Hope & Headaches

Watch out for these hot-button issues in 2007.

Ready for 2007? The new year will have you running in all directions: gazing at some new Windows, playing a familiar numbers game and giving users the business, as usual. Just stay focused on the hot-button issues you’ll have to meet head-on — or sidestep. Here are a few to watch for in the year to come:

Vista arrives — at home. It may be a year or more before corporate IT delivers Microsoft’s new baby to users inside the firewall. But users themselves won’t wait, and the PCs they use at home to connect with your internal systems and external Web sites will increasingly use Vista. Don’t just test Vista for user desktops; make sure early on that your Web sites work properly with it, and get your help desk up to speed on Vista’s (and Office 2007’s) strange new user interfaces.

Microsoft goes after Linux. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer claimed in November that Linux infringes on Microsoft’s intellectual property and that “we believe every Linux customer basically has an undisclosed balance-sheet liability.” If that sounds like a line aimed at your CEO and CFO, it is.

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Expect a big Linux vendor (think Red Hat or IBM) to file a lawsuit of its own, in order to force Microsoft to spell out its claims in detail. Meanwhile, as The SCO Group’s lawsuits against IBM, Novell and Red Hat spiral into oblivion, Microsoft will continue to look for some way to stave off the Linux threat.

Sarb-Ox gets some clarity. Everyone agrees that Sarbanes-Oxley’s Section 404 is full of miserable reporting requirements. Or maybe not — the law itself isn’t clear on practical application, so consultants have been extremely conservative in what they allow, and working within those constraints has been like swimming in a straitjacket. The new Congress is likely to give Section 404 a makeover to give the law some transparency — which is what Sarb-Ox was intended to provide for corporate information.

Internal security gets hot. Unauthorized employee blogs and Web sites. Applications that hand unneeded or unauthorized data to users. Networks wide open to any threat that gets past the firewall. This year, it’s clear that perimeter security isn’t enough. Get ahead of this one before it gets ugly in your shop.

Will the Mac invade corporate IT? Nope.Apple makes big bucks in entertainment these days; commodity PCs just aren’t attractive. But keep an eye on how easy Apple makes it to bounce between Windows and OS X applications. Once that’s seamless, the Mac becomes a corporate platform with real potential, not just a toy for power users.

Start-ups are interesting again. Actually, new IT ideas have been bubbling up for the past few years, and venture capitalists have recently started coughing up cash. It’s time to start paying attention to the little guys with big ideas again.

Flu pandemic: New Y2k or same old snake oil? It’s snake oil, folks. Gartner has been saying a pandemic is “highly likely.” Actually, medical experts put the chance in the next three years at no higher than 10%. Being prepared is always nice, but if there’s a better chance that some other problem needs the money, you know where to spend your disaster recovery budget.

Offshoring gets smarter — on both ends. CIOs have figured out it’s not a panacea. Offshore outsourcers are starting to address security, communication and quality problems. And 2007 is the year to start rethinking how to wring more savings and business advantage out of offshoring.

Business, as usual. IT is still about understanding business, and especially the business you work for, from the CIO’s office to the help desk trenches. You can’t help the business users if you don’t understand what’s going on. And you can’t build credibility for IT or identify the best technology to use. That’s nothing new for 2007 — just the one thing that matters most.

Don't miss the rest of Forecast 2007.

Frank Hayes, Computerworld’s senior news columnist, has covered IT for more than 20 years. Contact him at frank_hayes@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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