At the end of 2007, we asked Computer Weekly's band of bloggers to prognosticate for 2008. We asked them to respond to three questions:
What will be the dominant item on the CIO agenda in 2008?
How will the predicted economic slowdown affect IT professionals in the UK?
What issues will emerge around managing the "Web 2.0 generation"?
These are some of their responses:
It is that time of year when the pundits and their sponsors like to look back on how things went, and what the coming year might promise. For me, an enthusiastic futurist and a serial forecaster, it is a fascinating time.
The dominant issue for 2008 will be security, which will stand out as a surefire case for increased spending in a tough year of belt-tightening. It will be driven by fear, as boards grasp the uncomfortable fact that they simply do not have sufficient control or assurance of their management of sensitive personal data. Human factors will be an obvious focus because they are are fashionable.
Compliance will continue to be the safest area for suppliers to focus on. Imaginative business cases with payback periods of more than a year are likely to be consigned to the back burner. Unless, of course, you can persuade your management board that it is a strategic business investment.
Few IT investments hit that spot, but there is increasing evidence that IT professionals are becoming more business-aligned. So perhaps we can anticipate some long-overdue innovation from those highly paid CIO appointments.
Social networking, or Web 2.0 if you prefer, might be the card to play to engage the more innovative board. But I have yet to encounter an organisation that has got to grips with the issues and the imaginative solutions needed to deliver business value. So I will stick with the old, and very sensible, adage of not implementing a point-zero software version until the service pack appears.
Social networking presents huge risks. If you do not know what you are doing, sit back and wait for the dust to clear.
The dominant item on the CIO agenda in 2008 will be how to get new customers and deliver promises to current customers.
Achieving this usually boils down to two things: effective, innovative processes and useful management information. Some of it will not be glamorous, but it is the bread and butter work of my team. However much we do in these areas, there always seems to be a good case to do more.
As for how the predicted economic slowdown will affect IT professionals, the instinctive reaction might be to batten down the hatches, but on reflection I think this will present many opportunities for IT professionals. Focus on projects that get customers and keep them happy.
Our IT development team is full of the "Web 2.0 generation" - bright, open and instinctively collaborative. The best way to manage them seems to be to give them interesting projects and shiny new technology. Oh, and don't block access to Facebook
Survival in the face of ferocious budget cuts will be the dominant item on the CIO agenda in 2008. The obvious way forward is to find ways of cutting external spending while improving quality of service. Meanwhile, exploit the current paranoia by organising an information risk audit to buy time.
As part of this, audit all the software on the network, ostensibly to reduce vulnerability, but also so that you can cut what you do not need - saving on support costs as well as licences.
At least 10% of IT professionals will lose their jobs as a result of the economic slowdown, and probably more. The cuts will be concentrated among those in the middle, doing jobs that could be outsourced abroad, or working on projects that will get the chop. The only people relatively immune will be those with world-class skills who are working on systems that are core to business, those who are thoroughly competent in user support, and those in information security.
The key issues for Web 2.0 users will be around authenticating who you are dealing with, as the technology is increasingly used for business purposes, including customer feedback.
The discovery of what China has been doing by visitors to the Olympic Games (from new communications infrastructures to the Beijing Cyber Recreation District) will send a wake-up call to complacent Westerners.
We will take up the Chinese ambassador's offer of 1,000 Mandarin teachers - "volunteered" from among their students of English - for our schools, so that our children can socially network with those who are changing the world.
If I have to make one prediction for 2008, it is that we will see an increase in reports of targeted attacks against organisations of all sizes and types. That such attacks are already happening goes without saying, because penetrating the average corporation appears to be child's play for the skilled attacker.
Bruce Schneier wrote two years ago about an increase in targeted attacks, "We are seeing a decline in the 'noisy' brute-force vulnerability scanning that hobbyist hackers tended to favour, and an increase in more targeted, stealthy and sophisticated scanning."
The predominant targets back then were financial institutions. Today, it is likely to be any organisation that values its data. One example was when Oak Ridge National Laboratory experienced a sophisticated cyberattack that appeared to be part of a co-ordinated attempt to gain access to computer networks at laboratories across the country.
We should assume that sooner or later something we do not want is going to get into the network. Reduce the risks by looking at the control areas - eg internet access, remote access, wireless networks, device management - and ensuring basic tasks are performed, such as logging, and controls are in place, such as IPS between wireless and wired networks, and monitoring for rogue access points. We also need protect data in-situ with encryption and ensure incident response processes are well rehearsed.
My only other prediction for the year ahead is that it will be business as usual. Our CIOs and business strategists might be getting themselves hot under the collar about Web 2.0, social networking and virtual worlds, but you know and I know that we will continue to have plenty of work to do as all the same old mistakes get remade in slightly new and unusual ways.
Extended security is going to be high on the agenda. It is easy to poke fun at the government for its inept handing of data, but its victims have no comeback when it comes to compensation. In the commercial sector, that is a another matter. If a similar debacle was uncovered with a bank, insurance or utility company, well remember it is always the lawyers who win.
The trouble with security is that the Y generation do not get it. Look at the number of Blackberrys, phones, iPods and credit cards that are lost or lifted every night. This is not a "lost" but a "loss" generation. Commodity items are disposable and so is the data that goes with them. As with all good commodities, the fix needs to be in the products, not with the user - they do not care.
The IT sector in many areas has already felt the slowdown that the rest of the economy is going to experience. The effect will be for CIOs to further delay IT investments as budgets are squeezed. But all is not gloom - projects that can deliver bottom line benefits will get support from IT and the business.
Let 2008 be the year that there are no IT projects, just business projects with an IT element. That will require a lot of old farts retiring - the ones who refuse to get technology. Let's hear it for the organisation that sees IT as an enabling department, a sort of digital stationery cupboard where people can come and rummage around for the right kit for the job.
The Web 2.0 generation cannot be "managed". They will determine the needs, issues and opportunities that the collection of technologies that make up Web 2.0 will be put to.
The Web 2.0 generation will pick up the "search for survival" baton, and I hope they create collaborative technology mashups that generate positive ideas and solutions.
A little bird has told me this is where emerging technology and systems will focus, waste management, recycling and related stuff - where there's muck, there's money.
Top of the CIO's agenda will be dealing with an economic winter and still delivering results for the business. Success will go to those who can best manage change, complexity and culture in a challenging environment. It will not be the most important issue for them, but some CIOs may also find green issues cropping up in their KPIs.
There will be pressure on jobs from the economic slowdown, but where there is challenge there is also opportunity, and innovation will still be a key word.
The IT department that can deliver innovative processes in a difficult environment will have the respect and support of the business. However, it depends on the company: innovation to one may be adopting cutting-edge technologies, but that may be the last thing another firm wants.
In managing the Web 2.0 generation, there is a parallel with RFID. It is about turning Web 2.0 pilots into meaningful business developments and applying and incorporating the underlying technologies and platforms to gain a real business advantage. Is that Web 2.0 project nice to have? Or does it offer a real "change the game" opportunity?
This was first published in January 2008