The workspace of the future is exciting – but?

The digital tsunami and the move to mobile have changed the way we work forever. It is not all that long ago that we accepted our jobs as being part mobile – or at least where you could get a signal – and part tied to a desk. But no more; mobile is the new normal, it is here to stay, and the ‘workplace’ has become something altogether new and different.

At the heart of this workplace transformation has been an ongoing cycle of technological evolution. As networks have become faster and faster and support more apps and more data, the cloud has come into play. Cloud computing is now second nature to most people, and processing data through or storing it in the cloud has grown exponentially.

This faster computing power married to mobility’s always-on-anywhere nature has in turn led to richer content and applications at end-user level, for which end-users want ever smarter mobile devices, hence the astonishing rise in smartphone and tablet proliferation. Then, having faster, smarter mobile devices and ever-faster mobile broadband, end-users consume more and more data and digital content, which in its own turn has the knock-on effect of needing faster networks. This is the mobility and virtualization lifecycle, and its impact on the workplace has been revolutionary.

The point is that the traditional way of working has changed, and with it the workplace itself. And this has been powered not just by technology, but by people themselves. Mobile technology has empowered people to shape their workplaces to their own demands. It is a brave new world all right, and a truly exciting one.

How workers and ways of working are changing

Mobile has changed so much of what we’re used to. The typical ‘office job’ has transformed into something which through mobile empowers the employee and benefits the employer, in the form of greater freedom and increased productivity respectively. The consumerization of IT led us to bring your own device (BYOD) policies, with research showing that 87 per cent of employees have used a personal device in the workplace. Sales of smartphones and tablets now outstrip all PCs put together, including notebooks. 79 per cent of IT decision-makers say virtual desktops are in their current or future plans, while enterprise social networking is also high on agendas. The world of work went and got mobile, and employers have had no choice but to embrace it.

Buildings, ways of working and ICT strategy

The new workplace has become a seamless environment, where personal and professional crossover and interchange. Even workplace buildings themselves have become part of the mix; intelligent building projects are in place now which differ hugely from offices and factories of days gone by. The need for intelligent buildings now informs a company’s ICT strategy, as the new, mobile first way of working requires this new workplace to make it a reality.

When previously kitting out an office building IT departments generally focused on wireless connection models and protocols, wired and wireless access points and so on. There were no interfaces in place for seamless integration of multiple mobile devices, networks and platforms were largely proprietary (and not very interoperable with multiple different devices and protocols) and legacy services were limited. In short, the workplace was a relatively dumb environment.

The shift to new ways of working has created the need for new, intelligent buildings to support progressive companies. New working environments are looking to the Internet of Things as a driver, with its need for embedded systems with local computing. Next generation communications systems like MiFi and Zigbee must be worked into the mix, as must multimodal interactive interfaces like NFC, digital signage and all the various smart devices that now enter the workplace.

Intelligent buildings can also have a positive environmental impact thanks to increased numbers of sensors, monitoring systems and controllability of systems making them greener places to work. All of these elements are now making their way into organisations’ real estate acquisition strategies, making them part of an overall business strategy. Including smart intelligence to the building itself’s design makes for a smarter workplace and happier employees. This means thinking about your ICT strategy can separate digital, Business Intelligence and legacy systems while still looking to generate interaction between unified communications and collaboration (UCC) tools, human resources, security and suppliers.

In short, companies must now think not just from their own perspective but also from what their employees want and expect from a workplace. Take a technology-agnostic approach, and think ahead – use your building systems to deliver open, integrated services to workers – not just to manage your building. That’s the way to moving to the cloud-enabled, flexible and any place, anywhere, anytime method of working.

The security imperative

The new way of working is exciting, progressive and more productive – but it of course remains vital not to ignore the potential security risks. BYOD and smart building initiatives have helped empower workers in unprecedented ways, but they do bring with them traditional worries. Company data now resides on more devices in more places than ever, and IT departments have no choice but to accept this and mitigate it.

Lost or stolen mobile devices naturally remain a key concern for IT professionals, while employees placing data in cloud-based file-hosting apps such as Dropbox is also a potential problem. Traditional security threats like hacking and DoS (denial of service) attacks are still present too of course. So the IT department must manage both the old threats and the new.

