable asset?  You probably are familiar with some aspects of it, less familiar with others. The organization’s website forms a core component of your digital presence. So do any information or blog portals your organization deploys. Do you conduct webcasts to educate customers or prospects? Webcasts are part of your digital presence too. Your digital presence, in short, is all you do in the digital sphere.

IT probably didn’t initiate the organization’s digital presence way back when the scramble was on to stake out a web presence. Probably marketing agitated for it and IT assigned someone as webmaster. Things have changed dramatically in the decade or two since.

 “Digital is the future and a critical component of business strategy in many industries,” notes Howard Tiersky, CEO of Moving Interactive, which specializes in digital innovation consulting.  In other words, Tiersky tries to increase the value of companies’ digital presence, whatever pieces it may include.

To Tiersky, digital represents the largest transformation the media world has seen in decades—the old rules and ways of launching new products no longer apply. But your digital presence probably extends far beyond the digital media world.

According to Kennedy Consulting, “digital strategy, the integration of digital technologies into companies’ strategies and operations in ways that fundamentally alter the value chain, is emerging as a significant source of competitive advantage.” It is driving dramatic changes in the products and services companies bring to market, as well as how they do business. What we really mean when talking about digital is the entire digital landscape: the Internet, Web (World Wide Web), the Cloud, and all they contain; mobile even plays a key part of it.

Every organization today operates in this rapidly expanding digital landscape. Some have a small digital presence there, maybe just a website that is little more than a static information portal or electronic brochure. Others digitally engage their customers, partners, and other stakeholders much more extensively through social business, online collaboration, webcasts, video, and more.

At this point, the extent of an organization’s involvement in the digital landscape generally mirrors its industry. “In some industries, digital has become the primary way to interact with customers,” says Tiersky.  For customers in media, entertainment, travel, and financial services an effective digital strategy is a critical requirement. In other industries the need is less urgent right now, but before not too long every company in every industry will need a digital strategy that shapes its digital presence.

Most companies began a decade or two ago with a simple static website. Marketing usually was driving the bus with IT lending technical support as needed.  Over the years it grew and expanded; IT increasingly became involved, often reluctantly.

The budget for these kinds of digital initiatives also grew, and the recipient of the budget began to shift. According to Gartner, marketing is purchasing significant marketing-related technology and services from their own capital and expense budgets – both outside the control of the internal IT organization and in conjunction with them.  The upshot, Gartner predicts that by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO. And the volume and value of transactions being generated through the organization’s digital presence has likely become substantial.

The digital landscape and the performance of the organization’s digital presence within that landscape has grown in size to such an extent, as reflected by the increasing amounts of budget allocated to it, that neither IT nor marketing can handle it alone. The scope and complexity of the digital landscape and its many disparate elements has evolved and expanded fast. In addition, the importance of the organization’s digital presence grown even faster; that’s why every organization needs outside help.

And this is why digital consultants, content delivery networks, and cloud-based services providers of all sorts are in demand.  It is time for you as CIO to sit down with the CMO and put together a team that can efficiently optimize your digital presence as a valuable asset going forward.

 The digital landscape is not going away. “We are going through a multi-decade transformation process; every business will shift significantly into digital world,” says Tiersky.  As that happens you want to make sure IT is playing a key role.

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IT Chaos Means Opportunity for the CIO

Hurricanes, hybrid superstorms, earthquake-tsunami combinations, extreme heat, heavy snow in April are just a few signs of chaos. For IT professionals specifically, chaos today comes from the proliferation of smartphones and BYOD or the deluge of data under the banner of big data. A sudden shift to the deployment of massive numbers of ARM processors or extreme virtualization might trigger platform chaos.  A shortage of sufficient energy can lead to another form of chaos. Think of it this way: chaos has become the new normal.

