In the post-PC age, the information system has to comply with users’ expectations and their choice of hardware and ergonomics, not the other way round. Having been ‘pushed’ by technology since the 1970s, innovation is now being ‘pulled’ by usage. What counts today are users’ needs – and the role of technology is to meet these in a simple, secure and effective manner.
Already, four major trends are emerging that are likely to be key elements of the digital revolution over the coming years. Taken together, these will have consequences for the information systems used by public and private sector businesses. Increasingly, they are likely to have a profound impact on the role of the IT department within these organisations.
Harnessing the Data Explosion
The first key development is the ongoing explosion in processing needs. Between man’s origins and 2003, around five exabytes of information were created. Today, an equivalent figure is produced in just two days. By 2013 at the latest, 1,000 billion devices will be connected to the Internet, and the resulting (already considerable) traffic will increase by a factor of nine, putting pressure on hardware systems to deliver vast processing power and to prove their total reliability.
First and foremost, the figures relating to the digital revolution are staggering, and the hardware behind them, invisible yet essential, is subject to enormous pressure. Whether we are talking about transactional application servers, specialist appliances for applications such as business intelligence, or the supercomputers used for computer simulation, the machines that are needed today have to deliver colossal amounts of processing power, simply to deal with such huge volumes of data.
What’s more, they have to prove their total reliability, because such systems are more and more critical, and offer optimum energy efficiency, given the growing weight of economic and environmental issues.
Moving to the As-a-Service Model
We are also today seeing a transition to as-a-service delivery. In a constantly evolving IT environment, most users are focused above all on accessing the most appropriate tools for their needs rather than owning them. In other words, they want to subscribe to a made-to-measure, configurable service, instead of having to conform to the constraints of a non-flexible system.
So, the cloud is resulting in a dual trend: with users appropriating the ergonomic and functional aspects on the one hand, and on the other, production and dissemination resources being increasingly concentrated into the hands of expert providers. This transition is now well underway, and we are seeing various new forms of cloud emerge and combine to create hybrid, enterprise clouds that are oriented in different ways depending on the particular requirements of each process being supported.
Business Computing and Security
The third trend is the growth of business computing. Now that users have more say in the choice of tools, functionality and ergonomy, they also have an expanded role in information systems governance. This is clearly shown by the prediction that by 2016, 30% of IT spend will be controlled by the business compared with just 5% in 2009. As industry analyst, Forrester, sums up, the challenge of new technologies will now be to create value for the business. Users will expect their computing tools to mimic their working habits and usage, and to deliver real operational added value.
Finally, we are witnessing a growing focus on security. If today’s users are to fully adopt technology, it not only has to suit their needs but also to inspire their trust, which is why security is now the number one concern when it comes to all digital solutions. Equally, the more value inherent in information assets, the more they attract greed and envy and the more costly any damage to them becomes.
As attackers’ strategies become increasingly sophisticated, covert and patient, business and government are implementing new strategies, combining organisational measures and technical tools, especially to identify, qualify and deal with threats as early as possible.
Defining a New Model
These developments are fundamentally changing the way IT services are delivered and consumed and they are redefining the role of IT departments and the scope of their interventions. Some tasks that have previously weighed them down are being removed – either upstream, to suppliers of outsourcing or cloud services, or downstream to users – but they remain the indispensable guarantors of the security, coherence and sustainability of information systems.
The IT department will also remain the main source of ideas when it comes to using emerging technologies to tackle challenges of business innovation, operational excellence, customer relationship and risk management, and regulatory compliance. To do this, it has to rely on partners who can support it with both the technological and business aspects. And this, in turn, offers great opportunities for technology providers who have both technical expertise in IT infrastructures and an in-depth understanding of end-user challenges.