A look back, to go forward

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15 January 2017 | 0

Paul HearnsOur TechBeat series of surveys was particularly successful this year, with seven surveys and a thousand responses across topics from security and data compliance to new workstyles and data hosting.

From those surveys we learned a number of interesting things, that serve as a barometer of the industry here, and as indicators of what is likely to happen in the near future.

“As has been comprehensively show over recent years, there being no shortage of security incidents with which to test, a well-handled incident can enhance a company’s reputation, whereas a badly handled one can hasten its demise”

Some of the headline findings from the across the entirety of the research were that while more than three quarters of Irish IT pros are confident in their information security measures, and more than half said that the rates of cybersecurity incidents had remained more or less the same over the last 12 months, more than three quarters had made changes or improvements to security measures in response to incidents in the previous 12 months.

We are also a nation that has embraced outsourcing, with 80% confirming that the management or support of some ICT services had been treated thus. The drivers of this tendency were limited it resources, greater security and compliance, with cost as a lowly third. Not only that, almost half are confident that data held by a dedicated third party or in the cloud is equally as safe as that held on-premises, but interestingly, there was a solid 18% who felt that data was safer with a dedicated third party or in the cloud.

We like to work on the move too, as more than three quarters said mobility was available and supported in their organisations, but a significant third felt that they had insufficient technology platforms and support structures in place to manage it effectively. Indeed, many organisations, (71%) admitted to being under pressure to implement new technology as a result of work style-related disruption, while nearly on in 10 said that such pressure could be categorised as ‘extreme’.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, respondents overwhelmingly (78%) confirmed that there are fundamental differences in the work styles of employees from different generations in the organisation. However, of those that observed this difference, less than half (47%) felt that IT tools and processes were adapted to facilitate the different generations in working to their fullest potential. Some 40% said that the tools and processes were not up to the task. This is confirming the fact that Irish organisations are now multi-generational places, where experience and long tenure exist alongside youth and exuberance at various skill levels.

A further question asked about whether office workers were generally concerned about their personal privacy, with regard to the growth in digital information their organisations can now access, such as their location, hours online, emails sent on Wi-Fi etc., and more than half (54%) said they were. Unfortunately, the scope of that particular survey did not extend to a breakdown by age for this particular question. It would have been very interesting to confirm whether the younger IT professionals in the workforce were the 47% who said they were not so concerned. It is also difficult to interpret whether this is a rising concern, or whether, in the business context, users were confident in their organisation’s handling of their data.

Coming back to the security theme, in response to the tide of security incidents remaining more or less the same, nearly two thirds said they had a crisis management plan in place in case of data compromise, which left more than a quarter (27%) that did not, and 12% who didn’t know.

As has been comprehensively show over recent years, there being no shortage of security incidents with which to test, a well-handled incident can enhance a company’s reputation, whereas a badly handled one can hasten its demise.

A critical element in ensuring that sufficient resources and planning are brought to bear on incident response is support from the board. Reassuringly, more than half said they felt the board had sufficient knowledge of the security landscape and threats being faced, and so would support the level of resourcing required. However, that still left a third who were not confident of such knowledge and understanding and 10% that did not know.

Green concerns
An interesting point came out of the data hosting survey around green concerns. When asked whether green energy credentials were a consideration in choosing data hosting, only 3% said it was a primary consideration, with nearly three quarters (72%) saying it was a considered factor, but worryingly a quarter said it was not considered at all. This will certainly be an interesting metric to track in subsequent surveys.

While the Irish market is still regarded as being generally behind the UK and the US, the surveys confirmed that we are not immune to certain trends, good and bad.

The distributed denial of service (DDoS) scourge has most definitely been felt in Ireland, as 17% said they had experienced some instance in the previous 12 months. While this was not quite commensurate with the level of fear, where 39% listed it is their top security concern — behind malware (62%) and ahead of network attacks (38%) — it does show that Irish organisations are targets nonetheless and should protect themselves accordingly.

Another trend that is most definitely being felt here is rise of the Internet of Things (IoT). A third of Irish organisations said they were using these technologies, with the technology sector the leader by some way, but with education, retail and manufacturing all well represented too.

When asked about the perceived benefits, respondents said their top three were operational efficiency, as selected by more than half (55%), followed by reductions in maintenance and/or operational costs (36%) and increased competitive advantage (31%). Level on 27% each were avoidance of equipment failure and the creation of new, innovative solutions. Creating a more fluid and productive working environment was at 23%, while better customer engagement was at just 21%. However, more than said they were unable to estimate productivity gains for employees as result of leveraging such technologies.

The surveys are a great way to understand what is happening in the world of IT in Ireland, and where organisations are in terms of technologies, services and trends. The security aspects are always revealing but the overall picture seems to be one of willingness to embrace new opportunities, as well as awareness of potential problems. While our lagging behind certain other markets might be seen as a disadvantage, a clear undertone in the various results sets is a certain pragmatism, characterised by observation of the more bleeding-edge markets for the maturing situation and lessons to be learned before jumping in.


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