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Best IT resolutions for 2013

It's that time of year when IT executives' thoughts turn to setting resolutions for the new year. We've talked to CIOs, IT analysts and other industry experts about the major trends for 2013 to come up with our own list of suggested IT resolutions.

A LOOK AHEAD: Read through Network World's entire Outlook 2013 package

 

2013 IT outlook: Innovation trumps cost-cutting

Growing confidence in cloud security

Windows Server 2012 cannot be ignored

Outlook 2013: Gigabit Wi-Fi

The cloud will make BYOD a non-issue - eventually

Cisco products, more maturity for SDNs in 2013

OpenStack cloud backers hope 2013 is the year of user adoption

1. Embrace BYOD.

Here's a trend that you can't beat so you might as well join: Employees bringing their own mobile devices to work. Seventy percent of IT organizations are either supporting BYOD now or will be within the next 12 months, according to a recent Gartner survey. "Of the 70% of organizations that want to do BYOD, at least half are not ready," says Dionisio Zumerle, a principal research analyst at Gartner. "You need to change the way you think about security and the way you enable security in the organization. You can't just say to the users 'Please behave' and hope for the best." Zumerle recommends CIOs deploy mobile device management (MDM) or an alternative called Dual-Persona software to allow companies to control employee-owned mobile devices and keep corporate data secure. "Having a mobile security policy that is well designed first on paper is fundamental and can be enforced through MDM or some other software," Zumerle says. "Enforcing passwords, locking devices and remotely wiping devices gives you a level of security that is close to what you would have on a PC...You need to find a way to secure the devices that you don't own." (For more on where BYOD is headed, read "The cloud will make BYOD a non-issue ...eventually.")

2. Strengthen your IT bench.

It may seem counter-intuitive to IT executives trying to retain their best developers and project managers, but employees who are trained and certified in emerging technologies usually choose to stay with the organization that paid for their training. "If you train and certify your IT staff, you will keep them," promises Terry Erdle, CompTIA's executive vice president for skills certification. "Training is the No.1 thing that causes your best-in-class IT professionals to stay, and that is because their company invested in them." Erdle recommends that CIOs provide training and certification to about a third of their IT staff each year so that the entire team's skills are current. Popular certification programs for 2013 include cloud and mobile computing, cybersecurity and project management. "Teams that receive training operate better, are more motivated, have fewer quality issues with customers, and their efficiency goes up," Erdle says. "Project teams that are certified tend to hit milestones on time and reach other success metrics more frequently than teams that are not certified."

3. Get your financial house in order.

As more IT organizations migrate to a private cloud infrastructure, many are discovering that they don't have the data necessary to accurately charge internal customers for the IT services they provide. "For 2013, I'm resolving to get better at tracking my costs and tracking my revenue," says Corey Kos, enterprise architect for the state of Alaska. Kos recently deployed Cisco UCS and NetApp FlexPod systems in Alaska's main data centers to enable shared IT services across the state. "If you're going to go to any cloud-based infrastructure and do any usage-sort of capacity, then your chargebacks need to be bullet-proof." Kos said he had some difficulty getting the IT and accounting staffs to cooperate on a billing strategy for the e-mail, voice over IP and other centralized IT services that he provides. "We could use some cross-training between the IT and accounting people so they understand what each department does," Kos added. "It needs to be a two-way, cooperative relationship."

4. Become buddies with the CMO.

If you're going to accomplish one thing in 2013, you should befriend your company's chief marketing officer. That's the advice of Frank Gens, chief analyst for IDC. "If you're in a consumer-driven industry, you need to get very close to the CMO because that's where the real innovation and strategic investment is going to happen," Gens says. "With trends such as social technologies, it's not about employees; it's about customers.'' Gens says a key challenge for corporations will be integrating data from the most popular social networks into back-end business systems. The CMO is just one of the Line of Business executives who is going to drive an increasing amount of IT spending in the future, Gens predicts. "Almost 60% of new IT investment in 2013 will involve Line of Business executives," Gens says. "About 25% of new IT investments are going to be where the Line of Business executive is the decision maker, and that 25% will go up to 40% by 2016. There's a tide rising where Line of Business executives are gaining more control over IT. This doesn't mean that IT is out, but IT needs to make those relationships with other executives work."