Big consulting firms have latched onto the idea of chaos. Deloitte looks to enterprise data management to create order out of chaos. At Capgemini, the need of organizations to increasingly deal with unstructured processes that ordinary Business Process Management (BPM) solutions were not designed to cope with can be enough to lead to chaos. Their solution: developing case management around a BPM solution – preferably in conjunction with an Enterprise Content Management system – solves many of the problems

Eric Berridge, co-founder of Bluewolf Group, a leading consulting firm specializing in implementations, put it best when he wrote in a recent blog that CIOs must learn to harness chaos for a very simple reason: business is becoming more chaotic. Globalization and technology, which have turned commerce on its head over the past 20 years, promise an even more dizzying rate of change in the next decade.

Berridge’s solution draws on the superhero metaphor. The CIO has to become Captain Chaos, the one able to overcome a seemingly insurmountable level of disarray to deliver the right value at the right time. And you do that my following a few straightforward tips:

First, don’t build stuff you don’t absolutely have to build. You want your organization to travel as light as possible. If you build systems you are stuck with them. Instead, you want to be able to change systems as fast as the business changes in response to whatever chaos is swirling at the moment. That means you need to aim for an agile IT infrastructure, probably one that can take tap a variety of cloud services and turn them on and off as needed.

Then, recognize the consumerization of IT and the chaos it has sparked.  This is not something to be resisted but embraced and facilitated in ways that give you and your organization the measure of control you need. Figure out how to take advantage of the consumerization of IT through responsive policies, elastic infrastructure, and flexible security capabilities.

Next, encourage the organization’s R&D and product development groups to also adopt agile methods and approaches to innovation, especially through social media and other forms of collaboration. Even encourage them to go a step further by reaching out to customers to participate.  Your role as CIO at this point is to facilitate interaction among the parties who can create successful innovation.

Finally, layer on enough just-in-time governance to enable the organization to manage the collaboration and interactivity. The goal is to rein in chaos and put it to work. To do that you need to help set priorities, define objectives, execute plans, and enforce flexible and agile policies—all the things that any successful business needs to do but do so in the context of a chaotic world that is changing in ways you and top management can’t predict.

As CIO this puts big demands on you too. To start, you have to keep your finger on the pulse of what is happening with the world at large, in business and with technology. That means you need to figuratively identify and place sensors and monitors that can tip you off as things change. You also can’t master every technology. Instead you need to identify an ever-changing stable of technology masters you can call on as needed and familiarize yourself with the vast amount of resources available in the cloud.

In the end, these last two points—a stable of technology masters you can call upon and deep familiarity with cloud resources—will enable you to deliver the most value to your organization despite the chaos of the moment. At that point you truly become Captain Chaos, the one your organization counts on to deal with ever changing chaos.

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5 Things CIOs should be Thankful for This Thanksgiving

CIOs have a number of things from a technology standpoint to be thankful about. You have been reading about these technologies all year here and here.

These help you reduce costs, improve business processes, and boost your efficiency and the efficiency of your organization:

  1. Virtualization—increases the utilization and flexibility of IT resources
  2. Cloud computing—enables you to efficiently consume and deliver business capabilities as services
  3. Mobile devices (smartphones, tablets)—un-tethers you from the constraints of the office, location, and time
  4. Social business—enables new ways to get close to your customers and turn them into evangelists for your business
  5. Moore’s Law—ensures that the cost of IT capabilities continues to steadily drop on a per-unit-of-work basis as it has for decades.

Are all of these unqualified, 100% gains with no downsides? Probably not (with the exception of Moore’s Law), but no organization that has benefited from any of wants to go back.  Happy Thanksgiving.

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Avoid the Pitfalls of Social Networking

In an economy where innovation has become the currency for sustained competitive advantage, it also has become a truism that when companies collaborate they will innovate more often and more effectively.  Although large enterprises have long deployed complex and sophisticated collaboration tools, popular social networking tools can do as good a job.

