Browsing articles tagged with " RFG"

Cloudify from Gigaspaces

Mar 31, 2014   //   by admin   //   Reports  //  Comments Off

Cloudify from GigaSpaces – 3-21-14

Cyber Security Targets

Mar 24, 2014   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  Comments Off

RFG Perspective: While the total cost of the cybersecurity breach at Target will not be know for quite a while, a reasonable estimate is that it could easily cost the company more than $500 million. The price tag includes bills associated with fines from credit card companies, other fines and lawsuits for non-compliance, services such as free credit card report monitoring for its impacted 70 -110 million customers, and discounts required to keep customers coming in the door. These costs far exceed the IT costs associated with better cybersecurity prevention. Target is not alone; it is just the latest in a long line of breaches that have taken major tolls on the attacked organization. Business and IT executives need to recognize that attackers and hackers will constantly change their multi-pronged sophisticated attack strategies as they attempt to stay ahead of the protections installed in the enterprises. IT executives need to be constantly aware of the risk exposures and how they are changing, and continue to invest in measured, integrated cybersecurity solutions to close the gaps.

The Target cyber breach represents a new twist to the long-standing cybersecurity challenge. Unlike most other attacks that came through direct probes into the corporate network or through employee social-engineered emails, spear phishing, or multi-vectored malware aimed at IT software, the Target incident was an Operations Technology (OT) play. One reason for this may be that the vendor patch rate has improved and successes of zero-day exploits are dropping. Of course, it could also be that the misguided actors were clever enough to try a new attack vector.

IT vs OT

Most IT executives and staff give little thought to OT software, usually referred to as SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) software. These are industrial control systems that monitor and control things such as air conditioning, civil defense systems, heating, manufacturing lines, power generation, power usage, transmission lines, and water treatment. IT (outside of the utilities industry) tends to treat these systems and the associated software as outside of their purview. This is no longer true. Cyber attackers are constantly upping the ante and now they have begun going after OT software in addition to traditional attack vectors. IT executives and security personnel need to become actively engaged in ensuring the organization is protected against these types of threats.

Incident Attack Types

In 2013 according to the IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Quarterly 1Q2014, the top three disclosed attack types are distributed denial of service (DDoS), SQL injections, and malware. These three vectors account for 43 percent of 8,330 vulnerability disclosures while another 46 percent of attack types remain undisclosed. (See below chart from the IBM report.) The report also points out that Java vulnerabilities continue to rise year-over-year with them tripling in the last year alone. Fully half of the exploited application vulnerabilities were Java based, with Adobe Reader and Internet browsers accounting for 22 and 13 percent respectively. Interestingly, mobile devices excluding laptops have yet to be a major threat attack point.

most common attack types

Currency

Another common pressure point on IT organizations is keeping current with all the security patches authorized by software providers. The good news is that vendors and IT organizations are doing a better job applying patches. The overall unpatched publicly-disclosed vulnerability rate dropped from 41 percent in 2102 to 26 percent in 2013. This is great progress but still much remains to be done, especially by enterprise IT. The amount of patches to be applied on an ongoing basis can be overwhelming and many IT organizations cannot keep up, especially with quick fixes. Thus, zero-day exploits still remain major threats that IT needs to mitigate.

Playing Defense

The challenge for IT CISOs and security staff increases every year as the number and types of actors attempting to gain access to IT systems continues to grow as do the types of attacks. Therefore, enterprises must reduce their risk exposure by using monitoring and blocking software that can rapidly detect problems almost as they occur and shut off attacks immediately before the exposure becomes too large. Additionally, staff must fine-tune access controls and patch known vulnerabilities quickly so as to (virtually) eliminate the ability for criminals to exploit holes in infrastructures. Security executives and staff should work collaboratively with others in their field and share information about attacks, defenses, meaningful metrics, and trends. IT executives should ensure security personnel are continually trained and aware of the latest trends and are implementing the appropriate defenses as rapidly as possible. As people are one of the weakest links in the security chain, IT executives should also ensure all employees are aware of company privacy and security policies and procedures and are judiciously following them.

