IT managers face tough challenges even in the best of times. New technologies are always appearing, tried-and-true business models are evolving, and user expectations are soaring. As digital transformation picks up speed, it might seem like you're under nonstop, full-scale assault.
To survive and thrive, you need to be ready for what's coming next. Here's a quick look at six of the top battles you'll be facing in 2018.
The App Explosion
Today's users can choose from more software applications than ever, delivered via innovative models. Cloud-based software is available for anyone in the enterprise to access and use for free, or download at the swipe of a credit card. In fact, today's businesses can choose from more than 5000 apps for marketing software-as-a-service (SaaS) alone.
According to Netskope, the average enterprise has over 800 cloud apps and growing. Software vendors are encouraging the wave, making it fast and easy for enterprise users to engage for free-and hope for widespread adoption that leads to a bigger IT investment down the line. Slack messaging is a perfect example of this "try before you buy" approach. Many other app vendors are pursuing a similar penetrate and spread strategy. It's fast, inexpensive, and convenient for end-users, but it also subverts IT controls, can introduce security and compliance risks, and is difficult to turn off. According to Netskope, 94.7 percent of cloud services are not enterprise-ready.
B2B apps are also powering the wave of growth. Most every B2B company provides an app to access their service. You're probably already using apps from your 401k provider, your health care provider, airlines, hotels, car service, and other businesses. The software may be free to the user and the enterprise, but access and management of so many apps, on multiple devices, is daunting.
App ownership is another ongoing battle. The lines of device ownership are blurring, as employees take more initiative in independently purchasing the apps they need. According to a 2017 Forbes Insights/VMware survey, more than one in four business apps are brought to the company by the employees themselves.
Where does business draw the line between giving business users the freedom to find the tools they need to stay productive, and allowing IT to control the apps and information that can escalate into security threats? The chain of command isn't always clear, and policies vary on who has the authority to make software decisions. Nonetheless, when software and technology creates a problem, IT is often deemed responsible-regardless of who purchased it.
Security has been a top priority and spend for CIOs for many years, yet cyber threats are becoming more frequent and sophisticated than ever before. The data breach at Equifax was the biggest event of 2017, impacting more than 143 million consumers. Equifax not only took a massive hit in terms of its reputation, but faces risks such as large fines and lawsuits. The repercussions from the data breach are expected to last for years. To defend against attacks with this kind of firepower, you need a sophisticated bulwark of defenses based on accelerated response times, an agile, defense-in-depth strategy that goes beyond traditional vendor patching. Enterprises are expected to spend over $200 billion dollars annually by 2021 to protect their digital assets.
IT will need to tread lightly to sidestep a minefield of new user privacy regulations in the coming year. The European Union Global Data Privacy Regulation goes into effect on May 25, 2018 and is the most important change in these requirements in over 20 years. Violators of stringent, hard-to-manage data regulation will face substantial fines in the millions of dollars. Capturing data for marketing purposes is no longer the right of businesses — permission must be granted and usage of the data must be explicitly stated. That means more audits and new IT challenges for increasingly global organizations.
Every industry is under assault from new business models enabled by innovative use of technology. CEOs, not just CIOs, are under the gun to prepare their companies for digital disruption and be on the lookout for innocent-looking companies that may bankrupt them in a few years. In a survey of more than 500 C-suite executives across Europe and the U.S., more than half said they are concerned about competition from disruptive businesses.
Big data, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence may seem like distant threats, but they could be hard to beat once momentum is established. Two-thirds of execs surveyed believe that 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies will be gone in the next decade.
Sometimes it's difficult to tell who your real allies are. Even as you're facing external threats, your own vendors may be backing you into a corner. In the year ahead, enterprise software vendors will try to continue to keep a claim on customers and profit margins. We may see ramp ups in audits, legal action, and vendor action that is less than customer-friendly.
Increasingly, maintenance revenue is not the only component that vendors are using to please their shareholders. Now vendors appear to be increasing their audits of clients to find unlicensed use of their software to drive new sales. Fortunately, when it comes to software support, there's no need for an unconditional surrender. There are real choices out there, including third-party support, that can provide the options you need.
It's Time to Get Prepared
For IT, it's clear that 2018 is shaping up to be a battle on multiple fronts. And you will need all your resources at the ready, which is difficult if, like many companies, you're spending 80 to 90 percent of your IT budget simply "keeping the lights on." Your approach to software support will play a huge role in determining whether you prevail.
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Dean Alms, GVP, Global Product Strategy
Mr. Alms has been defining corporate and product strategy in technology-based companies for more than 25 years, primarily for enterprise software and service providers. He is known for defining bold visions, compelling strategies and innovative products. Mr. Alms is a speaker at industry events, author of white papers and blogs, and a trusted source of ideas and innovation for technology-based organizations. Heading up Global Product Strategy for Rimini Street, he is responsible for defining the company vision, strategy and roadmap for support services as clients aggressively transition from on-premises packaged software to a hybrid infrastructure.