That’s why you hear a lot about the successes big consumer product and entertainment companies are having with social networking.  P&G, for example, discovered that Facebook could pump new life into a stable but decidedly staid product, Pepto-Bismol.  Business Week wrote about it here in March.

Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) and those not so explicitly consumer oriented have found social networking success a bit more elusive.   Among midsize businesses, for instance, 38% have a company Facebook page, but less than a quarter uses it to generate new leads and sales and less than one-fifth use it for internal collaboration or customer retention, according to a recent study by the SMB Group.

The SMB 2012 study shows overall use of social media is up from 44% to 53% among small businesses (1-99 employees) and up from 52% to 63% among medium businesses (100-999 employees) year-over-year, but it also reveals a widening gap between SMBs that are using social networking in an informal, ad hoc manner and those taking a more planned, strategic approach. Here is how can you make social strategic in your organization and avoid common pitfalls.

Start by making a commitment to use social networking strategically and link it to goals for revenue growth. Strategic users, the study found, also were more likely to have already integrated social media with existing business applications and processes. CRM, customer support, and product development are the three that most immediately come to mind.

After that, you want to avoid five social networking pitfalls SMBs trip on. Kevin Casey, writing for Information Week, elaborated on them, which Bottomline IT summarizes below:

  1. Not enough time. A lack of time was the clear number-one issue for small businesses, with 62% citing it as a roadblock to effective social engagement. Midsize businesses are similarly pressed.
  2. Too many social networks. The time issue compounds as the number of social platforms grows. Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and others bring social networks that together complicate strategy development and execution.
  3. Hard to measure. Nearly half of midsize firms report being unable to accurately measure the value of their social networking. Why define and execute a strategy if there is no effective way to evaluate progress?
  4. Inappropriate tools and services. Yes, social monitoring and management tools are emerging but many are not designed for SMBs. They don’t want a comprehensive command center but something easily deployed that covers their key social activities in one simple toolset, including metrics.
  5. Confusing customer sentiment. SMBs experience a deluge of social information emanating from these networks, some of it contradictory, which makes it hard to figure out what it all means. Social analysis tools are just emerging for this.

Data published in Forrester’s Global Enterprise Web 2.0 Market Forecast: 2007 to 2013, projects that enterprise spending on Web 2.0 technologies will reach $4.6 billion by 2013 and climb to $6.4 billion by 2016.  Gartner predicts that social technology will be integrated with most business applications by 2016. But, deriving value from social networking is not just about implementing Web 2.0 technology. Rather, it is about transforming a company’s knowledge-sharing culture and influencing daily behavior patterns to ensure effective adoption and exploitation of the new social tools and processes, writes Gloria Burke for Unisys.  That’s how you get true, sustainable collaboration.

Maybe the first challenge in that transformation is getting your organization to adopt of social networking at all. Corinne Sklar, marketing director at Bluewolf Group, a leading social consulting firm, has this to say on adoption: Long emails with links to how-to web pages tend to fall victim to the I’ll-get-to-it-later email black hole. Instead, innovate with new forms of communication, the more streamlined and concise the better. As attention spans diminish providing a mix of communication tools helps your people get the info they need in the kind of short, bite-sized chunks they can absorb immediately. When going social, instant gratification counts.

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Social Media Gets Down to Business at Enterprise 2.0

At lasts week’s Enterprise 2.0 social networking conference in Boston, the talk got down to serious business. The fun and games of Facebook and Twitter took a back seat to using social networking for actual business work, mainly around collaboration that leads to innovation.

Here is what BottomlineIT wrote about last year’s conference. Not that it wasn’t serious, but the buzz was around networks of networks. Since then the focus has evolved. Basic social and collaboration has morphed into mobile networking and innovation with a strong focus on delivering business value.

To that end, Nathan Bricklin, head of social strategy and Wells Fargo Wholesale Services, advised attendees: “What you should have is a business strategy, and then you can layer social efforts and social tools to support the business strategy.” Nobody disagreed.