They can begin by implementing a mobility policy which lays out the rules and precautionary measures needed to keep sensitive corporate data and systems as safe as possible. Employees bringing own devices into the workplace have to play their part and commit to safeguarding data and not abusing their newfound flexibility. Device management systems married to good quality encryption tools can help guard against data loss via stolen or lost mobile devices, but with both mobility and new, intelligent building systems to manage, companies should think about both hardware and software encryption policies.

The new workplace is a thrilling prospect, taking our now second nature mobility, partnering it to intelligent building environments and using it to help us enjoy greater freedom and flexibility in our jobs than ever. It’s an exciting time – but nonetheless one that requires good planning and the factoring in of expansive security measures at each step on the journey.

Business Applications as a Service (BAaaS)

Moving business apps into the cloud carries big benefits

The rise and rise of the as-a-Service (XaaS) model continues. The various models based around the XaaS approach are all forecast to continue growing rapidly as organizations go on taking advantage of the increased flexibility, lower CAPEX and on-demand nature of the service. Gartner predicts that Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) will grow at a CAGR of 41.3 per cent through 2016, while Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) will hit 27.7 per cent CAGR in the same period. The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) market will grow at 19.5 per cent CAGR in that time too, demonstrating how significant the cloud delivery of IT services has become.

XaaS is about making life easier for the customer while giving the provider greater flexibility. Where previously software licenses were bought and long-term contracts entered into, today organizations want and need to be more agile. Utilizing IT services on-demand means that businesses can deploy services as needed, quickly, securely and cost-effectively, and the cloud has enabled this change in mentality. It has helped to create a more business-centric IT culture, where companies and organizations really do get to have IT on their own terms.

Beyond software and infrastructure

As every mobile user knows, this is the era of the app. Cloud delivery of our favourite films, music, games, magazines and books direct to our smartphones or tablets is now entirely second nature, and it has almost become hard to remember the world before it. So just as we source our personal apps on demand from the cloud, doesn’t it now make sense that we do the same thing with business applications?

Business Applications as a Service (BAaaS) is well set to become the next big thing in app delivery this year. As companies continue needing to cut costs wherever possible, shifting certain business applications into the cloud and utilizing them on an on-demand basis helps to remove the CAPEX typically involved in purchasing business services, and also reduces OPEX as you go along. Companies today often find that processes and requirements change on a continuous basis, meaning purchasing business applications outright can become a zero-sum game or even a loss-maker. Organization and end-user needs are always evolving, and new functionality is often required at short notice.

So just as Software as a Service began life delivering business applications like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Human Resource Management (HRM) tools on demand and via the cloud, so the BAaaS model will evolve to deliver other key applications like Business Intelligence (BI), security tools, plant control and business premises management apps – it’s the next logical step in this technology shift.

Why so popular?

In addition to the OPEX and CAPEX benefits, BAaaS tools can be used from any device, whenever and wherever the end-user wants. With so many personal apps delivered through the cloud to mobile devices today, end-users are perfectly familiar using the internet to get the apps they need. So there is no reason why this should not extend to the workplace. There’s also a shorter learning curve to be had because of this end-user familiarity.

Delivering business apps in this way also makes the upgrade process far easier. Organizations work with their BAaaS partner to establish the terms of engagement, the BAaaS partner then takes care of all updates and upgrades to apps. No additional hardware, software or capacity upgrades are required, even when scaling up the user base. It is a model of simplicity.

The changing nature of the CIO

The BAaaS shift also has major implications for the CIO and the IT department. With the role of the CIO changing into that of a business-critical one, the benefits of BAaaS can help make the transition simpler. With budgets remaining tight, the pressure is on the CIO to do more with less – their focus must become more strategic and they have to deliver commercially impactful initiatives – by being innovative, agile and prepared to adopt new technologies.

