Getting ready for the year ahead

Each autumn, the Gartner research group delivers its strategic technology predictions for the following year. Its top ten technologies and trends are eagerly scrutinised by CIOs because Gartner defines a strategic technology as one with the potential for significant impact on the enterprise in the next three years. Factors that denote significant impact include a high potential for disruption to IT or the business, the need for a major investment, or the risk of being late to adopt.

Top ten Technologies To Watch Out For
The organisation suggests companies should factor these top ten technologies into their strategic planning process by asking key questions and making deliberate decisions about them during the next two years. Although what makes the top ten list usually catches the eye, often what gets dropped provides an interesting commentary on what you should and shouldn’t be doing as a CIO. Maybe you should have adopted the dropped technologies already.   That’s probably the case for Virtualisation, which is missing for 2011, alongside ‘IT for Green.’ In terms of how this list pans out, the top three strategic technologies for 2011 are as follows.

Firstly there’s Cloud Computing. These services exist along a spectrum from open public to closed private. The next three years will see the delivery of a range of cloud service approaches that fall between these two extremes. Vendors will offer packaged private cloud implementations that deliver the vendor’s public cloud service technologies (software and/or hardware) and methodologies (i.e. best practices to build and run the service) in a form that can be implemented inside the consumer’s enterprise.

Secondly there’s Mobile Applications and Media Tablets. Gartner estimates that by the end of 2010, 1.2 billion people will carry handsets capable of rich, mobile commerce providing an ideal environment for the convergence of mobility and the web. Mobile devices are becoming computers in their own right, with an astounding amount of processing ability and bandwidth. There are already hundreds of thousands of applications for platforms like the Apple iPhone, in spite of the limited market (only for the one platform) and need for unique coding.

Thirdly there’s Social Communications and Collaboration. Social media can be divided into four areas. Firstly social networking – social profile management products, such as MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn and Friendster as well as social networking analysis (SNA) technologies that employ algorithms to understand and utilise human relationships for the discovery of people and expertise.

Secondly, there’s social collaboration – technologies, such as wikis, blogs, instant messaging, collaborative office, and crowd sourcing.

Thirdly there’s social publishing – technologies that assist communities in pooling individual content into a usable and community accessible content repository such as YouTube and flicker.     

Lastly there’s social feedback – gaining feedback and opinion from the community on specific items as witnessed on YouTube, flicker, Digg,, and Amazon. Gartner predicts that by 2016, social technologies will be integrated with most business applications. Companies should bring together their social CRM, internal communications and collaboration, and public social site initiatives into a coordinated strategy.

The remaining top ten include:
•    Video
•    Next Generation Analytics
•    Social Analytics
•    Context-Aware Computing
•    Storage Class Memory
•    Ubiquitous Computing
•    Fabric-Based Infrastructure and Computers

Taking A Step Back
But whatever the technology investment, especially if that investment is going to be in areas such as outsourcing to the Cloud there is still definitely going to be a focus on driving down costs. Public Sector organisations in particular will probably start to look at more effective cost allocation across departments and how they can better maintain control whilst creating operational efficiencies and reducing the maintenance burden as well as meeting growing compliance and reporting requirements.  

However in order for any organisation to make the right decision and to meet all of these drivers and trends it must surely need to start with the premise that you can’t manage what you can’t see, you can’t control assets if you don’t know what you have? And you can’t meet your legislative requirements if you don’t know what assets you are legally entitled to use.  

Right now organisations need to take a step back and to look at the bigger picture before rushing into any hasty procurement decisions.  The danger especially in light of the current economic environment is that everyone is working reactively and in silos. Many public sector organisations, because of the size and scale of the cuts required through the recent comprehensive spending review, will need to make quite bold decisions about what IT initiatives they will prioritise, where they will sweat their assets and where they will invest, and in order to do this they need to understand what they currently have. There is clear evidence that points to the fact that those organisations that can demonstrate more control are more likely to receive additional investment.

This problem is compounded by the fact that most organisations are using systems that are three to five years old, and with new cut-backs proposed it’s unlikely that these technology solutions will last another three or four years without encountering significant costs or problems. Most IT departments are hitting the point where a technology refresh is needed but how can they determine what to refresh first and again where to prioritise if they haven’t undertaken a risk assessment?

Understanding Your Pain Points
Now is the time to take stock in order to understand what the organisation needs to achieve before it is too late. The business needs to understand where its biggest pain points are. How to prioritise its greatest risks and what IT project will deliver the best return.   It’s time for IT to take a step back and work together with the business to determine what can be achieved to provide quick returns and FAST Consultancy can help companies to achieve this ‘joined-up’ visibility. Through our consultancy service and solutions like our FAST Gap Analysis we can work with our customers to help them understand their greatest risks and areas of weakness, identifying any gaps.  We’ll also help them to understand where they need to invest in the year ahead, rather than being lulled into investment decisions forecasted by the pundits in the industry.

licence management

There isn’t much spare business cash around these days. Every organisation is trying to do more with less, yet few realise the investment that they have in their software licensing and just how much that investment can cost them without careful licence management.  For example if you look at what the NHS faces in licence fees, then you start to get an idea of how important it is that you manage this whole area effectively. Leading IT portal, ITAM Review recently reported, as a result of the government terminating the NHS Connecting for Health (CfH) Enterprise Agreement licensing deal with Microsoft, which covered approximately 800,000 desktops, that there is a potential for non-compliance liability of £100m to add to the NHS’s total cost of ownership budget for its software.

The reality is that it is very difficult for any organisation to untangle the spaghetti of issues associated with managing software assets.  An effective IT asset management programme allows you to control and manage assets, eliminate waste and redundancy and comply with ever-tightening government compliance and regulation. FAST is actively working with over 200 public sector organisations from central government to local government, NHS, and the police as well as housing associations and research and development agencies.  The services delivered vary from providing a detailed policy and procedures review to licence reviews as well as SAM process mapping.

Ensuring Licence Compliance And Asset Optimisation

To keep abreast of changes in technology and the legislative landscape FAST Ltd is updating its private standard which helps organisations work towards licence compliance (FSSC-1:2007) and the FAST programme (which is a structured programme with a phased approach incorporating best practice and aligning to other frameworks and standards).  The standard covers areas such as software licence management, risk mitigation, best practice and licence compliance. The aim is to modernise the standard bringing it in line with new technologies such as SaaS and Virtualisation whilst ensuring that it aligns to the ISO19770-1, ITILv3 Software Optimisation Model, and SAM Advantage. The new standard has been aptly named FSSC-1:2011 and is due out in the first quarter of 2011.

In addition, FAST is introducing a new FAST Software Lifecycle Management Programme (FSLMP). This is a step up programme available to FAST customers and it covers the core elements of SAM best practice and can be run in conjunction with the existing FAST programme. The FSLMP delivers effective software lifecycle management, cost of ownership, return on investment, and most importantly ensures asset optimisation.

This is an area that I firmly believe should be hot on the CIO’s agenda for 2011 and whilst it might not appear on the Gartner Top ten ‘big things’ list, it effectively runs across all ten technology groups and should be on the CIO’s Christmas shopping list.

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