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ICT: the challenges in 2017

Coming year will have many challenges for IT management and staff. The issues include new technology, cloud, big data, virtualization, BYOD and BYOA, shadow IT, boomers, energy efficiency, user systems, interoperability, creating value and social networks.

The industry will need huge additional manpower in cyber security. Skills challenges in all segments exist in a number of key growth industries as a result of the ongoing structural changes in the economy, the impact of disruptive technologies and the shortage of human resource enrolled in certain critical fields. The industry will require an additional huge HR, particularly in the areas of cyber security, data analytics and development and network infrastructure. The electronics and electrical engineering, responsible for providing the largest component of Bangladesh’s manufacturing base, also faces a skills gap. A lack of necessary work experience and specialist skills, and the perceived uncompetitive pay are the main reasons why engineers are shunning the industry. The increased use of mobile banking and web-based wealth management service like ‘robo-advisers’ could also require talented human resources, possessing both technical and entrepreneurial skills.

Experts have attributed the skills gaps to the rapid changes in the country’s key growth industries, which are partly encouraged by the frequent changes in the government’s industrial policy. Recommendations have been made for the government to consider moderating the pace of change in targeting new sectors for growth. Industries should be given time to mature to gain scale and depth, and achieve international competitiveness. This would also allow time for skilled workers to keep up with changing demands. Given the dynamic nature of our economy, the emphasis on education and training should also include promoting soft skills and adaptability.

The banking industry is no longer concentrating on the traditional approach to banking. The business model of today is entirely different compared to the last decade. Banks will continue to reinvent themselves in order to be competitive and viable. Innovative business initiatives require the technology solution to be upgraded constantly and continuously on a regular basis. Designing and implementing the solution is one aspect, but more important is to effectively and efficiently manage the deployed solution to ensure that service delivery meets the expectations of business.

The banking industry in Bangladesh has been leveraging IT for its business for the past few years. However, the technology adoption and creation of IT infrastructure have not been uniform across all banks. There are leaders in the industry who are on par with any international organization in terms of skills for IT infrastructure build-up and usage, but they need support to be able to make appropriate use of their expertise. As we enter 2017, ICT faces inevitable transitions in the banking industry. ICT is playing a greater role in helping banks carry out marketing, sales and channel integration initiatives in financial services.

New Technology

Technology advances rapidly and shows up in media on all sides. This means users, managers at all levels pressure IT staff to implement this new technology just because it is new. The real challenge is deciding which of these new technologies will work to the best interest of advancing the organization and which is better to avoid for now.

Organizational priorities and long-term goals tend to remain relatively static. Technology has become much more fluid and changes more rapidly. IT management must evaluate the organizational value each technology offers to determine when and if it is a good fit.

New technologies such as cloud, big data, virtualization and mobility all become tools for experienced IT managers who understand their organization’s priorities. Since every organization is different, the IT value of each new technology will vary with the organization’s strategic goals.

To address this issue: To make the most of any new technology, an IT manager needs a solid understanding of the organization and the challenges its users and markets face. Prior to jumping into a new trend in technology, IT managers must ask one question: “How does this help us address our current challenges or meet our strategic goals?

Cloud

Many organizations have yet to make cloud plans. They choose to keep their data and applications in-house and manage everything themselves. With the advances of cloud offerings and to future-proof the network, preparing the organization for a potential future cloud move is simple common sense. For example, what happens when organizational management decides to set up an internal cloud solution. Maybe that is a step toward moving applications and data off-site. The main point: You must create portable applications today that won’t hold your company back in the future, whatever that may hold.

To address this issue: This comes down to software and hardware architecture. New applications must be built using an open architecture that lets them run on any platform or with any database. Doing so means the organization’s applications will run on the in-house servers, an in-house cloud or in an external cloud. The extra benefit is that any move to a cloud-based solution can be completed without new applications.

Big Data Analytics

Data is projected to grow by 800 percent in the next five years. The big challenge is that more than 80 percent of it unstructured. Unstructured data varies in its formats, including plain text, email, blog, formatted document, standard and non-standard image, video, voice, animation, sensor input and web search logs. Unstructured data is growing faster than structured data. As a relatively new and untapped source of organizational insight, unstructured data analytics has the potential to reveal more important information interrelationships that were previously very difficult or impossible to determine.

Part of that unstructured data includes data from communities, groups and social networks outside the organization known as “the collective”. Data mining the collective is a great way to understand the organization’s market and customers.