RFG POV: IT executives and cyber security staff remain behind the curve in protecting, exfiltrating, discovering, and containing cyber security attacks and data breaches. There are some low-hanging initiatives IT can execute to close some of the major vulnerabilities such as blocking troublesome IP addresses at the perimeter outside the firewall and employing enhanced software monitoring tools that can spot and alert security of suspect software. Additionally, staff can improve password requirements, password change frequency, two-factor authentication, inclusion of OT software, and rapid deactivation of access (cyber and physical) to terminated employees. Encryption of data at rest and in transit should also be evaluated. However, IT are not the only ones on the line for corporate security – the board of directors and corporate executives share the fiduciary burden for protecting company assets. IT executives should get boards and corporate executives to understand the challenges, establish the acceptable risk parameters, and play an ongoing role in security governance. IT security executives should work with appropriate parties to collect, analyze, and share incident data so that defenses and detection can be enhanced. IT executives should also recognize that cyber security is not just about technology – the weakest links are the people and processes. These gaps should be aggressively pursued and the problems regularly communicated across the organization. The investment in these corrective actions will be far less than the cost of fixing the problem once the damage is done.

Have You Been Robbed on the Last Mile of Sales?

Feb 16, 2014   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  Comments Off

It is a fair question, whether you are the seller or the customer. OK, so what is the last mile of sales? I didn’t find an official definition, so I’m borrowing the concept from “the last mile of finance” between balance sheet and 10-k, and the “last mile of telecommunications” that is the copper wire from the common carrier’s substation to your home or business. Let’s call the last mile of sales

that part of the sales funnel in which prospects are ready to become customers, or are already customers, ready for up-selling and cross-selling.

 

Survey Participants were robbed on the Last Mile of Sales!

This Tuesday morning, I looked at our “Poor Data Quality – Negative Business Outcomes” survey results and I noticed a surprising agreement among participants in one sales-related area. 126 respondents, or over 90%of those responding to our question about poor data quality compromising up-selling and cross-selling, indicated they had such a problem. The graph following gives you a sense of how large a percentage of respondents had lost sales opportunities.

robbed on the last mile of sales

  This is a troubling statistic. Organizations spend huge sums on marketing programs designed to attract prospects and nurture them to become customers. Beyond direct monetary investment, ensuring a successful trip down the sales funnel takes time, effort, and ability. From the perspective of the seller, failing to sell more products and services to an robbed on the last mile of salesexisting (presumably happy) client is like being robbed on the last mile of sales. Your organization has already succeeded in making a first sale. Subsequent selling should be easier, not harder. From the perspective of the buyer, losing confidence in your chosen vendor because they fail to know you and your preferences, confuse you with similarly named customers, or display inept record-keeping about their last contact with you, robs you of a relationship you had invested time and money in developing. Perhaps now your go-to vendor becomes your former vendor, and you must spend time seeking an alternate source. Once confidence has been shaken, it is difficult to rebuild.

What did the survey say?

How is it possible that more than 90% of our respondents to this question lost an opportunity to up-sell or cross-sell? The next chart tells the story. It is poor data quality, plain and simple. robbed on the last mile of sales You can read the results yourself. As a sales prospect for a lead generation service, I had a recent experience with at least one of the top four poor data quality problems.

Oops, the status wasn’t updated after our last call

In the closing months of 2013, I was solicited by a lead generation firm. I asked them to contact me in the first quarter of 2014. Ten days into 2014, they called again. OK, perhaps a bit early in the quarter, but they are eager for my business. With no immediate need, I asked them to call me again in Q3-2014 to see how things were evolving. So, I was surprised when I received another call from that firm, yesterday. Had we traveled through a time-warp? Was it now mid-summer? A look out the window at the snowstorm in progress suggested it was still February 2014. The caller was the same person as last time, and began an identical spiel. I interrupted and mentioned we had only spoken a week earlier. The caller appeared to remember and agree, indicating that there was no status update about the previous call. Was this sloppy ball-handling by sales, an IT technology issue, an ill-timed database restore? Was this a 1:1,000,000 chance or an everyday occurrence? The answer to all of those questions is “I have no idea, but I don’t want to trust these folks with managing my lead generation campaign”. If they can’t handle their own sales process, how are they going to help me with mine? What ever the cause of the gaff, they robbed themselves of a prospect, and me of any confidence I might have had in them.

