Technology is constantly changing. According to a simplified version of “Moore’s Law”, computing power doubles every 2 years. Is it possible to “future proof” your IT assets, given this state of continual change within the IT industry? Small and mid-sized businesses who want their Information Technology assets and strategy to be as future-proof as possible should consider what the government is doing.
Despite popular belief about their ability to plan, a few government agencies, including the US federal government and the government of New South Wales, Australia, have launched strategies to develop IT policies for the long term. Many of these strategies can be applied to SMEs as well.
Before we go any further, what exactly is “future proofing” Information Technology? According to the digital strategy laid out by the US CIO’s office, it’s IT that can keep pace with change in technology, produce better content/data and present it through multiple channels in a software and hardware agnostic way. It’s also private, secure and based on open standards. Notice that there was no specific mention of having the latest and greatest hardware.
Implementing that kind of IT infrastructure requires the following:
- Making the most of the current technology rather than building new. For example, shut down duplicative and underused data centres while enhancing the rest. Both virtualization and cloud computing assist with this.
- An information centric approach that focuses on managing distinct pieces of data and content rather than documents. A king of create once publish everywhere mentality.
- A focus on modular development using open standards, interoperability and Web APIs. You just need worry about making the data correct and securely accessible so third party developers to make software, like phone apps.
- Ensure the integrity of digital records is maintained. Be mindful of who may need to use this information, including external regulatory organisations.
- End the outdated and inflexible workplace habits, including printing multiple copies of paper reports or insisting employees be at their desks from 9 to 5.
We need a “future ready’ workforce equipped with the latest tools and technologies. We also need smart telework policies that give our employees more flexibility. The work life balance is becoming the most important aspect both staff and customers look for in a business. We no longer need to be located in buildings designed more for their status symbolism than their functionality.
We also need to shift away from a paper based society and focus on delivering information efficiently with the use of digital tools. For half the price the government paid for a single printed copy of the budget last year you could buy a tablet, download the digital version and navigate the pages with ease to find the information you need. Eliminating the use of paper also has environmental benefits as well.
Until now, we have not focussed on upgrading hardware. This is because the future of Information Technology is less about the hardware and more about implementing tools, processes and strategies. Hardware is still important and you will always have to replace hardware as it fails. However, as more things move to the cloud, the less the hardware has to do. We have reached a point where an “off the shelf” laptop or PC will accomplish all your daily work requirements for most people. Virtual and remote access technologies also reinforce the theory that “future proofing” IT is all about the efficient processes.