Every stakeholder today expects more. They expect more apps delivered more quickly and more reliably, wherever they are, while ensuring that the network remains more secure. This means customers, partners, employees, fellow C-level executives – the modern CIO now has a very different role. The IT department has become both the engine room of a company and also a business unit in itself which must innovate, think strategically and drive the organization forward. BAaaS is the latest cloud service which can help make the CIO’s mission easier and more relevant.

Gordon

The Cognitive era is here as Devices get Smarter

Devices are getting smarter, faster and increasingly cognitive. All around us we see the continuing rapid evolution of electronic devices, both mobile and fixed, into the next generation of tools that will help us live our lives differently.

As smart devices go on advancing in their capabilities, it’s fair to project that devices will eventually advise us on how we dress, what we eat for dietary requirements, our physical fitness and more – there is even a smart toothbrush available now which communicates with an app on your smartphone to advise you on optimum plaque removal when brushing.

We are now in the era of apps that think and interact with their users. Think of voice-activated apps like those which help us navigate our smartphones to which we give specific commands – and applications are only going to continue gaining intelligence. So as devices and apps evolve, so too the operating system needs to evolve with them. Which brings us to cognition-as-a-service (CaaS).

CaaS will be the platform that enables these increasingly intelligent apps. CaaS is effectively the next generation of the Semantic Web – an operating system which is capable of communicating with intelligent devices and apps on their terms.

Powered by the cloud

The truth is that within a couple of years we will probably no longer be talking about ‘the cloud’ as we currently understand it or as if it is something new or advanced. The cloud will simply be ‘IT’ – because so much of what we do will be hosted in and take place in the cloud.

An example of a cognitive app to come would be your daily calendar – your calendar which you use via your smartphone or tablet will effectively operate as your P.A. and will manage your time and activities like a secretary. However, the intelligence itself that powers this cognitive app will be provided by a cognitive platform which lives in the cloud.

These cloud-based cognitive platforms will be the true intelligence that fuels this next generation of apps. The cloud is where the Internet of Things (IoT) lives, and the IoT and its vast array of machine-to-machine (M2M) communication will also be powered by this intelligent platform.

Everything in your daily life is set to become smarter. Phones, TV, the connected car, the smart home, the networked fridge that restocks your groceries without you having to open its door – not to mention wearable technology like smart glasses, clothing and watches. All of these will be powered by intelligence delivered by APIs through the cloud as apps and everyday things grow to be cognitive.

Examples are already in place around the world. There is a new artificial intelligence which can read CAPTCHA images online, while e-health is being powered forward by projects which deliver virtual healthcare assistants through the cloud. These are just a couple of examples which predict the need for platforms that can support more intelligent apps and manage them automatically.

Yet another XaaS model

The growth in popularity of the as-a-Service (XaaS) model cannot be overstated. XaaS brings multiple benefits in both CAPEX and OPEX terms, since it carries with it far lower set-up costs than traditional IT product based solutions and its on-demand nature means that running costs are set on the user’s terms.

XaaS, and in time CaaS, will continue to deliver the same benefits. This continuing cost-control model delivers a more managed total cost of ownership (TCO) and reduces risk overall.

So why CaaS?

What CaaS delivers is that next step that the Semantic Web didn’t quite reach – it will enable APIs in the cloud to operate intelligently and empower developers to use quickly and easily. CaaS providers will be cheap, scalable and accessible, and what makes CaaS so different and powerful is that the cognitive qualities are ingrained in the operating system itself – meaning that so too are all the apps on it. The scope that CaaS presents is huge, bringing cognitive, highly intelligent and intuitive apps to users on a global scale.

The security implications

Because CaaS will be cloud-delivered, the nature of security threats surrounding it will continue to change too. Hackers and phishers, always looking for new ways to extract valuable data, remain creative and go on developing new angles and methods of attack.

So while the CaaS era will bring numerous benefits to mobile users, security professionals are going to need to be as mindful as ever of the threats to data breaches and data loss. API keys can of course be useful tools to the enterprising hacker, and denials of service and account hijacking are both hazards that exist via this route. By securing the platform and working as hard as possible to close potential loopholes, the era of the CaaS next generation operating system powering the apps, devices and habits of the future can be one that will create new industries and new digital giants that will grow from unexpected quarters.

