2018: the year of the IT arms race

By Christophe Vanmalleghem, Managing Director van Cheops

IT will only become more and more strategic within organisations. It even becomes a true field of war with the related strong use of language. The war for talent, the pressure to be extremely well secured and the threat of missing an innovative train are, according to Cheops, the three “battles” CIOs cannot afford to lose in 2018. Have you prepared your battle plan yet?

1. Security & privacy, hotter topics than ever

2018 will be the year of security. A few strongly mediatised incidents in 2017 have moved security to the top of the agenda. Everyone remembers the hostage software of WannaCry, the Uber cover-up during which the company paid 100,000 dollars to sweep a large-scale data theft under the rug, or the leakage of a few popular episodes of Game of Thrones. The fallibility of security became additionally tangible in 2017.

Because of the cloud, social networks and mobile working, everything and everyone is constantly connected with one another. It is therefore increasingly more difficult to secure a company network and company data. But also new regulations, such as the European GDPR, have a major impact on the way in which companies have to secure their IT environment. No matter if it involves a small SME or a multinational.

The deadline for the implementation of the GDPR regulation is on the 25th of May this year. But that is not the end of the matter. More than a new legislative framework to respect, GDPR heralds a new “state of mind” for the handling of personal data. “Privacy by design” is the motto from now on.

Even if you think you won’t be able to make the deadline of the 25th of May, be sure not to cease your efforts. GDPR imposes, for example, that you must report a breach in your system within 72 hours. A fixed procedure has to be in place for doing so.

Marketing, HR and IT are the departments that are typically facing the most work. But practically all services within an enterprise will be affected by the consequences of GDPR. Should it really become way too complex, some companies will make the decision to appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO).

2. “Do IT yourself” is past tense

For a long time already, increasing use is being made for IT of manpower, knowledge and experience from outside the organisation. This trend continues in 2018. This is fuelled by the question whether it is realistic for companies, and especially SMEs, to keep finding the correct IT profiles.

The war for talent makes it more difficult for companies outside the IT sector to keep finding suitable candidates for IT related jobs. As a result, they will be forced more and more to make clear choices on the range of tasks of their own internal IT department. In which areas is an internal IT department able to make the most difference? Which matters could potentially be outsourced?

IT has never been this strategic for companies in the past years but, at the same time, the complexity has increased enormously meaning small IT departments are no longer able to continue guaranteeing the business continuity and security on their own. Continuing to do everything yourself is therefore a permanent thing of the past.

3. “Hybrid cloud”: now or never

The hybrid cloud: everyone is constantly talking about this new form of data storage and management. It doesn’t seem spectacularly innovating to store your data at multiple locations: local, in the cloud and on an external server.

The question is not whether you place your data into the cloud or somewhere else. However, the question is: how big is the risk of your company missing the technology boat in the long term and being unable (or only when it’s too late) to start using new business applications that turn your sector upside down.

Developing a hybrid cloud strategy is essential for companies in order to be ready for technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, Internet-of-Things (IoT) and Blockchain. Only cloud computing is able to offer the storage and processing capacity needed to that end.

Will these technologies make a massive breakthrough in the contemporary business operations in the year 2018? No. But companies that are not working on the foundation today, will be overtaken at some point.

A disruptive train races past in every sector at a given time. The company that is still attached to old technologies, will eventually get stuck.

With the above challenges approaching, CIOs are in for a hell of a ride. IT is no isolated vehicle within the organisation, it forms an essential part of a company’s strategy. It makes or breaks an organisation.

CIOs need the support of their CEO to have these challenges given enough priority on the agenda to enter the year 2018 sufficiently “armed”.

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