Source: VitAL Magazine
At the start of a new year VitAL takes the temperature of the IT world. Editor Matt Bailey speaks to some leading lights in the industry and detects a hint of the ‘Arab Spring’ abroad with democratisation on the cards.
It seems that wherever you go in the world, 2012 is going to be a tough year and the IT world is no different, but the straightened circumstances provide a golden opportunity for IT departments to prove their mettle to the rest of the business by delivering increasing value and efficiency through emerging technologies like the cloud and the ‘consumerisation’ of IT.
Some would take that a step further. According to Chris Rixon, principal solutions manager at BMC, 2012 heralds the democratisation of IT. “If the ‘consumerisation of IT’ gained momentum in 2011, then 2012 will see the birth of the ‘democratisation of IT’, posing challenges the IT service management industry has never experienced before,” he predicts.
This democratisation will be driven by more and more people being involved in the purchasing of IT equipment, “Service management professionals will be compelled to adapt the way they provide support for the myriad of resources and devices with network access that form the enterprise IT landscape,” says Rixon.
“The ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) trend will alter the way that the Service Management industry operates,” comments Rixon. “BYOD, whilst revolutionary and offering increased ease of use for employees, can lead to the risk of non-IT managers purchasing IT solutions. The advent of cloud computing only serves to accelerate this trend as employees purchase and use cloud-based applications more frequently, but the reality is that non-IT managers can fall foul of their own inexperience when it comes to the intricacies of IT procurement and the ongoing management of the technology. Service Management professionals will therefore have to adjust accordingly.”
With staff perhaps getting out of their depth in this new world, Rixon suggests that education will be the way forward. “Given the inevitability of the BYOD trend, IT managers would be well advised to provide more internal training courses to advise non-IT specialists on IT procurement and management. These courses, which could range from courses on purchasing the best IT hardware to how to purchase the correct SLA for applications, will become a bigger responsibility for Service Management professionals, who as always, will be keen to maintain the integrity of their systems.”
Bring your own device, with its obvious business benefits of allowing employees to use the devices and applications with which they are most familiar, will be here to stay in 2012 according to Rixon, but it comes with a caveat. “One danger of moving away from the one size fits all method of IT procurement rests with IT support,” he says. “No matter what device or application an employee uses, they will continue to call IT Support if there is a problem. This represents a major challenge for IT managers, requiring them to have a working knowledge of a variety of devices and business applications in order to maintain a satisfactory service.
“The challenge then for IT Service Management in 2012 will be how to insert IT support into the BYOD discussion at boardroom level in the first instance and educate non-IT specialists from the top down on what they need to know when purchasing IT devices and applications. The BYOD tide will continue to sweep through businesses across the country and IT managers need to learn to embrace it. The democratisation of IT is not going away and the way IT managers deal with this in the coming year will be pivotal to the industry for years to come.”
There are other points of view of course. Asked how far consumerisation will go and what effect it will have on the business, Robert Rutherford, MD of IT service, consultancy and support provider QuoStar Solutions is far more circumspect: “There aren’t many IT leaders who would allow uncontrolled consumer devices access to the corporate network,” he warns. “You’ll see some marketing push from the thin-client and security industry but I don’t believe you’ll see significant growth, maybe some in 2012 but it will drop back going forward. You rarely see first wave success in IT.”
The democratic revolution of BYOD is far from being the only issue on the table. Our correspondents noted a range of issues that were of importance and clearly those that address the economic climate are crucial.
Robert Rutherford sees one in particular as especially helpful. “There are numerous ways IT can help the business at this time,” he says, “but cloud services can certainly deliver significant savings across the board, but beware of hidden risks and costs. Outsourcing of the IT operations within a business can certainly reduce costs, and will often improve service. It all depends on your vendor selection – choose the right partner and you are a hero, choose the wrong one and the consequences can be career-affecting.”
The cloud remains one of the principle routes to reduced overheads and the case has been made numerous times in these pages for a Software as a Service (SaaS) approach. Matt Davies, director of product marketing at business process management specialist Cordys predicts that: “More of the middleware market will move from on-premise solutions to the cloud in 2012. At this stage, there doesn’t seem to be a specific preference for public, private or hybrid solutions but we may see this change in the coming months.
“In addition, the number of telcos, system integrators and large multi-nationals acting as cloud brokers will grow dramatically. Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) will transcend from being used mainly by developers, to being far more focused on business users. In fact, companies looking to become cloud service providers will start to offer their own PaaS capability, providing personalised, high margin, value added services.”