To address this issue: To provide the best value to the organization, big data analytics requires new approaches to capturing, storing and analyzing data. The massive amount and growth of unstructured data rapidly outpaces traditional solutions and calls for new volume handling. Big data is collected from new sources. Traditional data management processes fall short in coping with the variable nature of big data. New analytics offer methods to process the variety. Data is generated in real time and the demands call for usable information to be ready as needed. Solutions like 100 GB Ethernet, parallel- processing, and SSDs (Solid State Drives) offer good response times.

Virtualization

Virtualization continues to expand from desktops to servers to switches, routers and firewalls. Virtualization will provide a much higher level of control of these devices rather than saving money. In fact, the organization’s infrastructure will require larger servers, more VM licenses, and emulation software in addition to the continuing cost of desktop licenses.

A virtualized data center requires many of the same management tasks that also must be performed in the physical server environment. These tasks need to be extended into the virtualized environment as well as also integrated with the existing workflow and management processes.

One example is that IT organizations must be able to automatically discover both the physical and the virtual environment and have an integrated view of both environments available for monitoring and managing. That view of the combined virtual and physical server resources needs to stay current as VMs move from one host to another. The view must also be able to indicate which resources are involved in the case of fault or performance issues.

To address this issue: The Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) set its Virtualization Management (VMAN) standard. That includes a set of specifications to address the management lifecycle of a virtual environment. VMAN’s Open Virtualization Format (OVF) specification provides a standard for describing virtual machines and applications for deployment across various virtualization platforms. VMAN’s profiles now standardize many aspects of the operational management of a mixed vendor virtualized environment.

BYOD and BYOA

For years, IT has controlled user’s devices. With the advent of smartphones and tablets, that has changed. Users now bring in their own devices without IT’s knowledge. They use them for both personal and work-related tasks. ITs initial plan was to attempt to maintain control. The facts are clear: controlling user-owned devices in an organization’s network is nearly impossible.

When a user brings their own device, they will also bring their own applications that they have grown used to using. That is a plus for productivity and a challenge for IT security. IT managers and CIOs will need to decide what to secure: the network infrastructure or the organization’s data.

Suggestions: Controlling users’ mobile devices, is a losing battle. IT staff, even with automation, can’t possibly monitor every device that links to the network. The solution moves to controlling data access. First, secure the data on servers. Then provide users access to that data in the form of mobile web apps. This lets them access the data on any server they are authorized to access, but doesn’t store any data on the mobile device.

Shadow IT

IT continues to have a poor image inside organizations. Whether it be slow response times, dictatorial actions, or software challenges, many IT departments are facing users’ preference of going to intra-department super users for help. Add the easily available cloud software and services, organizations see users and groups head toward bypassing the IT department altogether. They find and purchase third party SaaS (Software as a Service) packages to meet their needs. Other departments like sales, marketing, accounting, etc. are considering independent arrangements with outside IT service providers.

To address this issue: When end users and managers are less satisfied with the service and support they receive from IT, they begin to look for other options. The solution is less about controlling an emerging Shadow IT. It’s really about training the IT department to better communicate with and support the needs of the organization.

Boomers

Starting in this year, about 10,000 baby boomers will become eligible to retire every day for the next 15 to 20 years in North America. A lot of those potential retirees are IT people who have years of both IT and organization-specific knowledge and experience. The entry-level people oming into the workforce are much more loyal to themselves, what they know and in some cases, to their peers than to the organization. They arrive with different skill sets and new ways of looking at and using technology.

To address this issue: To deal with retirements and the possibility that younger workers may stay less time, there are two basic alternatives. One choice is a mentoring program so those people who need to be replaced can share their knowledge with their potential replacement in sufficient time to complete the exchange smoothly before retirement. Another solution is giving newer IT workers projects outside of their comfort zone, more training and other opportunities to learn something different and as a result become less vertically focused. As they complete these projects they move to other new areas and projects.

Interoperability

Users and customers are more demanding of the products on their desktops and mobile devices. It all comes down to communicating with each another. Systems need to send and receive data that will be compatible on all user platforms. Open applications and systems built on open standards are the way of the future. Development efforts must focus on the system or application itself as well as how that system/application works with others.

Tips to address this issue: At the most basic level, developers must avoid proprietary architecture and use only open architecture and frameworks that communicate easily with other systems.

User Systems

Desktops, laptops, notebooks, tablets and smartphones are already an integral part of many users lives. In some cases, it has become increasingly difficult to draw the line between them. Will tablets replace laptops and notebooks? Will desktops go the way of the dinosaurs?

Tablets and smartphones already perform many tasks previously completed by desktops. That means organizations must adapt to a multiple user system. These days, internal users and customers may access organizational data and applications via many different methods depending on their current location.