The Bottom Line

Being robbed on the last mile of sales by poor data quality is unnecessary, but all too common. Have you recently been robbed on the last mile of sales? Are you a seller, or a disappointed prospect or customer? Cal Braunstein of The Robert Frances Group and I would like to hear from you. Please do contact me to set up an appointment for a conversation. Whether you have already participated in our survey, are a member of the InfoGov community, or simply have an enlightening experience about how poor data quality caused you to have a negative business outcome, reach out and let us know.

Published by permission of Stuart Selip, Principal Consulting LLC

Predictions: Tech Trends – part 1 – 2014

Jan 20, 2014   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  Comments Off

RFG Perspective: The global economic headwinds in 2014, which constrain IT budgets, will force IT executives to question certain basic assumptions and reexamine current and target technology solutions. There are new waves of next-generation technologies emerging and maturing that challenge the existing status quo and deserve IT executive attention. These technologies will improve business outcomes as well as spark innovation and drive down the cost of IT services and solutions. IT executives will have to work with business executives fund the next-generation technologies or find self-funding approaches to implementing them. IT executives will also have to provide the leadership needed for properly selecting and implementing cloud solutions or control will be assumed by business executives that usually lack all the appropriate skills for tackling outsourced IT solutions.

As mentioned in the RFG blog “IT and the Global Economy – 2014” the global economic environment may not be as strong as expected, thereby keeping IT budgets contained or shrinking. Therefore, IT executives will need to invest in next-generation technology to contain costs, minimize risks, improve resource utilization, and deliver the desired business outcomes. Below are a few key areas that RFG believes will be the major technology initiatives that will get the most attention.

Tech-driven Business Transformation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: RFG
Analytics – In 2014, look for analytics service and solution providers to boost usability of their products to encompass the average non-technical knowledge worker by moving closer to a “Google-like” search and inquiry experience in order to broaden opportunities and increase market share.

Big Data – Big Data integration services and solutions will grab the spotlight this year as organizations continue to ratchet up the volume, variety and velocity of data while seeking increased visibility, veracity and insight from their Big Data sources.

Cloud – Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) will continue to dominate as a cloud solution over Platform as a Service (PaaS), although the latter is expected to gain momentum and market share. Nonetheless, Software as a Service (SaaS) will remain the cloud revenue leader with Salesforce.com the dominant player. Amazon Web Services will retain its overall leadership of IaaS/PaaS providers with Google, IBM, and Microsoft Azure holding onto the next set of slots. Rackspace and Oracle have a struggle ahead to gain market share, even as OpenStack (an open cloud architecture) gains momentum.

Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) – CSPs will face stiffer competition and pricing pressures as larger players acquire or build new capabilities and new, innovative open-source based solutions enter the new year with momentum as large, influential organizations look to build and share their own private and public cloud standards and APIs to lower infrastructure costs.

Consolidation – Data center consolidation will continue as users move applications and services to the cloud and standardized internal platforms that are intended to become cloud-like. Advancements in cloud offerings along with a diminished concern for security (more of a false hope than reality) will lead to more small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) to shift processing to the cloud and operate fewer internal data center sites. Large enterprises will look to utilize clouds and colocation sites for development/test environments and handling spikes in capacity rather than open or grow in-house sites.

Containerization – Containerization (or modularization) is gaining acceptance by many leading-edge companies, like Google and Microsoft, but overall adoption is slow, as IT executives have yet to figure out how to deal with the technology. It is worth noting that the power usage effectiveness (PUE) of these solutions is excellent and has been known to be as low as 1.05 (whereas the average remains around 1.90).

