The next two or three years will define the future of the chief information officer or IT department as we know this role today. The biggest challenge for many small and medium-sized business owners will be leading their companies through digital change against a backdrop of complexity, volatility and ambiguity.
There are five things SMEs should look to implement so they can take advantage of a new business world driven by the megatrends of social, mobile, cloud and analytics.
1. Security comes first
Although these megatrends are full of opportunity, they also open all businesses up to new, high-level risks. This should be front of mind for most technology leaders.
In its 2015 annual survey of chief information officers, Gartner found 93% of 161 chief information officers in Australia and New Zealand were concerned about the new level of risk associated with the digital world. Two out of three expressed further concerns that risk management practices were being outpaced by digital developments.
Make sure you have a security model that protects identities and sensitive business information. Use analytics to search the network for trends and anomalies so you can pick up potential threats. Attacks are inevitable, so now we must focus on how quickly we detect them and remediate.
2. Software-defined everything
Abstracting hardware, automating processes and building a software-defined data centre that extends to public and private cloud will be the quickest and cheapest way to provide and manage resources. Where it previously took 12 weeks to provision resources through traditional procurement models, it can now be done in 12 minutes. A process that once had more than 30 steps can be collapsed into one or two.
This will drive cost down very much like the virtualisation of servers did. When you can run this model effectively within your own organisation it’s a private cloud. If you can link that to external providers then you have a hybrid cloud. We believe hybrid cloud should be part of every business discussion because it will drive down IT costs, deliver greater value and provide opportunities for innovation, creating great opportunities for small and medium businesses to compete with larger organisations.
If the prospect of building your own hybrid cloud still seems too daunting, employing a service provider might be the option for many SMEs. Today’s leading service providers specialise in hosting clouds for SMEs and deliver a seamless hybrid cloud experience.
3. Beyond your four walls
From mobile customer behaviour to social media trends, there’s so much valuable data available outside your organisation today. Collecting this data, and being able to search for patterns using real-time analytics, is a whole new world of competitive advantage.
As businesses tap into the value of accessing information on premise and through external service providers, where new tools are being made available through the public cloud, they can automate the running of their private cloud and free up resources to start looking at innovation.
4. Responsive development
Rapid deployment of mobile applications that can be deployed into any cloud environment is going to be critical.
We’re seeing customers across all verticals talking about increasing speed to market. It’s a pain point for a lot of businesses and it’s one of the key reasons why they’re looking to redesign how they manage IT. In a business world defined by digital disruption, regardless of which industry you operate in or how big your business is, quickly developing and releasing new applications to consumers has become crucial to competing effectively. It’s how you win new customers and build loyalty among those who already use your products or services. Those who do a good job of this will prosper; those who don’t will struggle to stay relevant.
5. Embracing the mobile workforce
Enabling your people to work from anywhere, on whatever device they choose, will play a major role in boosting productivity, especially when you have a smaller workforce who can’t be everywhere at once.
In a global Workshare survey of almost 6000 IT professionals, two out of three reported using their personal devices for business. This is how the latest generation of employees expects to work. Businesses must meet those expectations if they’re to attract the top talent. This means managing a broad range of mobile devices – provisioning, securing and managing them – even if they’re not part of your standard operating environment. Collaboration must be more prevalent than it’s ever been in the past.
Alister Dias is managing director of EMC Australia and New Zealand.