To address this issue: IT managers must develop applications that adjust to the device the users have available. Some will turn to responsive design that creates a more fluid display to adjust to the screen size variations. Others use the adaptive approach that designs the display to match the desired screen size.

Energy Efficiency

According to most estimates, a 25,000 square foot data center will use about $4 million in energy this year. At that rate, a savings of just a few percent can make a big difference to an IT budget. With an increasing trend of expanding green initiatives and alternate sources of energy, organizations are working on ways to improve energy monitoring and efficiency. There’s an emerging market of tools for energy monitoring and efficiency. More than 25 vendors have entered this market. These tools monitor consumption at the device level and, in some cases, at the application level.

To address this issue: Resources and tools are readily available to help IT and data center managers benchmark energy use, monitor ongoing trends, identify any savings opportunities, and adopt the most energy efficient practices.

Creating value

This is a recurring IT issue. It’s now a priority. IT departments must focus on improving service to the organizational user and to the organization’s departmental needs. To do so, IT managers must remove any non-essential activities that are in the way. That means a different way of outsourcing non-core activities to keep the focus on value creation. This outsourcing means moving as many services to the cloud as possible. Why own or maintain software or hardware? Small or mid-sized firms can easily rely on the cloud for standardized services.

To address this issue: This is relatively simple. Ask, “Does this task/activity improve our organization’s core priorities?” If not, figure out how to eliminate that function and focus on the mission-critical tasks.

Social Networks

Customers, suppliers and others are currently talking about every organization on some form of social media. This may include Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn and YouTube. At minimum, IT and marketing departments need to monitor and participate in those conversations. Semantic analysis tools can help companies mine that social dialog to shape new product and upgrades, improve customer service, sales and marketing initiatives.

To address this issue: Establish a social presence and determine what is being shared. The biggest challenge here is the struggle with shifting from providing a platform to sell products and services to delivering strong customer solutions.

Mobile is the Word

Mobile will spark IT challenges for banks to meet their customers’ shifting needs, and banks must develop a winning IT strategy to manage the new mobile ecosystem. For financial institutions, the magic word in 2017 will be mobile. Bank customers are turning to the ease and convenience of their smartphones and tablets for mobile banking, payments and check deposit. Managing this seismic financial shift will prove challenging for bank ICT departments, but those with a dynamic mobile strategy will enjoy a significant competitive advantage from those without.

Predicting the Future

As consumers are becoming more technology-savvy organization must adapt their approach to digital platforms. We need to anticipate where technology is going in today’s rapidly changing environment and quickly adopt those solutions that best fit our industry and consumers. Customers have become accustomed to having technology at their fingertips, so we have to be nimbler in adopting and introducing emerging technologies. In commercial banking, for example, developments in portal technologies that offer enhanced data analysis and reporting are major areas of investment. Anticipating where the market is heading, how technology is evolving, and innovating ahead of our competition both other banks and non-traditional competitors while meeting growing security, regulatory and compliance requirements present challenges.

Organization need to focus on a structure that is scalable yet nimble and able to support future growth and increasing needs of the business. We’ve moved to an architecture that supports our “always on” approach to enable our customers to bank whenever and wherever. We have to deliver with increased speed and efficiency while defining the role of big data and cloud computing in our solutions. Talent acquisition continues to be important. Candidates don’t often think of a bank as a place for great ICT talent but banking is essentially an ICT-lead industry and software development will become a huge need in banking. We have a huge appetite for the best technology minds. Banks need to show that they have the environment where tech talent will thrive and where they can get to work on the very best, latest technology.

Scalability: Adoption of mobile will continue to fly. In Bangladesh, organic growth in mobile banking clients is rising significant percent annually, and the frequency of logins by mobile users is 1.5 times greater than their online counterparts. Banks’ technology infrastructure must be ready to serve these mobile users and meet the transaction-volume challenge.

Devices: Major mobile device manufacturers are preparing major mobile product releases. New tablets will change the consumer-electronics landscape and smartphones will incorporate significant operating system and feature changes. Bank ICT departments should commit 2017 budget to cope with this proliferating number of devices.

Functionality: Mobile offers a powerful model for banks to pare costs and propel revenue. Businesses will look to their IT partners to provide myriad services instantly through the mobile platform. Bangladesh predicts mobile commerce will drive this urgency as banks counter new nontraditional competitors.

Security: It remains customers’ no. 1 concern about mobile banking.Attacks on banks’ mobile infrastructure and client devices are accelerating, explaining why security cap abilities and processes will play a larger role in a bank’s IT agenda.