Data center transformation – In order to achieve the levels of operational efficiency required, IT executives will have to increase their commitment to data center transformation. The productivity improvements will be achieved through the use of the shift from standalone vertical stack management to horizontal layer management, relationship management, and use of cloud technologies. One of the biggest effects of this shift is an actual reduction in operations headcount and reorientation of skills and talents to the new processes. IT executives should look for the transformation to be a minimum of a three year process. However, IT operations executives should not expect clear sailing as development shops will push back to prevent loss of control of their application environments.

3-D printing – 2014 will see the beginning of 3-D printing taking hold. Over time the use of 3-D printing will revolutionize the way companies produce materials and provide support services. Leading-edge companies will be the first to apply the technology this year and thereby gain a competitive advantage.

Energy efficiency/sustainability – While this is not new news in 2014, IT executives should be making it a part of other initiatives and a procurement requirement. RFG studies find that energy savings is just the tip of the iceberg (about 10 percent) that can be achieved when taking advantage of newer technologies. RFG studies show that in many cases the energy savings from removing hardware kept more than 40 months can usually pay for new better utilized equipment. Or, as an Intel study found, servers more than four years old accounted for four percent of the relative performance capacity yet consumed 60 percent of the power.

Hyperscale computing (HPC) – RFG views hyperscale computing as the next wave of computing that will replace the low end of the traditional x86 server market. The space is still in its infancy, with the primary players Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) SeaMicro solutions and Hewlett-Packard’s (HP’s) Moonshot server line. While penetration will be low in 2014, the value proposition for HPC solutions should be come evident.

Integrated systems – Integrated systems is a poorly defined computing technology that encompasses converged architecture, expert systems, and partially integrated systems as well as expert integrated systems. The major players in this space are Cisco, EMC, Dell, HP, IBM, and Oracle. While these systems have been on the market for more than a year now, revenues are still limited (depending upon whom one talks to, revenues may now exceed $1 billion globally) and adoption moving slowly. Truly integrated systems do result in productivity, time and cost savings and IT executives should be piloting them in 2014 to determine the role and value they can play in the corporate data centers.

Internet of things – More and more sensors are being employed and imbedded in appliances and other products, which will automate and improve life in IT and in the physical world. From an data center information management (DCIM), these sensors will enable IT operations staff to better monitor and manage system capacity and utilization. 2014 will see further advancements and inroads made in this area.

Linux/open source – The trend toward Linux and open source technologies continues with both picking up market share as IT shops find the costs are lower and they no longer need to be dependent upon vendor-provided support. Linux and other open technologies are now accepted because they provide agility, choice, and interoperability. According to a recent survey, a majority of users are now running Linux in their server environments, with more than 40 percent using Linux as either their primary server operating system or as one of their top server platforms. (Microsoft still has the advantage in the x86 platform space and will for some time to come.) OpenStack and the KVM hypervisor will continue to acquire supporting vendors and solutions as players look for solutions that do not lock them into proprietary offerings with limited ways forward. A Red Hat survey of 200 U.S. enterprise decision makers found that internal development of private cloud platforms has left organizations with numerous challenges such as application management, IT management, and resource management. To address these issues, organizations are moving or planning a move to OpenStack for private cloud initiatives, respondents claimed. Additionally, a recent OpenStack user survey indicated that 62 percent of OpenStack deployments use KVM as the hypervisor of choice.

Outsourcing – IT executives will be looking for more ways to improve outsourcing transparency and cost control in 2014. Outsourcers will have to step up to the SLA challenge (mentioned in the People and Process Trends 2014 blog) as well as provide better visibility into change management, incident management, projects, and project management. Correspondingly, with better visibility there will be a shift away from fixed priced engagements to ones with fixed and variable funding pools. Additionally, IT executives will be pushing for more contract flexibility, including payment terms. Application hosting displaced application development in 2013 as the most frequently outsourced function and 2014 will see the trend continue. The outsourcing of ecommerce operations and disaster recovery will be seen as having strong value propositions when compared to performing the work in-house. However, one cannot assume outsourcing is less expensive than handling the tasks internally.

