Performance, Governance, Security and Compliance
by Patrick Harnois
In my last article I outlined why organizations are looking to technology to drive innovation, and their future business success. I noted that innovation is increasingly positioned on a remarkably consistent foundation. Whatever the industry, wherever the location, business leaders have a common set of objectives that they think will really make a difference to their operations. Here are the first common factors just about all organizations believe they need to help them achieve their business goals.
Efficiency and Performance
The first area of consideration is that of efficiency and performance, primarily in the context of IT infrastructure. For many corporations, global expansion leaves a legacy of disparate systems and applications which are costly to run, and are often out of touch with the business objectives of today. In an environment where time to market can mark the difference between success or failure, and markets run to millisecond accuracy, no company can afford for its technology to become a hindrance to its performance.
So they are looking to consolidate and streamline their systems, to make information quickly and simply available to all.
The end result should be an agile IT environment that is closely aligned with business needs, and helps the organization deliver on its goals.
Firm but Flexible Governance
With this ideal IT infrastructure in place, governance is next on the list. Here, it’s a question of putting in place the ‘Holy Trinity’ of strong processes, tools and people, in a simple and streamlined structure, which will ensure that technology is used to its maximum potential. This is where technology can really be used to manage itself – monitoring for unexpected events, flagging areas of concern, and triggering common-sense fixes as part of ongoing process management that will keep the business moving in the right direction. But the human angle is just as important, so the team that will deliver this governance needs to be one that understands the links between technology and the business, and continually works to strengthen these, and not just from an operational perspective.
What’s most important for businesses is that process does not overwhelm the vision. At the end of the day, the business is what counts and processes must not multiply to the point where they become the focus of activity. So ongoing evaluation of performance has a key role to play here – the elimination of unnecessary processes is just as important as the introduction of new ones, if it will help move the business forwards.
End-to-end Security, Compliance and Control
Next on the list are security and compliance. In today’s global, networked business world, security, compliance and control are absolutely critical to business success. With the ability to extract value from ‘big data’ increasingly looking like a key business differentiator, companies are creating, accessing, sharing and storing ever larger volumes of varied data sources than ever before. Protecting sensitive intellectual property – whether customer, pricing, product or other information - is therefore not just a consideration, it’s an imperative, and not doing so risks not just monetary loss, but reputational damage that can have a far longer lasting impact.
Compliance is required for a reason. Most standards are built on years of real life experience, and are designed to mitigate risk. So organizations that do not ensure they meet the latest security requirements are in fact actively opening themselves up to risk.
The challenge here is that the regulatory environment and their requirements can vary from market to market, and very few organizations have the in-house expertise to maintain compliance across the board themselves. Likewise, thinking your data is secure is very different than actually passing an expert third party audit.
Another challenge is how to balance the organizational need to control its intellectual property against the open information exchange of a social communications environment? And who will control information exchange in the future – there are a number of interesting debates going on right now around issues such as identity management and privacy, all of which have the potential to fundamentally redefine the business landscape of the future. Balancing the ‘rights’ of government, the enterprise and the individual are not just a philosophical debate, but one that goes right to the heart of future social, political and economic constructs. And with a workforce that is increasingly focused on social responsibility and ethical operations as prerequisites for a brand, these issues also need to be balanced not just within the confines of the business environment, but within society at large.
So that’s the first set of factors just about all organizations need. I’ll pick up on the rest in my next article.