Robert Rutherford is also cautious about the cloud, he says, “Cloud and mobility will grow significantly but will still remain relatively disjointed. Rationalisation is needed within both markets, along with proven success stories. The threat landscape is also getting enormous so it’s likely that we’ll see some big security scandals.”
Mark Seager, vice president of technology EMEA at data integration company Informatica is more optimistic: “Cloud computing will continue to change the way we do business. But in 2012, Europe has some catching up to do, as rates of adoption have been slow in comparison to the US. The year ahead will see an upturn in cloud adoption, driven by the need for organisations to be more agile, as well as the need to cut costs. With existing IT frameworks often made up of data siloes, cloud technology can help create a dynamic architecture to accommodate any data, in any location. Businesses who want to respond and act faster in today’s economic climate have to look to the cloud if they haven’t already. After all, the challenge for cloud adoption until now has been inertia, and many businesses have therefore not gained the benefits cloud computing can offer. Organisations need to be aggressive, but smart as they make the move to the cloud.”
Jon Milward, director of managed and support services at IT consultancy Northdoor, sees 2012 as a year of continuing trends: “Our 2012 predictions include a number of the technologies that really took off in 2011, since we’ve only just scratched the surface when it comes to areas like cloud computing and collaborative working. Over 80 percent of the SMEs we have spoken to this year show strong interest in moving to the cloud, and we’re also seeing an extraordinary amount of interest from companies that want to use the very latest technology to keep their employees mobile and communicating effectively. 2012 will be a very exciting year for all of these technologies, as their ease of use, flexibility and functionality continue to build. About a half of all SMEs are already using cloud for part, if not all, of their IT services.”
Milward also predicts a big rise in unified communications solutions that allow integrated presence, instant messaging, telephony and video conferencing for emerging and fast-growing SMEs. Collaborative working already gained a lot of attention in 2011 with Microsoft’s portals and collaborations tools, like SharePoint, but Milward is expecting to see even greater interest in this area during 2012, as new products like Microsoft Lync will make business communications even more effective and immediate.
Mobility is a key part of the process of democratisation and it seems the trend for increasingly sophisticated personal mobile devices – smartphones, tablets etc – being brought to the office will continue and accelerate a number of other trends in 2012.
Mark Seager comments: “Mobile technology will be the accelerator for a number of important industry trends in 2012. Over the years we’ve seen mobile functionality escalate at lightning speed – the last ten years alone have seen mobile subscribers increase from one to an anticipated six billion worldwide by the end of November in 2011. Not only is the number of mobile handsets still on the rise, but what we do with them is now contributing hugely to the data flood. With more and more organisations implementing ‘bring your own’ device initiatives in a bid to lower IT spend while supporting flexible working practices, keeping control of corporate data will continue to be a big pressure point for businesses. Ensuring that the right data management practices are in place to ease the pain of this fragmented information access will be critical to helping companies maintain control of company data.”
Jon Milward comments on the mobility explosion: “The New Year will reveal a number opportunities with mobile applications, as SMEs continue to increase their use of mobile devices. Not only will employees expect to have the same capabilities whether they are using a PC, a smartphone or a tablet, but they will increasingly want to switch between all of these devices quickly and easily. As a consequence, improving the security and integration of applications across different devices will be critical. Using mobile technologies to manage key business processes and deliver services to customers is also an untapped area for SMEs.”
“Social media is one in a long line of industry trends to fuels the data torrent,” says Mark Seager, “adding a new dimension to the challenge for businesses when managing the exponential growth of information. With a myriad of data types to handle, an increase in merger and acquisition activity and an explosion of virtual technology initiatives, the task of protecting customer intimacy and maintaining meaningful customer interaction is set to become a much harder task for businesses in 2012.
“The challenge is two-fold. Firstly, the rise of this social media generation is fuelling an explosive growth of data. It means a big step up for brands when it comes to understanding consumers – both in terms of managing the stream of live data through social communities, and integrating it with ‘traditional’ data types. Secondly, it’s creating a landscape of fresh opportunity. Organisations have a real opening to strike out beyond traditional approaches, implementing holistic brand strategies that incorporate proactive customer engagement, and timely sentiment analysis. In 2012, brands must act quickly to ride the social data wave, and extract the customer intelligence that simply wasn’t available before.”