Software defined x – Software defined networks, storage, data centers, etc. are all the latest hype. The trouble with all new technologies of this type is that the initial hype will not match reality. The new software defined market is quite immature and all the needed functionality will not be out in the early releases. Therefore, one can expect 2014 to be a year of disappointments for software defined solutions. However, over the next three to five years it will mature and start to become a usable reality.

Storage – Flash SSD et al – Storage is once again going through revolutionary changes. Flash, solid state drives (SSD), thin provisioning, tiering, and virtualization are advancing at a rapid pace as are the densities and power consumption curves. Tier one to tier four storage has been expanded to a number of different tier zero options – from storage inside the computer to PCIe cards to all flash solutions. 2014 will see more of the same with adoption of the newer technologies gaining speed. Most data centers are heavily loaded with hard disk drives (HDDs), a good number of which are short stroked. IT executives need to experiment with the myriad of storage choices and understand the different rationales for each. RFG expects the tighter integration of storage and servers to begin to take hold in a number of organizations as executives find the closer placement of the two will improve performance at a reasonable cost point.

RFG POV: 2014 will likely be a less daunting year for IT executives but keeping pace with technology advances will have to be part of any IT strategy if executives hope to achieve their goals for the year and keep their companies competitive. This will require IT to understand the rate of technology change and adapt a data center transformation plan that incorporates the new technologies at the appropriate pace. Additionally, IT executives will need to invest annually in new technologies to help contain costs, minimize risks, and improve resource utilization. IT executives should consider a turnover plan that upgrades (and transforms) a third of the data center each year. IT executives should collaborate with business and financial executives so that IT budgets and plans are integrated with the business and remain so throughout the year.

Predictions: People & Process Trends – 2014

Jan 20, 2014   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  Comments Off

RFG Perspective: The global economic headwinds in 2014, which constrain IT budgets, will force business and IT executives to more closely examine the people and process issues for productivity improvements. Externally IT executives will have to work with non-IT teams to improve and restructure processes to meet the new mobile/social environments that demand more collaborative and interactive real-time information. Simultaneously, IT executives will have to address the data quality and service level concerns that impact business outcomes, productivity and revenues so that there is more confidence in IT. Internally IT executives will need to increase their focus on automation, operations simplicity, and security so that IT can deliver more (again) at lower cost while better protecting the organization from cybercrimes.

As mentioned in the RFG blog “IT and the Global Economy – 2014” the global economic environment may not be as strong as expected, thereby keeping IT budgets contained or shrinking. Therefore, IT executives will need to invest in process improvements to help contain costs, enhance compliance, minimize risks, and improve resource utilization. Below are a few key areas that RFG believes will be the major people and process improvement initiatives that will get the most attention.

Automation/simplicity – Productivity in IT operations is a requirement for data center transformation. To achieve this IT executives will be pushing vendors to deliver more automation tools and easier to use products and services. Over the past decade some IT departments have been able to improve productivity by 10 times but many lag behind. In support of this, staff must switch from a vertical and highly technical model to a horizontal one in which they will manage services layers and relationships. New learning management techniques and systems will be needed to deliver content that can be grasped intuitively. Furthermore, the demand for increased IT services without commensurate budget increases will force IT executives to pursue productivity solutions to satisfy the business side of the house. Thus, automation software, virtualization techniques, and integrated solutions that simplify operations will be attractive initiatives for many IT executives.

Business Process Management (BPM) – BPM will gain more traction as companies continue to slice costs and demand more productivity from staff. Executives will look for BPM solutions that will automate redundant processes, enable them to get to the data they require, and/or allow them to respond to rapid-fire business changes within (and external to) their organizations. In healthcare in particular this will become a major thrust as the industry needs to move toward “pay for outcomes” and away from “pay for service” mentality.

