Security, mobility, data-based decision-making, flash storage, and IT hiring must rise in importance.
With the bowl games done and Christmas trees at the curb, I'm glad 2013 is over. It wasn't a stellar year for IT. Between the Snowden leaks and their Orwellian revelations, the HealthCare.gov mishaps, the cloud email outages (Yahoo's still lingers), and the 40 million credit identities stolen from Target, a range of negative events in 2013 undercut the promise of technology to improve society.
Against that backdrop, I've compiled several IT resolutions that should contribute to greater success for IT shops in 2014.
Security, security, security While corporate IT security has improved in the past several years, we're still well behind the hackers. The Target breach and countless others demonstrate those shortcomings.
Security is one of the fastest-growing IT spending areas, but enterprises must do even more. Given the strongly negative reaction of Target customers to the recent breach, security events no longer are speed bumps -- they threaten a company's reputation and viability. Make that case now to your senior management team. Don't be the 2014 version of Target.
Not sure where to start? Here's a good checklist of security best-practices. While it looks like Target's breach was internal, re-check your suppliers and their defenses, since many of the enterprise breaches in the past few years started at a supplier. While we're at it, let's all make a greater effort across our industries to collaborate on improving security.
Start making data-based decisions in real time Whether it's big data or small, start gathering more information about your customers and market trends to make more-informed decisions for them (and your company) while they're transacting with you. A now-common version of real-time decision-making is the "recommendations based on what other like people bought" that you see on Amazon.com and other sites. Data engines are now powerful enough to rely on ongoing data analysis (rather than businesspeople) to determine the rules.
One example involves stores or banks analyzing all the data at their disposal to identify hidden patterns, in order to qualify customers for credit more easily at lower costs than they did when they used a conventional policy-based credit score and report. As a result of such data analytics practices, business policies will move from being static to being determined in real time. If you haven't explored real-time decision-making yet, do a pilot this year, and move beyond historical analysis.
Join the flash mob Flash storage, that is. Many IT shops already use hybrid flash/disk technologies. Now that EMC and other vendors have introduced all-flash products, IT shops should consider them for their most performance-bound workloads.
The performance improvements with flash are remarkable, and saving 90% on environmentals in your data center is icing on the cake. Flash, factoring in deduplication, is comparable in cost to disk storage today. By the end of the year, it should cost less.
Go mobile, from the ground up Mobile devices already are the main way most consumers interface with ecommerce and other company sites. With smartphones, tablets, and data networks constantly improving, your company's mobile presence will only grow in importance.
But don't rely on a mobilized version of your company's standard website. Tune your interface to customers' mode of interaction. Nothing is more cumbersome to a consumer than trying to enter data from a phone into a Web form designed for a PC. In addition, exploit the location and other sensors on smartphones wherever possible. Go mobile, but go native.
Bring in new IT talent By 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates, the US economy will create another 1.4 million IT jobs. Meantime, there won't be nearly enough computer science graduates to fill them.
Companies big and small must look to hire recent graduates in the field and encourage more young people to prepare for a STEM career. In the 1970s and 80s, before formal computer science programs were widespread, many outstanding computer scientists received their degrees in such fields as music, biology, foreign languages, and teaching. We need another wave of converts to meet the tech demands of the next decade. As IT leaders, we need to encourage the next generation of IT pros. Let's go out and get them.
What are your 2014 IT resolutions and why? Happy New Year!
Jim Ditmore is a senior VP of IT infrastructure and operations at Allstate. He has worked in IT for more than 25 years and as a CIO or CTO for the last 15 years. You can read more of Jim's views on IT at Recipes for IT.
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