Original Publication

Devices, Devices, Devices everywhere – it’s time for next generation “Mobile Device Management as a Service”

As mobile devices continue to increase in both variety and number, it seems to me it is a good time to revisit mobile device management (MDM) strategy. MDM has been around since mobile devices came to the fore, but because of the rapidly changing nature of the mobile landscape, it has had a hard time keeping pace.

A quick definition; MDM policy and tools secure, monitor and manage mobile devices throughout organizations and across various platforms, networks and operators. However as mobile devices have become ubiquitous, both at enterprise and consumer level, there has come a need for MDM to evolve too, to offer greater control and confidence to organizations without compromising all the benefits of the modern mobile user experience.

So what is it that has changed the landscape the most? Well, quite simply, it is the sheer number of devices. The mobile experience is no longer simply about a phone – it’s now smartphones of numerous types and operating systems, tabletsphabletsultrabooks, wearable technology and much more besides. This is the new ‘mobile’, this is now how big mobile is. Over two-thirds of people say they use personal mobile devices in the workplace today. This is what MDM has to cope with.

more devices, more data, more risks

So as mobility takes hold in the enterprise, and more and more critical or sensitive corporate data is at risk of being transported into the public domain by accident or design, the need for a comprehensive MDM approach becomes essential. Global companies want to design and implement global security policies that keep their data as free from threat as possible, but how do you achieve this in the face of such massive mobile device proliferation?

The threats are clear. While it is not really all that long ago that malware, Trojan horses and viruses were considered the chief menace to corporate data, mobility has today brought with it a whole raft of new, more subtle, dangers. Lost or stolen mobile devices and insecure communications now rank high on the list of information security professionals’ worries, and without the right tools and policies in place can be more damaging. Organizations can only realistically secure and control the threats that they know about – mobile devices in the workplace are more difficult to track and maintain in the enterprise environment than inward-bound attacks.

So the main threat is as simple as staff members using their personal devices to access corporate data – with or without their knowledge or intent – and then taking it outside the network. The traditional walled garden is now so compromised as to be obsolete. Nine out of ten executives recently confessed to accessing corporate data on their own mobiles – so how do organizations deal with this fast-growing problem?

everything needs to be managed

Everything is mobile and everything needs to be managed. This is the premise from which to start. Smartphones, tablets and phablets in the workplace, ultrabooks as replacements for traditional laptops, and while not so common just yet, smartwatches and other wearable technology like Google Glass will soon enter the workplace and fall under the remit of the IT department. So an organization’s MDM strategy needs to be robustwide-reaching and most of all progressive – it needs to be able to grow with the rapidly changing landscape.

Furthermore, the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and its accompanying machine-to-machine (M2M) communications will also play a part. The IoT means yet more mobile devices, all communicating over the network and all in need of management. The connected car is now a reality and gives mobile employees a new workplace, while other M2M devices that can also store data will need to be managed. So organizations need to address all of these developments, both cost-effectively and efficiently.

on-premise or in the cloud?

Traditionally, MDM policy forming and implementation would be done at ground level, on-premises, so that the IT department could be involved in each step of the process. However, a comprehensive MDM strategy has many bases to cover, and with more mobile devices than ever entering the corporate environment, even the most efficient IT department could find itself stretched too thin. There is basic encryption of devices required, protection against data breach should a device be stolen or lost. Corporate app stores are gaining popularity as a means of controlling the applications that users can install on devices, but more devices with more operating systems again means more complexity here.

So in the event that in-house resources are insufficient to cover MDM on premises, we turn again to the cloud. The benefits to enterprise of cloud-based solutions are well-documented, but when it comes to MDM, the cloud model brings with it the big benefit of lower set-up fees – CAPEX – but also lower ongoing OPEX as well. Cloud-based MDM – or in fact as it is becoming known, MDM as a Service – can give organizations scalable mobile device management on-demand, so they can use it as much or as little as they need to. As mobile devices continue to evolve and end-users continue to lap them up, the flexible MDM in the cloud solution, provided by a specialist partner, looks like offering a highly desirable way ahead.