Chargebacks – The movement to cloud computing is creating an environment that is conducive to implementation of chargebacks. The financial losers in this game will continue to resist but the momentum is turning against them. RFG expects more IT executives to be able to implement financially-meaningful chargebacks that enable business executives to better understand what the funds pay for and therefore better allocate IT resources, thereby optimizing expenditures. However, while chargebacks are gaining momentum across all industries, there is still a long way to go, especially for in-house clouds, systems and solutions.

Compliance – Thousands of new regulations took effect on January 1, as happens every year, making compliance even tougher. In 2014 the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) kicked in for some companies but not others; compounding this, the U.S. President and his Health and Human Services (HHS) department keep issuing modifications to the law, which impact compliance and compliance reporting. IT executives will be hard pressed to keep up with compliance requirements globally and to improve users’ support for compliance.

Data quality – A recent study by RFG and Principal Consulting on the negative business outcomes of poor data quality finds a majority of users find data quality suspect. Most respondents believed inaccurate, unreliable, ambiguously defined, and disorganized data were the leading problems to be corrected. This will be partially addressed in 2014 by some users by looking at data confidence levels in association with the type and use of the data. IT must fix this problem if it is to regain trust. But it is not just an IT problem as it is costing companies dearly, in some cases more than 10 percent of revenues. Some IT executives will begin to capture the metrics required to build a business case to fix this while others will implement data quality solutions aimed at fixing select problems that have been determined to be troublesome.

Operations efficiency – This will be an overriding theme for many IT operations units. As has been the case over the years the factors driving improvement will be automation, standardization, and consolidation along with virtualization. However, for this to become mainstream, IT executives will need to know and monitor the key data center metrics, which for many will remain a challenge despite all the tools on the market. Look for minor advances in usage but major double-digit gains for those addressing operations efficiency.

Procurement – With the requirement for agility and the move towards cloud computing, more attention will be paid to the procurement process and supplier relationship management in 2014. Business and IT executives that emphasize a focus on these areas can reduce acquisition costs by double digits and improve flexibility and outcomes.

Security – The use of big data analytics and more collaboration will help improve real-time analysis but security issues will still be evident in 2014. RFG expects the fallout from the Target and probable Obamacare breaches will fuel the fears of identity theft exposures and impair ecommerce growth. Furthermore, electronic health and medical records in the cloud will require considerable security protections to minimize medical ID theft and payment of HIPAA and other penalties by SaaS and other providers. Not all providers will succeed and major breaches will occur.

Staffing – IT executives will do limited hiring again this year and will rely more on cloud services, consulting, and outsourcing services. There will be some shifts on suppliers and resource country-pool usage as advanced cloud offerings, geopolitical changes and economic factors drive IT executives to select alternative solutions.

Standardization –More and more IT executives recognize the need for standardization but advancement will require a continued executive push and involvement. In that this will become political, most new initiatives will be the result of the desire for cloud computing rather than internal leadership.

SLAs – Most IT executives and cloud providers have yet to provide the service levels businesses are demanding. More and better SLAs, especially for cloud platforms, are required. IT executives should push providers (and themselves) for SLAs covering availability, accountability, compliance, performance, resiliency, and security. Companies that address these issues will be the winners in 2014.

Watson – The IBM Watson cognitive system is still at the beginning of the acceptance curve but IBM is opening up Watson for developers to create own applications. 2014 might be a breakout year, starting a new wave of cognitive systems that will transform how people and organizations think, act, and operate.

RFG POV: 2014 will likely be a less daunting year for IT executives but people and process issues will have to be addressed if IT executives hope to achieve their goals for the year. This will require IT to integrate itself with the business and work collaboratively to enhance operations and innovate new, simpler approaches to doing business. Additionally, IT executives will need to invest in process improvements to help contain costs, enhance compliance, minimize risks, and improve resource utilization. IT executives should collaborate with business and financial executives so that IT budgets and plans are integrated with the business and remain so throughout the year.