Among the vendors and speakers, several main themes emerged:  mobile everywhere, all devices welcome, connecting social to traditional business applications, and collaboration that drives business innovation.

Enterprise 2.0 this year clearly was about social for mobile devices.  If you walked around the show with a small laptop connected via WiFi you probably felt like a dinosaur. You want your social connections with you wherever you are and wherever you go. Social media has become a mobile play, no doubt.

And the products are scrambling to support any mobile device. The iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets, and other tablets of all sorts. Unlike previous years where the iPhone ruled, this year any device is welcome. (Your blogger was connecting via an Android smartphone.)

The vendors apparently also now understand that to make social networking acceptable to business they have to interact with traditional business applications. You couldn’t sit through a product demo without seeing how it would connect with a company’s CRM or ERP or financial systems. Pulling customer data from the CRM system and combining it with other social content to drive sales was a frequently demoed example, so was budgeting where input from numerous managers and business units were combined in a final budget.

Finally, streamlined collaboration enabled by social networking alone apparently does not deliver sufficient business value fast enough. The big business payoff from collaboration, it turns out, comes by fueling more, better, and faster innovation.  Said one vendor: “You connect social to traditional business apps and then use social to tap innovation around the periphery of the enterprise.”

The oddball at the show was Crowd Computing Systems, which seemed only marginally social. As they explained it, they join artificial intelligence with crowd sourcing to help companies select business process outsourcing (BPO) providers.  As they put it:  “By fusing human and artificial intelligence to match specific tasks to the best resources for completing them – whether human or machine – we not only make getting work done faster, we make it more scalable, predictable, flexible and accurate.” It’s an interesting idea although I’m still not sure why they were at Enterprise 2.0

Enterprise 2.0 in Boston is one of two live conferences the organization puts on each year.  The other is in Santa Clara. Starting next week the organization’s two live events will each take on their own positioning as Enterprise 2.0 Boston becomes E2 Social and Enterprise 2.0 Santa Clara becomes E2 Innovate. E2 Social will continue to spotlight the technologies and market forces within social business and collaboration, whereas E2 Innovate will look more broadly to what the influences of mobile, social, data and analytics mean for next generation enterprise applications. However it shakes out, BottomlineIT will be there next year.

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The Return of ERP—Not Your Father’s ERP

Four years ago, Eric Berridge declared in his book Iterate or Die that traditional ERP systems were dinosaurs headed for extinction. He was right, but before ERP completely disappeared some products began to morph into something else. It took a few years and now we are witnessing the return of ERP. But this is not your father’s ERP.

As Gartner explains: Business applications are undergoing many changes. The realities of cloud computing, the accessibility provided by mobile technologies, and the impact of social paradigms are affecting the business application environment. And ERP is the business application most affected.

The recent recession and painstakingly slow recovery hurt the ERP business. Even worse, the costly, cumbersome, inflexible, outdated ERP systems the vendors were hawking hurt the businesses saddled with them. Now the survivors are creeping back and finding a radically changed ERP landscape.

ERP systems run many companies. Your company probably has one or, more likely, several. They combine business process with software and integrate numerous critical back-office functions across a company. The tight integration of the various functions and the use of a common database gave ERP systems their power to coordinate the organization’s core activities based on a single set of shared, consistent data. Having multiple ERP systems certainly complicates things but with decentralized organizations or those that inherited multiple ERP systems along with acquisitions and never got around to standardizing, it is a mess many, sadly, continue to struggle with.

The ERP idea is still good, but the old implementations were too costly, too slow to implement, and too rigid, and hard to use. Rather than help the business they prevented organizations from changing quickly. Today, the inability to change fast is disastrous. That’s why Berridge titled his book Iterate or Die. Many businesses that failed to heed his words did just that.

