No rest in 2003

January is the Monday of the year. The big-sigh, gotta-get-back-to-it, foot-dragging mentality permeates everything. It’s excessively gray and filled with humorless resolve. Even so, a spanking new year is still cause for hope and excitement.

You might think that the continued theme of IT making do with less will ensure a low-key, running-in-place kind of existence. In fact, a lot is under way that will need action from IT. Hot spots include the following:

The transformation of some blue-chip IT providers. As a recent Business Week headline put it, “The new HP – how’s it doing?”

Sure, post-merger, Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO Carly Fiorina has managed to shed Compaq Computer Inc.’s Michael Capellas, cut 18,000 people and push up revenue. Several analysts rewarded the company last week by raising their 2003 forecasts.

But being the queen of printers won’t take Fiorina very far. She needs to reignite overall sales growth, bolster a sagging enterprise computing operation, fend off Dell Computer Corp., meld two huge companies, keep customers happy and make more money.

IBM Corp., meanwhile, under its new CEO, is pushing yet another all-encompassing new concept – “autonomic computing” – and has bought or is teaming up with all sorts of new partners, from Rational Software Corp. to AT&T Corp.

The paths HP and IBM take, and the success they find, will affect most Fortune 1,000 IT shops in one form or another.

Balancing security needs with competing issues. Ironically, the first casualties of the war on terrorism are likely to be civil rights and privacy. But it won’t stop there. The government will demand that reluctant corporations play ball on issues such as prompt and full disclosure of enterprise break-ins. Can customer and corporate data be protected?

IT pros will have to walk a fine line to make sure that patches don’t interfere with other applications, that users have sufficiently quick data access and that key internal information isn’t handed over to outside companies in the name of increased security.

We’re from the government, and we’re looking to regulate. “Danger, Will Robinson!” The feds and Capitol Hill are nosing around big-time in IT’s backyard. Internet taxes, intellectual property, privacy safeguards, e-mail archiving procedures, cybercrime reporting, security certifications, data protection and more are under debate at various levels in Washington. And actual legislation is looking likely. Already, we’re seeing in some states the institution of “do-not-call” lists, stymieing telemarketers. It’s worth keeping an ear to the ground and thinking ahead to how any legislation that passes will affect your company.

You’ve got mail – way too much of it. A new report from Ferris Research Inc. claims that spam accounts for 15 percent to 20 percent of what’s in the corporate mailbox and will cost U.S. companies more than US$10 billion this year. There are existing and pending regulations regarding e-mail archiving. Instant messaging services and usage have exploded. Messaging issues must be dealt with in 2003.

Little IT: wireless networks, the proliferation of handhelds and the arrival of even more small, mobile devices. As equipment makers insert Wi-Fi into mobile devices and coalitions form to create Wi-Fi networks, the technology will become ubiquitous. Pricing for handhelds is dropping, and even more nifty devices are on the horizon, which means adjustments in mobile policies and security and in communications infrastructures.

I’m out of space, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. No matter what’s on your list, there’s going to be plenty of action and fireworks to keep even the sleepiest of IT shops on the alert in 2003.

Keefe is a Computerworld editor at large. You can contact her at [email protected].

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