NoSQL Innovators – Part 3

Dec 23, 2013   //   by admin   //   Reports  //  Comments Off

NoSQL Innovators – part 3

NoSQL Innovators – Part 2

Dec 23, 2013   //   by admin   //   Reports  //  Comments Off

NoSQL Innovators – part 2

NoSQL Innovators – Part 1

Dec 23, 2013   //   by admin   //   Reports  //  Comments Off

NoSQL Innovators – part 1

IT and the Global Economy – 2014

Dec 23, 2013   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  Comments Off

RFG Perspective: There will be a number of global economic headwinds in 2014 that will mean slow or no growth around the world. The U.S. could creep up to three percent growth but the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) implementation has a high probability of reducing growth to the 2013 level or less. This uncertainty will result in IT budgets remaining constrained and making it difficult for IT executives to keep current in technology, meet new business demands, and develop the skills necessary to satisfy corporate requirements.

Third quarter U.S. GDP gives the illusion that the U.S. economy is strengthening but that is hardly the case. The gains were in inventory buildups. Remove that and the economy of the United States mirrors that of many other countries. Europe remains weak and bounces in and out of recession while many of the so-called emerging markets are no longer bounding ahead. The BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China), whose growth had offset the weakness in the developed nations, are now underperforming. Growth in Brazil, India, and Russia has dropped significantly from the peak while China’s merely slipped into more normal numbers. Now that the U.S. Federal Reserve has begun its taper, these nations could tumble even more. This does not bode well for revenue growth, which, in turn, means tighter IT budgets.

In addition to the Federal Reserve’s actions overhanging the U.S. and global markets, Obamacare may add to the negative effect. The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is not that affordable and it seems the majority of individuals (and potentially corporations) are finding monthly payments are significantly higher, as are deductibles. This could slow the general economy even more if consumers and corporations are forced to hold back spending to cover basic healthcare costs.

The Bellwethers Struggle

There are three IT bellwethers for growth that we can look at to see how the world economy is fairing and how it is already impacting IT acquisitions. Some may say these companies – Cisco Systems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP), and IBM Corp. – are no longer applicable in the new world of cloud computing but that is a false premise. These three firms are all heavily into the cloud and are growing rapidly in cloud/Internet related areas.

Cisco reported single digit revenue growth for 2013 year-over-year with revenues in the Asia Pacific area shrinking by three percent. While that is not bad, CEO John Chambers warned that revenues would decline eight to 10 percent in this quarter – its biggest drop in 13 years. One reason is that it is struggling in the top five emerging markets where revenues declined 21 percent. Brazil was down 25 percent; China, India and Mexico dropped 18 percent; and Russia slid 30 percent.

HP’s fiscal year 2013 showed similar revenue results – down by single digits. It had lower revenues in all regions and printing supplies slip four percent year-over-year. Printing supplies has been one of HP’s internal leading economic indicators, so this news is not good.

IBM’s third quarter revenues came in four percent under the previous year’s quarter, with all geographies down slightly or flat. But its growth markets revenues fell by nine percent and the BRIC revenues declined by 15 percent. There is a pattern here.

The collapse of the revenues in the emerging markets and BRIC nations is less a story of the bellwethers but of the countries’ declining economies. These countries and the U.S. were the engines of growth. Not any longer.

 RFG POV: 2014 has the appearance of being a less daunting year for IT executives than the past few years but economic, geopolitical and governmental disruptions could change all that almost overnight. Businesses may be able to avoid the global minefields that are lurking everywhere but the risk exposure is there. Therefore, it is highly likely that most CEOs and CFOs will want to constrain IT spending – i.e., flat, down or up slightly. Moreover, most budgets are reflections of the prior year’s budget with modifications to address the changing business requirements and economic environment. Therefore, IT executives can expect to have limited options as they work to meet new business demands, keep up with technology, and develop the skills needed to satisfy corporate requirements. It is time to innovate, do more with less again, and/or find self-funding solutions. Additionally, IT executives will need to invest in process improvements to help contain costs, enhance compliance, minimize risks, and improve resource utilization. IT executives should work closely with business and financial executives so that IT budgets and plans are integrated with the business and remain so throughout the year.

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