US tour reveals future key issues

Web services and wireless security were the two big issues that struck a study mission of IT directors, which included a group...

Web services and wireless security were the two big issues that struck a study mission of IT directors, which included a group from user organisation CIO-Connect, on a recent visit to California.

The group, on a week's study tour led by former IT director of Imperial Foods Mike Portlock, met a range of 18 large and small suppliers in the San Francisco area. The theme was "deploying technology for exceptional business performance".

"What smacked us between the eyes was how big web services have become in California," said Portlock. "It is the focus of so many people's attention compared to last year's study tour."

This year's visit was the eighth organised by Portlock for various high-level user groups, including Wentworth Research (before it was taken over by Gartner Group) and the Impact Programme.

Portlock said the group encountered many definitions of web services, but generally the term boils down to meaning the capability to link things through the internet to make capital out of existing systems and to make them more appealing.

"People on the tour now really believe web services will happen," he said.

The other big finding for the group, which comprised a mix of about 25 IT directors from both private and public sectors, was the growing linkage between security and wireless technology. "We saw so many potential benefits of using wireless, but so many risks too," Portlock said.

He said the group was presented with convincing evidence of massive wireless hacking in Manhattan in New York.

Although security issues are now being embraced by suppliers, there is still much to be done, for example in the areas of identity management, and managing vulnerability of networks and configurations.

"You can't put a perimeter fence round your system and hope it is OK any more," said Portlock. "You now have to focus on business and management problems of secure empowerment, to ensure that among your business partners, consumers or mobile employees, the right people are accessing your network rather than keeping people out."

The tour was organised by Woking-based Greenside Partners.

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