Original Publication  

 

Taming the multichannel customer service monster

Today’s consumer is a much more expectant, much more demanding beast than in times gone by – and the reason for this is technology. The consumerization of IT and mobility have combined to give people a level of control and power over their activities that they’ve never previously been able to enjoy. And one of the by-products of this has been an increased expectancy of customer service quality.

The modern customer – and indeed the modern company – today has more ways of communicating available to them than ever. We have the traditional telephone network for voice calls, but we also have SMS messages and multiple online tools such as email, web forms, chat, instant messengers and social media applications. A common consumer perception is that voice never really gets you very far – and be honest, nobody in the world actually enjoys sitting on hold listening to irritating music and product pitches – so companies have had to start thinking differently.

This means utilizing all those other communications tools in an effective way – and it is a tricky balancing act to get right. Apps are increasingly becoming the way that end-users interact and so they expect their customer service to come their way on their terms. The challenge of delivering a multi-channel customer experience, a genuinely fully-integrated, seamless customer service, is a big one.

the journey’s destination – the fully integrated, seamless customer service

So with customers expecting and demanding better service and more personal attention, why, in this multi-channel environment, isn’t it being delivered?  The opportunity to provide a genuine cross-channel customer experience is there, and it has never been more important to retain good customers and attract new ones through a strong brand and reputation for high quality service.

In a highly competitive world, organizations are focused on product innovation, why are they not taking the next step to think to roll out an integrated customer service suite at the same time?

The figures are pretty convincing in favor of offering an enhanced customer service experience. 86% of consumers say they are prepared to pay more for a better customer experience, while just 1% says companies consistently meet their expectations. Poor customer experience is the biggest cause of customer churn, with 89% of people admitting that they are happy to switch to a competitor due to poor customer experience.

This is the mobile age and companies are faced with a generation of end-users who have no real concept of things like fixed-line phones and sitting on hold waiting for the next available agent. They want their interaction in real time, the same way they have it with friends, family and peers online. When 50% of smartphone users say they would prefer to use a mobile customer service application to try and resolve a customer service problem before picking up the phone and calling the contact center, you know that there is both an issue and an opportunity here.

the way ahead – the Cloud and analytics

40% of organizations have stated that ‘complexity’ is the biggest challenge to their deploying enhanced, multichannel customer service offerings – it used to be ‘organizational structure’ – but cloud computing is helping to make a seamless contact center and customer service operation a more achievable reality. Business intelligence and analytics tools allow organizations to both track and monitor customer datato improve their experience, while the Cloud also enables social media engagement in real time like never before.

The cloud makes it easier than ever to bring the right customer service people together with the right customers, on the customer’s terms. The ability to include customer service processes and systems within the cloud enables more tools – organizations can communicate via Twitter, Facebook and other social apps – but it must be integrated, or risk giving the customer further frustration.

The future of customer service is undoubtedly in the cloud, and intelligent analytics will enable organizations to keep their offering fresh and their customers content. These analytics are particularly useful for government bodies and companies in the financial, health and insurance industries, all of which are subject to regulatory changes and challenges.

70% of businesses plan to include social media as part of their customer service offering by mid-2014, while 55% of customers expect customer service via social media. Customers who engage and interact with companies via social media spend 20 to 40% more with those companies than other customers. The proof points are becoming undeniable, the need for a joined-up customer service provision across multiple platforms and channels indisputable, and it is the cloud which will deliver this.

Original Publication

 

Private life in the Cloud

We live in a world of cyber security threats: hackers breaching organisational firewalls, Wikileaks publishing private state documents, and employers tracking cyber activity for productivity sakes.  Privacy, in relation to digital data, is a hazy topic.

The internet alone is increasingly being used as a medium to collect information for consumer profiling. According to Nielsen’s 2013 Australian Online Consumer report, 17.2 million Australians accessed the internet in the month of July and spent an average of 38 hours online across 60 sessions.

As more and more Australians surf the internet, check their mail, shop online, apply for jobs, or simply socialise with friends, they are leaving a trail of digital data that for some people is a gold mine. This includes email services like Gmail, file storage services like Dropbox, photo galleries like Flickr, and the list goes on. And this is not just on PC’s: laptops, smart phones, tablets, and televisions with internet capability all leave a cyber-trail.