Security & regulation
Of course this more open IT estate model and the prevalence of social media bring with them a number of security challenges. Mark Seager comments, “The rising numbers of online tools and social networks are making it increasingly easy to share and exchange information. It presents a big opportunity for businesses to utilise big data to understand their customers better, however this also presents a conundrum when it comes to asking ‘how much is too much information?’
“Although the older generation is generally more cautious about how much information they reveal, today’s youth is sharing everything they do, at every moment of the day via social networks,” says Seager. “As thousands of consumers are sharing more of their identity online, for businesses in 2012 the matter of data privacy will continue to shake up process and protocol. With increasing volumes of intelligence on consumers now available, brands must tread a very fine line when it comes to what data they gather and how they manage it, to avoid overstepping the mark or making critical errors. And, over time, consumers must begin to consider the extent of the information that they are truly prepared to share with organisations. It’s still a very grey area, which in the coming 12 months will require some extensive exploration.”
In addition, Seager says that businesses need to get regulator-savvy. “With regulatory bodies under pressure to up their game in 2012, companies will continue to feel the sting of hefty fines unless they address the challenges they face when it comes to protecting data- whether in the cloud or on premise. Poor management of customer data, resulting in errors, loss and theft will continue to be a stumbling block unless organisations make themselves equipped to deal with it. With regulators set to continue to wage war against businesses failing to implement the right information management procedures, businesses must act quickly to ensure they aren’t in the firing line for a hefty fine.
“Measures are beginning to be put in place to address this challenge,” adds Seager, “Solvency II, for example, aims to establish a revised set of EU-wide capital requirements and risk management standards that will replace the current solvency requirements. The directive is due to come into full effect in late 2012 and will allow companies to leverage value by integrating their corporate governance, risk management and regulatory compliance. In 2012, the focus across all sectors on improved information governance and regulatory compliance will continue to intensify.”
With the massive increase in devices using mobile data and the increasing traffic over the backbone of the telecoms infrastructure, will the network be able to cope? Specialist broadband journalist and editor of the thinkbroadband.com site Andrew Ferguson, thinks we are at a broadband crossroads: “Developments in the broadband infrastructure predicted to take place in the coming year, combined with growing consumer demand for data-hungry products and services, such as smart-TV and internet-enabled connectivity between computing devices, are helping to make additional investment in superfast broadband and speed upgrades of existing solutions commercially viable,” he says.
“Mobile broadband became increasingly popular during 2011, mainly due to the rise in smartphone ownership, but has unfortunately not progressed. Limited trials are underway which will tease us with the potential speeds from 4G services, but no actual roll-out is expected in 2012. This delay to 4G means that any illusions the mobile operators had of competing head to head with fixed-line broadband in cities are quickly vanishing. Once 4G gets moving, new proposals from Ofcom should help see coverage reach 98 percent of the population from at least one provider, although this level of coverage won’t be required until 2017. We hope that these exciting developments will enable the UK to finally compete with the likes of Sweden and the Netherlands in terms of internet connectivity. However, we will have to wait until the end of this year to see if the UK has been able to achieve Lord Carter’s ambitious target as set out in the Digital Britain report back in 2009: broadband for all in 2012.”
The Wi-Fi tycoon
Chris Bull founded Selective Media four years ago when he was just 19 years old. The company’s aim is the monetising of free Wi-Fi connections via advertising, it had almost no initial funding and has seen purely organic growth, becoming profitable within two months of launch. Recently the company was one of the partners involved in the launch of free Wi-Fi across Central London with Nokia. Here Chris Bull makes some predictions about the IT sector for 2012.
“E-commerce will grow significantly in 2012,” says Bull. “This will have a knock on effect in the technology arena. There is a real gap in the market opening up for a cheaper alternative to Apple’s iPad. Most apps are now cross-platform and while the user experience may not be quite as good on a cheaper option, many will be willing to put up with that for a lower price.”
With the coming of 4G many are predicting a rise in the uptake of mobile contracts. “I think on the mobile technology front we will see pay-as-you-go increasing rather than decreasing as many had predicted,” says Bull. “Because of this trend, Wi-Fi will become an extremely important medium for anyone that buys a pay-as-you-go smartphone. Networks like 3G will become very overloaded – especially at events like the Olympics, so free Wi-Fi will really come into its own.”
As a technology company, Selective Media has benefitted from a move into the cloud. “We now have everything hosted on the cloud,” says Bull. “All our infrastructure is on the cloud which has made it much easier for us to move our operations in anticipation of the Olympics this summer.”