The latest twist to the ERP saga has been the marriage of ERP with social networking. As one ERP observer put it: Social media and ERP make good financial sense. Not only is social media being taken seriously as a proper business tool, but useful new tools, especially when engaging in conversation with customers, are emerging. For example, acquired Radian6, which focuses on B2C needs, effectively allowing companies to participate in consumer conversations on the social web.  Expect to see a bigger convergence of CRM and social media. The integration of the enterprise CRM and Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn will allow organizations to bolster both internal and external customer relationship functions.

When Berridge wrote his book he mainly had in mind Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).  SaaS has moved into the mainstream for ERP, CRM, supply chain management, and financial systems.  Notes Roger Borek, Borek Business Solutions, a Microsoft ERP provider, the growth of SaaS ERP software is accelerating and analysts predict continued growth of through 2012. For most companies, this hosted delivery model requires no initial cash outlay for IT resources while enabling a faster software implementation, on-demand scalability, and improved ROI. These factors collectively reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) and accelerate time-to-market benefits.

Typical of the new breed of ERP is Plex Online, ERP for manufacturers, and NetSuite, an integrated collection of SaaS applications including ERP.

Compare that to the ERP of the past that took armies of consultants several years to implement and tailor to the company’s needs at a cost of millions of dollars.  And even then many went widely unused, giving rise to the pejorative term shelfware.

The new ERP ideally will incorporate social networking, add gamification to make it easy to use and measure, and deliver it as a SaaS offering to make it fast and cost efficient. Gamification, notes Gartner, will drive process innovation—that’s something you would never associate with the old ERP. The result certainly won’t be your father’s ERP.

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Technology Trends for 2012

The big technology trends in 2012 will be extensions of trends that began in 2011 or earlier.  For example, BottomlineIT noted the Consumerization of IT  back in September. Expect it to pick up speed in 2012. Similarly you read about The Internet of Things here back in February. That too will drive technology trends in 2012.

The big IT research firms published their trends projections for 2012. You can find Gartner’s here.  Maybe more interesting to a CIO will be IDC’s security trends for 2012 here.

The tech trends below are based on the numerous vendor briefings and conferences BottomlineIT attends as well as talking with dozens of IT and business managers. Most shouldn’t surprise you if you have been reading BottomlineIT, but a few might.

Here are the technology trends for 2012:

BYOD—smartphones mainly and other devices. The twist is the growing adoption of Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) in which workers are encouraged to bring their personal smartphones to work while IT will be asked to support a range of popular devices, selectively open interfaces to data and applications, and insist on a certain level of security, such as data encryption. The business will have to resolve reimbursement issues, currently policies vary from zero to all.

Social Networking for Business—will only grow in the coming year.  Social networking is the way the next generation of workers live and increasingly work.  Businesses will want to identify and capitalize on opportunities in social networking starting with collaboration.

The Internet of Things—the digital transformation of the economy continues as chips are embedded in more things from consumer appliances to packaging materials, allowing companies to meter and monitor processes and activity. RFID is just the start. Watch for more digital instrumentation appearing.

 Automated, Real-time Data Analytics—a part of the Big Data trend. Expect to see the growing adoption of advanced data analytics, which increasingly will be automated to keep up with the high volume and in near-real time to allow for dynamic data-based decision-making. And the analytics will be baked in, relieving the business from having to maintain a stable of PhD quants.

Bio-metric Authentication—passwords provide poor security. Watch for increased adoption of bio-metrics in the form of fingerprints, retina scans, facial/voice recognition, and such to replace the use of passwords for authentication.

The Cloud goes Mainstream—most companies will develop a cloud strategy at some level, whether for backup to the cloud, SaaS, to augment existing capabilities, or something else.

Virtualized Enterprise—look for increasing virtualization of every digital aspect of the enterprise, from data networking to voice communications.

Solid state memory for storage—in one form or another solid state memory will be an increasing part of almost every storage strategy as costs continue to drop and vendors get better at integrating it into the products to boost performance.