When March 2014 hits, easy access to digital data will no longer be the case. Australia is about to get tougher on its privacy laws: effective March 2014, the 2012 Privacy Amendment Act will require that all Australian organisations, regardless of size and industry, implement open and transparent policies for managing personal data. This may seem simple, but it opens a crevasse of questions: how did you obtain this person’s contact details? Were you transparent in your original address? How are you storing these details? What is the purpose of collecting personal details? Are you sharing them amongst your organisation or more broadly?

These questions relate not only to your employees, but to everyone your organisation interacts with: stakeholders, customers, past employees, marketing databases….and the list goes on.

With the clock ticking, there is less than a year remaining until privacy is changed forever. Yet the implication of privacy is rarely discussed.  The question is: are businesses prepared? The answer is, more likely than not, no. If personal data is not adequately handled, organisations may be liable and can be imposed with fines of up to $1.7 million for an organisation and $ 370,000 for an individual.

As the generation of digital data continues to grow exponentially, it provides challenges for corporates to correctly manage, store and secure it. The pressure is on and the onus is on all companies to evaluate:
– Who ‘’owns’’ the privacy realm within their organisation?
– When was the last time an organisation reviewed their privacy policy?
– And if they have the necessary approvals to use third party data?

Achieving data privacy is a challenge for all organisations and the amount of work that needs to be done should not be underestimated. There is no time like the present to consider how to manage risk involved– what is lacking, what policies need to be put in place, and what needs to change.

1) Conduct a Privacy audit
Organisations need to implement a privacy audit which evaluates the type of sensitive information held by an organisation. This sensitive information can refer to employees’ personal details such as their tax file number or Medicare number and includes whether or not you have the rights to audit and access information, as well as the timely return of information when an agreement ends.  Analyse each aspect of this process which includes the collection, retention, use, and disclosure of personal information and determine risk levels. In cases where an organisation uses a cloud provider, it is important to understand who the stakeholders are, what their roles and responsibilities include, and where data is located and replicated.

Ask yourself: is third party data simply stored or is it being mined for advertising and marketing purposes?

2) Data protection and privacy impact strategy
Develop a comprehensive data protection and privacy strategy which focuses on integrating data protection and privacy processes while sustaining efficiency and long-term growth objectives. An organisation’s privacy strategy needs to be integrated with the overall risk and project management framework. It is also equally important for organisations to update their privacy policy regularly and seek input from legal advisors with specific knowledge regarding privacy laws where needed.

Ask yourself: what happens in the event of a data breach?

3) Create privacy policies and procedures 
Develop policies and procedures that clearly state the importance of protecting sensitive information stored in-house or in the cloud which complies with the requirements of the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs).  An organisation needs to take measureable steps to protect the personal information it holds from misuse. This includes mechanisms to protect and manage the information, including disaster recovery processes to protect against data loss. An organisation’s legal advisor needs to fully understand the nature of both the cloud and privacy requirements and should be able to tailor the legal protections in your agreement.

Ask yourself: what are the privacy policies that your organisation needs? Understand your key areas of weakness so you can develop a plan to protect data.

4) Ensure accuracy and transparency of all personal information held 
Personal information collected by an organisation needs to be accurate, complete, and up to date. Customers should have access to their information and make corrections if required. For instance, if an organisation holds a database which records the phone number and address of its customers, a process needs to be put in place which allows customers to change or update their details.

Ask yourself: when was the last time you updated your customer database?

5) Appoint a policy offer and train employees to mitigate security risks
Monitoring employees to ensure that privacy policies are applied will be very hard to manage on a daily basis. Transferring knowledge to your employees will identify weakness and help mitigate security risks. This is no simple task. Look at appointing a policy officer that trains employees and regularly monitors content and activity to prevent any violation.

Ask yourself: is it worthwhile hiring a policy officer to ensure that a breach does not occur?