Integration: Businesses will accelerate requests to their IT partners to integrate capabilities. They will seek multiple bank backend systems that deliver an intuitive mobile customer experience. They also will favor increased use of third-party specialists in mobile commerce and social media to deliver mobile capabilities. In 2017, a more heterogeneous and extended infrastructure to support mobile will become a top priority for bank IT.

Speed Wins

The top challenge in 2017 in banking IT will be speed. The key question is whether traditional banks can bring new technologies to market fast enough to retain and grow customers. Banking IT leaders must help drive growth agendas, in addition to providing cost effective IT services.

Continued shifts in consumer behavior, as well as emerging technologies, are changing what customers expect from banks and non-banks that provide financial services. This environment is creating challenges and game changing opportunities for institutions that can get new growth enabling technologies to market quickly.

Bank CTO/CIOs must provide the technology to win the heated competition over who can provide an experience that is relevant to customers’ needs. That superior experience is often lacking today. The customer experience must be fueled by data. The value of this data hinges largely on its speed the amount of time it takes from collection to insight, and from insight to action.

The technology capabilities now exist but banks must quickly implement them. If they don’t, new entrants, without the burden of legacy systems, may prove to be nimbler and offer more differentiated services to customers.

Regulation: the biggest challenge

Banks are dealing with profound changes as a result of the financial crisis in 2015-16 and many are reinventing themselves as a result. Banks are grappling with how to replace lost revenue resulting from changes in customer behavior, how to adjust the cost base given lower revenues, and how channels for consumer interaction and delivery are being thought about and used, all of which create challenges for, and demands on, IT organizations. However, the biggest challenge bank IT departments face is ensuring their institutions are meeting, and complying with, various new regulatory requirements coming out of the BB Act, Basel III, etc. Although some of the new regulatory mandates change the business model and profitability for banks.

Banks need to meet new non-discretionary regulatory requirements, many of which have a large impact on their operations and IT infrastructure. Banks can better manage this endeavor by inventorying requirements and needs and prioritizing where automation can improve the reconciliation, accuracy and reporting of the data.

Data Is Key

Ongoing seismic shifts in the industry – such as regulatory changes, the need for new technology investments, and increased competition from alternative providers – will require banks to devise creative strategies to maintain profitability during 2017 and beyond.

Many institutions are succeeding with data-driven strategies for identifying new opportunities and enhancing value with their customers. Through predictive modeling, progressive institutions are using meaningful incentives to increase usage of revenue-generating products. Through sophisticated customer segmentation, data can indicate which products or services a financial institution should offer and in what sequence.

Banks can also enhance the customer relationship with sophisticated promotional management platforms that enable consumers to attach deals, coupons, and loyalty programs to payment cards or to their mobile wallet. Such offers reassert the value of the financial institutional relationship and encourage activity on that card or wallet.

As they face a rapidly evolving industry, it is essential for all financial institutions to use data to better understand consumer needs. They then can use that knowledge to enhance their core offerings and better meet those needs.

Cyber-attacks a great threat

One of the biggest IT challenges for banks in 2017 will undoubtedly come from ongoing DDoS cyber-attacks by so-called “activists” that block customers from accessing their online banking services. DDoS, or distributed denial of service, is an attempt to make a network unavailable to its intended users.

The DDoS threat also seems to be increasing in sheer bandwidth, as botnet digital muscle becomes ever cheaper — it can be hired by the hour for less than your average latte. Banks will need to ramp up their awareness of impending attacks and immediate response in order to warn customers of slowdowns and non-access, and shield themselves using a combination of dedicated and cloud based DDoS mitigation against savvier attackers. With hackers devising new strategies daily, it is key that any solutions are scalable, robust and regularly updated, and consulting with security experts can help identify the next area of vulnerability for the bank.

Big Data, big challenges

A key challenge facing the banking technology community in 2017 is everyone’s favorite buzzword “Big Data.” Bankers realize that to remain competitive, they have to understand their customers like retailers do, with the ability to predict and behavior offer the right products at the right time.

But the challenge, these bankers have long since realized, is the importance of data. Some have installed data warehouses, others have tried to implement profitability modeling, CRM, or data analytics all with varying degrees of success.

Big data for banks may mean first connecting the dots among the data they already have. Think how much data runs daily through the bank—transaction history, channel preferences, communication preferences. Banks should invest in the technologies that integrate the data they already have, and then use that as the foundation to build “bigger.”

The struggle continues

Many of these same challenges have made lists like this before. Some probably will make next year’s list as well. IT managers and staff will continue to face issues brought to them by users, customers and departmental managers while they continue to work toward providing IT solutions that best support organizational priorities.

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