Further out:

Electronic Wallets—smart devices, including smartphones, used for almost anything from buying a can of soda to proving who you are. Big vendors already are fighting over who provides the e-wallet. Think you worry about security now? This merits close scrutiny.

Geo-Location—between smart devices and GPS look for businesses increasingly to take advantage of geographic data, first for marketing (combined with QR codes) and then much more.

In-memory Computing—combining processing with memory speeds performance.  Expect to see entire databases processed in memory.

Gamification—applying aspects of computer gaming to business software offers the possibility of more compelling and engaging business applications.  Could ERP be improved through gamification? For sure.

However things shake out, 2012 should be an interesting year for technology, and BottomlineIT will stay on top of it.

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Productivity vs. Security: Find the Right Balance

Security concerns around IT systems seem to only get worse. Now organizations must contend with cloud computing, social networking, and mobile computing, all of which ratchet up security concerns. Of course, you can boost security but business will suffer. Restrict social networking and risk losing customers. Let managers access data from smartphones and risk compromising data.

“When Security is around, Productivity disappears. And when Productivity shows up on the scene, Security has to take a coffee break,” writes Aaron Weiss for Dell here.

Workers aren’t stupid. They feel the pressure from management to do more, work harder, work faster, no excuses. They know it is a tough economy; layoffs could come at any time. So they take shortcuts, and a handy place to find those shortcuts is security. How can you strike the right balance?

Here are five telltale signs workers are opting for expediency over security:

  1. Passwords hidden in the most obvious places—convenient, easy to find by anyone, almost never changed
  2. Leaving a workstation, even for a few minutes, with a session running and connection open—anyone who sits down can do anything
  3. Putting data unencrypted on insecure, easily misplaced devices (laptops, smartphones, tablets, flash cards)—usually in an effort to be more productive
  4. Sending confidential data unencrypted via email—no guaranteed delivery, no assurance the recipient will be the one opening it, no control of the data after it passes the firewall
  5. Failure to follow social media policy—spontaneous discussions with little awareness of security and confidentiality implications

In each case convenience, usually in the name of productivity, trumps security. It is faster and easier to do it this way, workers reason.

But don’t blame the workers. Management, too, sends clear signals that security is less important than productivity:

  1. Lack of a security policy and social media policy that reflect how efficient workers actually operate
  2. Failure to cultivate security awareness through regular communication and training
  3. Reluctance to invest in automated security tools that remove much of the burden of complying with security policy
  4. Failure to model and enforce proper security behavior, with accountability for security lapses
  5. Unreasonable productivity demands that drive workers to take careless shortcuts

When management by its actions conveys the message that throughput is more important than sensible protection of valuable data and systems assets inevitably productivity will trump security.

Here are signs the security-productivity issue risks falling out of balance, notes Rakkhi Samaresekera here.  The most obvious, of course, is a major security incident. Before you suffer that, however, consider minor security incidents or near-misses as warnings that something is amiss. This might be an increase in thefts of laptops or more frequent virus attacks.

Audit reports should give you a good sense of potential security problems. Don’t just bury these in a file folder that never gets opened. Similarly, have consultants periodically assess current security in light of industry best practices. Again, once you get the report, don’t ignore it.

There are, however, proactive things you can do to enable security without killing productivity or triggering a worker revolt. For example, you can deploy single sign-on which greatly expedites application and data access while reducing the need to manage passwords. To get rid of passwords altogether, you can implement bio-metric authentication. It’s a bit pricey, but once deployed users reportedly love it. Also consider automated ID management tools to rein in multiple worker IDs and roles. Finally, make sure the help desk knows to respond fast when workers have trouble with passwords or otherwise get tangled in security.

Start to minimize the conflict between security and productivity by streamlining business processes within the context of effective security practices with the input of workers. This includes the new employee on-boarding process too. And new tools, as noted above, can eliminate the most cumbersome aspects of security. Of course, all of this requires an investment of time and budget. The payoff, however, is security with productivity.

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