But this is just the beginning. Let’s throw a spanner in the works.
Consider all of these advances in the context of data stored in cloud. The list of considerations and concerns gets infinitely bigger. There are different approaches to how privacy is interpreted when it comes to data stored in the cloud space. The following is a general starting point, but not specific advice, as individual circumstances vary and need to be looked at in more detail.

– The Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) model, where the service provider is responsible for housing customer information and is not involved in any handling or processing of personal information. In this case all obligations to privacy are held with the customer.

– Software as a Service (SaaS) model, where the service provider is responsible and plays an active role in handling and managing customer’s personal information. In such cases, the service provider needs to obtain consent from the customer to hold and or use this information.

– Platform as a Service (PaaS) model, where the service provider delivers tools to enable customers to deploy applications. The service delivery model means that customers need to use best practices and privacy–friendly tools.

Privacy remains a critical component for Australians doing business or simply engaging online. We are entering a challenging new era as tougher privacy laws come into effect. While some Australian companies have already initiated the ground work, others have simply turned a blind eye.

Business owners who want to mitigate risks without sacrificing their ability to do business need to start addressing where they currently stand in relation to digital privacy. Assessing the business structure now will identify strengths and weaknesses, and set the wheels in motion for the new privacy approach.

Original Publication

 

Seven technology predictions for 2014

The year 2014 will be where current trends will accelerate the transformation already underway in how we consume information and do business and live. Organisations will need to evaluate their information strategy to take advantage of the emerging opportunities.

Here are seven trends to consider in the New Year:

Trend # 1 – the era of personal cloud

The cloud has exploded in popularity over the past few years, as companies exhaust backup, storage, network, security, and management systems. Consumer awareness of cloud storage is now increasing and usage is following suit.

Despite concerns that many industries have about cloud storage ability and their willingness to keep information secure, consumers will have little choice but to keep more information on these systems as opposed to their hard drives.

The push for more personal cloud technologies will shift toward services and away from devices. As mobile applications crowd the market, personal cloud services will become the new hub for content.

The risk for organisations is that being a consumer and being an employee is separate, but will the use of personal cloud be? Will someone taking a Friday off to work from home save documents to their personal cloud, which has different security measures to the organisations cloud, and put at risks the secrets of the new client pitch or new product development?

For 2014: Consider how personal and organisational cloud will interact for your business. Could they be at loggerheads before you have time to prepare your policies and inform your employees accordingly?

Trend # 2 – biometric authentication to replace passwords

Long gone are those days where a single password acted as a secure means of authentication. Today, a basic password takes minutes, if not seconds to break through. A string of characters can no longer keep your accounts and devices secure.

When was the last time you created a new password? As you were typing it in did a bar on the right hand side tell you whether it was weak, medium or strong? How many upper case letters or numerals did you include? Did I use the dog’s name or my favourite summer holiday spot for my internet banking password?

We are in the age where each and every person needs a little black book for their infinite passwords. But what happens if we lose the book?

The rapid proliferation of new devices has created additional security requirements for organisations attempting to increase its presence in the online market.

For enterprises that have not revisited their authentication strategies in several years, it may be time to take a fresh look. As identity becomes the driving force behind new security paradigms, biometric authentication will become the new practice as fingerprint and eye retinal scans become a part of our everyday activity.

For 2014: Be prepared! Adopt a security strategy built on advanced authentication techniques that will manage user access. Encourage regular password updates and educate your employees on what a strong password looks like. No dog names allowed.

Trend # 3 – out with the old and in with the new: embedded technology

Embedded systems are part of our daily lives. Can you imagine your life today, without a smart phone for communication?

2014 will see an uptake in embedded technology as the pressure will be on to add more intelligent functions into devices. The technology that initially drove mobile phones is now driving the adoption of smart devices. Touchscreens, smaller gadgets, and high performance sensors are just some of these innovations.

Wearable technology is a trend that will embrace the workforce. It is already starting. There will be more productivity apps in wearables as medical professionals begin using devices that overlay images on goggles. Google Glass is just the beginning, with other inventions to monitor, anticipate and feedback, well on their way.

For 2014: Anticipate the evolution of everyday products as technology becomes cheaper, smaller and more energy efficient. Technology will lead to automated homes, intelligent automobiles, smart buildings, and ubiquitous measure / control systems. How can your business embrace and jump on board?

