Mind Your Own Business Intelligence

Much of the current issue of CIO is devoted to IDC’s latest Forecast for Management Survey (see “Sounding Board”, if you don’t believe me). But for all the talk about what made the list of CIOs’ top priorities for 2010, what I found most interesting in the latest survey were two items that didn’t make the top 10 this year, namely security and business intelligence.

I’m not in the business of spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt, but I feel safe in saying that it is not a good thing to see security sliding down on the list of what CIOs consider top-tier priorities. I would argue that security is more important than ever these days, given how the volume of digital data is exploding. Recent estimates from IDC (again) claim that some 487 billion gigabytes of digital information was created globally in 2008 alone. That’s a lot of data to protect.

Security is definitely slipping off the CIO agenda, and it’s been doing so for the last few years. Why? Maybe the results of IDC’s survey reflect just how much time, effort and money CIOs have invested in security over the past few years. Some might argue that many organisations are getting a bit complacent now, thinking they’ve got it all under control.

But the fact is CIOs can’t afford to let their guard down for even a second, because the threat vectors are increasing in complexity and cleverness every moment of every day. Mobility, social networking and other Web 2.0 advances are all creating new chinks in the armour of the enterprise. I also don’t think enterprises have yet come to terms with social networking, neither how it can be used for business, nor how to protect against attacks launched via Web 2.0 sites. What’s more, likely changes to Australia’s state and federal privacy laws governing data breach notifications should place security issues firmly on every CIO’s radar. Reforms suggested by the Australian Law Reform Commission in its recent report into privacy legislation in Australia will, if enacted, introduce an ‘at fault’ data breach notification system together with harsh penalties, including civil penalties for serious breaches. So not only is security critically important, the stakes for businesses will soon be much higher.

Perhaps even more surprising, however, was the fact that business intelligence dropped out of the top 10 items on CIOs’ agendas next year. Getting the right information to the right people at the right time for the right cost is what it takes to succeed in today’s business environment. Perhaps business intelligence sliding out of the top 10 is an indication of just how difficult BI is to achieve. BI is a moving target; it’s something that senior IT execs must constantly monitor and review to ensure that their organisation is getting the right information to key employees.

The financial crisis should have brought the importance of BI to CIOs’ attention. It seems to me that if more companies -- especially the financial institutions who got us into this mess in the first place -- had better access to accurate data, with thorough analysis and the right alert systems in place, more businesses might have realised early on that things were going awry in the economy. They might have even been able to put in place safeguards to stop the global financial crisis from impacting their companies so heavily.

And if that isn’t a good argument for better business intelligence, I don’t know what is. . .

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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