5. Accelerate your move to SaaS.

When it comes to enterprise application software - from CRM to collaboration - all the momentum is towards the software-as-a-service model. "The time-to-market with SaaS is very helpful," says Shazia Mian, director of applications systems at Heidrick & Struggles, a Chicago executive recruiting firm that recently deployed popular SaaS offering Salesforce.com and its collaboration tool, Chatter. "There is truly much to be offered out of the box. These applications are pre-built and ready to go, and they meet our business needs. It's much better than starting from scratch and building it out," Mian added. Heidrick & Struggles is running a pilot project with one of its largest global customers that involves integrating Salesforce and Chatter with its strategic account management process. "Where I see Chatter really helping us is connecting people in a quicker fashion and having all of the account information readily accessible. It should improve the way we manage the account globally," Mian says. 

Alwin Brunner, senior vice president and CIO at Heidrick & Struggles, says he plans to measure the return that his company sees from its Salesforce and Chatter investment. "By looking at the customer holistically, we should see that we are filling requests faster and increasing our share of the customer staffing by our global customers," Brunner says.

6. Mine your unstructured data for strategic advantage.

Expect the hoopla over Hadoop to continue in 2013. Spending on Big Data technologies and services will reach nearly $10 billion in 2013 on the way to over $20 billion in 2016, IDC predicts. Companies will be investing in tools that go beyond search to discover hidden patterns in quantitative data and rich media, IDC says. That's the challenge facing Quantcast, a San Francisco firm that measures online audiences for targeted advertising. Quantcast processes close to 30 petabytes of data a day, says CEO Konrad Feldman. To handle this massive amount of data, Quantcast built its own distributed file system - dubbed QFS - which it released to open source in 2012. For 2013, Quantcast is focusing on adding new analytical capabilities while continuing to scale up its data processing and hold down operating costs. "Big data is a rich ecosystem for real-time and batch processing," Feldman says. "In 2013, you will see us do more innovation around reducing the latency of batch processing so we can get more answers quickly.'' Feldman expects Quantcast's Big Data systems to continue growing next year. "Whatever we do now, we will have more in the future: more data centers, more machines, more data,' he says. "We've always been really cost conscious. We've paid attention to how much computing per dollar we achieve...Next year, we'll be looking for ways to achieve better efficiency and better cost/performance"

7. Use IT to slash business costs.

The top priority for CIOs in 2013 is likely to be the same as it was in 2012: Using IT to increase business productivity and reduce overhead costs. That was the No.1 IT management concern of CIOs in a recent survey sponsored by the Society for Information Management. CIOs aren't so much focused on IT cost-cutting in 2013, but instead on using IT to increase the profitability of the business. That's the main focus for Bob Keefe, who serves as both CIO and CTO of Mueller Water Products, an Atlanta manufacturer of products for water treatment facilities. "In 2013, I'm looking at business productivity and cost reduction," Keefe says. "We're going to focus more on manufacturing cost reduction. We have a lean Six Sigma operation. Now we're going to see how some of our IT systems work to...get better results." 

Mueller is already reaping the rewards of similar investments in the past. 

"We put in a SaaS-based transportation management system that dropped transportation costs for us, and it's lucky it did because our shipments have been more numerous and smaller in quantity lately," Keefe said. In 2013, Mueller also will deploy new ERP software and a CRM service from Salesforce. 

"We hope to have better sales forecasting," Keefe added.

8. Measure IT system configuration compliance.

Cybersecurity expert Alan Paller has one simple suggestion for IT professionals who want to improve their organization's network security in 2013: Measure whether your IT systems are configured correctly. Paller, who is the director of research for the SANS Institute, recommends that companies use a tool such as Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) to determine whether corporate systems are configured correctly, properly patched and using the most recent versions of operating system software. "If you can get people to measure configuration compliance, they will be shocked by what they find," Paller says. "You've got to measure it in order to fix it....Measurement is the way to get things done."

Read more about anti-malware in Network World's Anti-malware section.

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