Trend # 4 – go mobile or go home

The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend has completely changed the way businesses work. Executives using devices such as smartphones and tablets to access the corporate network is quickly becoming ubiquitous with an uptrend in remote working.

According to a report by Gartner, 70 per cent of mobile professionals will conduct their work on personal smart devices by 2018. The increase in mobile devices will challenge technology and finance departments as they try to manage mobile devices. But what type of personal smart device? Where are the tablet / smart phone headed? We are at the beginning of what the future world of personal smart devices might look like. If left unmanaged, BYOD can lead to data leaks and loss of control, which could potentially result in legal penalties.

With BYOD, the genie is out of the bottle as users expect to be online in more places at high speeds and with robust security levels. With the right solutions in place, BYOD can create new exciting opportunities.

For 2014: Create a clear policy around BYOD strategies that encompasses enabling secure, trusted, and convenient access. Be sure to implement a security model that has minimal impact on an employee’s experience, whilst maintaining the same security standards that your organisation upholds.

Trend # 5 – do more with less: the future is in M2M technology

Machine-to-machine’ (M2M) communication has given businesses the capability to monitor, control, or manage the operation of remote equipment. Today, M2M services have entered a renaissance period, playing a significant role as new products communicate with each other wirelessly without any human intervention.

This deregulation in the market will eventually garner new opportunities making it possible to map and monitor an entire system of remote hubs which could be anything from a building to a vehicle, to a fully armed security system.

The Internet of Things will enable devices to communicate with each other, while working out problems without interference. For instance, an M2M device will be able to automatically control the temperature of an air conditioner, while switching it on or off when required. These core capabilities will reduce error, save time, increase efficiency, and generally optimise the performance of any physical system.

For 2014: Maintain a strong and clear position in the market by developing plans and procedures that incorporate M2M technologies NOW rather than later. Prepare your organisation for change.

Trend # 6 – the new age of apps

With the continued growth and inescapable presence of BYOD, individuals have the capability of accessing all sorts of applications and information they need using their own devices anytime and anywhere.

Consumers are more technologically savvy and flock to app stores linked to their mobile platforms and devices while companies are investing in apps almost every day.

From 2014 onwards, there will be an app for almost everything, from everyday bills to mobile banking and much more. Something as simple as karaoke, which used to be entertained in restaurants is now a downloadable app. The same applies to music, where consumers can listen to unlimited songs using the appropriate app. This innovation will continue to increase, with the app market expected to reach $38 billion in just two years.

Propriety apps will become common, as more and more employees create and develop apps that support their business.

For 2014: Consider individual user’s needs for mobility, and get involved in the discussion. Organisations need to adapt their digital marketing campaigns to fit the small screens and the evolution of the app world.

Trend # 7 – the social dimension where everything is shared

We have reached a new communication age where social media is well established. Today, technology has enabled us to profile any individual or business by simply tapping into the material available online on social networks. Facebook itself has approximately 1.19 billion active users and roughly 507 million daily active mobile users, while twitter has roughly 554 million active registered users, with approximately 58 million tweets a day.

With the popularity of social networks it becomes easier to share information across the globe with a simple click of a button. This takes on a new level of urgency as organisations shift from an information age to a communication age. Facebook itself revealed what is known as “frictionless sharing”, which automatically posts updates on your page from everything you listen to, read or watch.

The concept of 3D printing is another trend that will explode the marketplace in 2014 and will assist in local and custom fabrication. New competition will enter the market using 3D Printers to challenge business models. Users will take advantage of new paradigms in replicating products, designs, and devices.

For 2014: Be careful with what information you disclose and to whom you disclose this too. Businesses need to pay close attention to ensure that all information or objects shared are subject to copyright or is trade market protected.

2014 will see an uptake in the adoption of smart technologies, innovative devices, and a plethora of cloud applications. With new technologies seemingly always on the horizon, keeping a hold over IT systems is becoming increasingly complicated. It is therefore important that businesses embrace the new trends and prepare for the opportunities ahead.

Original Publication