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Five Tool CIOs Must Embrace in 2011

In 2010, our briefing delivered five tools chief information officers must embrace. These five tools proved very strong in 2010 and they were:

Smart phonestoolbox
Online social networks
Ubiquity
Cloud Computing and
Governance

These 2010 tools remained strong and we see the pace of adoption increasing rapidly in 2011. They are still relevant.

We could have taken the easy route with the proverbial crystal ball and said ditto for the 2011 tools, but instead we bring five new tools chief information officers must embrace in 2011. The economic challenges of 2010 continue to drive technology tools and trends in 2011. Economists are reporting that the economy is growing, slowly, but growing. For many business leaders the economy is not growing fast enough and there is still apprehensive about moving forward with major acquisitions. Protecting what you have, reducing risk, and well thought out investments drive these five tools for 2011.

Security

Security professionals often feel that security is given the “just what I need to get by” treatment by political and business leaders. These leaders generally prefer to roll the dice, thereby assuming the risk and/or push the obligations to the end customer. Until, of course, there is a problem or a new regulatory requirement. Then they “find religion” which is often when new measurements are added as a knee jerk reaction. The landscape has changed in 2010. In 2010, H.R. 2221: Data Accountability and Trust Act passed the House of Representatives. Although it has a way to go before becoming law, it does demonstrate that government is getting serious about electronic information outside of national security. More states have enacted laws with greater consumer protections particularly notification of breaches. The payment card industry (PCI) has moved to reduce exposure of bank losses in light of new expectations for transparency, another trend for 2011, mandated by state government.

Hard times generally breed criminal activities. Displaced workers have left with customer data making it available to the open market place. The growing mobility of data in all its forms, from flash drives to mobile smart devices has made the organization porous. Our global economy and our connectedness have us managing increased threats from overseas. For all these reasons, security and audits are now being leveraged by the leadership. Why pay unnecessary fines or absorb the cost of losses. Why risk damage to the organization’s goodwill?

Informed leaders are using security policies and procedures, and audits to assist in securing their organization. Most organizations collect logs, but few actually reviewed them. Now there are ample tools available to help identify anomalies. Leaders are less likely to begrudge auditors, in fact the informed leaders request them, as they expose weaknesses within their organization again avoiding potential losses that eat into the already razor thin margins or detract from other worthy projects.

Private Cloud Computing

Moving to the cloud is not really the new tool. Thanks to clever “to the cloud” marketing from Microsoft, more individuals and organizations are becoming more comfortable with these services and are realizing they already have been leveraging the cloud with hosting and software as a service (SaaS). The latest twist is communities of collaboration forming private clouds, applications, and services. These private clouds have like-minded entities. Even this concept is not new. Our military has been doing this for years on their private network. Now municipals and companies are banding together to leverage economies of scale without compromising issues of security or service.

Municipalities, educational institutions, and businesses are working together in communities that have common needs. They are defining the handling expectations for common problems and are identifying partnerships for resolution. As an example, law enforcement has requirements for data storage and access. Private public safety cloud providers have certified employees, data transport, and storage for several municipalities, generally with the same state requirements, while ensuring separation between unique public safety entities, say county to county.

In the past most CIOs would choose to go it alone, opting for control over costs. However, control based on proximity is a fallacy. Responsibility for your information does not go away when the data in not in your data center, so the informed CIOs retain their control through service level agreements, audits, process capabilities, and contract incentives while benefiting from the reduction in operating costs.

Ubiquity

Wait, wasn't ubiquity one of our suggested tools from last year. Yes, last year we talked about ubiquity as it relates to the availability and uses a broadband wireless; now we're discussing the endpoint. Smart phones have morphed into smart devices. Devices like the iPads and tablets are growing in popularity and acceptance. The functionality, ease of use, size, and speed of smart phones and other highly mobile devices are pushing the CIO to design ways to meet the user demand to use mobile / smart devices. Even those that confess to be non-techies are quickly adopting these devices. So, does the end point matter? Yes it still does, but as hosting, software as a service increases, and more work moves to the web we see less concerned about the desktop model, if one were to still exist.

Some of the benefits of endpoint ubiquity or letting the user choose their endpoint is that CIOs could stop chasing the refresh cycle opting instead to let the user purchase and swap the endpoint device of choice. The CIO could reduce the need for pushing the last patches as most of these smart devices are used for viewing and interfacing versus storing data. CIOs could worry less about the variability in the configuration of operating system, application version, hardware, and chipset. Moving in this direction could reduce the configuration management burden for the Information Technology department. The users would choose the device they are most comfortable with whether that's a desktop, tablet, or smart phone.

Agility and Innovation

Political and business leaders alike are suggesting we not waste of good crisis, referring to the current economic crisis. Invention is said to be the mother of necessity. Over the past 18 to 24 months we've learned to do more with less, maybe even do without and obviously become more efficient with what we have. We have been very creative in our thinking and approach to problem solving. President Obama noted in his State of the Union speech we are at our Sputnik moment. The new normal is a highly efficient operation. Organizations will remain lean. Yet history has demonstrated that organizations that find ways to continue to innovate often end up ahead of the pack. CIOs must not only leverage the momentum, but exploit it. CIOs must promote research and discovery by freeing up the staff to investigate the myriad of applications and opportunities being developed not only by the familiar IT brand names but also in the basements and dens of nontraditional IT professionals.

Transparency

Transparency is becoming ever more important in the public sector. There has always been a degree of transparency in the government sector. Life with growing federal and state deficits, TARP, and ARRA has the public demanding accountability from our elected leaders. Particularly as individuals tighten their personal budget they are expecting the same from their government. This means CIOs must have tools that enable a rapid response to queries. Some municipalities have decided to get out in front of the demand by placing financial payments online for all the citizens to see. The need for transparency is not limited to the financials or just the public sector.

The ability to successfully complete an electronic discovery request affects both the public and private sectors. Additionally if you are in the private sector and your organization has received public sector money you will be expected to comply. CIOs must leverage business intelligence applications, email archiving and recovery solutions, and sophisticated search applications to scan the ever growing data store to meet the growing transparency expectations. Get use to it. Compliance is not seen as a benefit or competitive advantage. CIOs are leveraging transparency to mine organization information for the precious gems. They are indentifying trends, finding new markets, locating broken processes and fixing them. These are the activities that are providing true rewards to transparency.

This year holds the promise of a better economy, a new operating normal, increase mobility, and unfortunately increase security threats. These five tools are a must for the toolbox of CIOs that are making a difference in their organization.

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