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Oracle News | May 16, 2016

Oracle User Group Members Talk Cloud, Big Data, Mobility, Security

By: Carol Hildebrand

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There’s so much talk about the cloud, big data, mobility, and security that it’s easy to feel like you’re sprinting to catch up. If it’s any consolation, the results of a recent survey suggest that you’re not alone.
 
The survey, which drew 690 respondents across Oracle’s three main user groups, found that workers wrestle with the impact of these technologies on a number of levels.

Hybrid cloud requires strong relationships. Large enterprises are far more likely than not to keep most of their applications on premises, while taking advantage of the cloud’s lower cost and easy deployment for select sales, HR, or other services, the survey found. But this hybrid approach also raised concerns about maintaining security and integrating data across both environments.

What to do: Build relationships with your cloud partners, putting a premium on open communications and collaboration. For example, Joe McKendrick, an independent analyst who presented the survey results at the COLLABORATE 16 Oracle user group conference in Las Vegas last month, points to one CIO who joined a cloud vendor’s customer advisory panel to deepen the relationship and make his voice heard.

New and enhanced IT skill sets are required. While cloud services remove IT chores such as software patching and upgrades, they can also add responsibilities, and nearly half of survey respondents worried about not having enough time to learn new cloud skills. “If you are working in a hybrid environment, you still need to deal with on-premises tasks, as well as know how to deal with the cloud vendors,” McKendrick said. “It’s kind of overwhelming.”

What to do: Train your DBAs and data center staffers in areas such as vendor and project management. Clearly delineate who does what in a hybrid environment. For example, cloud vendors are often responsible for security of the physical infrastructure, while customers handle security for operating systems, applications, and data.

Big data is still at the starting gate. Less than a quarter of the Oracle user group respondents reported that they were analyzing the big data generated by enterprise applications such as ERP, and even fewer had started Internet of Things projects.

This cautious approach generally reflects executive unease, McKendrick said. “They have a lot more angst with big data than the professional IT staff have, which works with data day to day,” he says. “They worry about the cost, and who will have the skills necessary to do the analysis.”

What to do: CIOs need to demystify big data by showing other C-suite executives how it can improve decision-making. One way to demonstrate big data’s business value is through small pilot projects with a concrete payoff. “Companies need to compete on data, and they’re depending on IT to show them how,” McKendrick says.

Mobility: More talk than action. Only 18% of the Oracle user group respondents said their organization’s enterprise applications are either highly or somewhat mobile. “We’re talking about things like being able to use a smartphone to see what is going on in ERP, or the CFO calling up revenue numbers on a tablet,” McKendrick said. “It’s just not there yet—you can get all the information you want in the palm of your hand, except in the enterprise.”

What to do: Nearly half of survey respondents said their organizations plan to offer mobile access to at least select ERP and other enterprise applications within the next three years. Simplify initial projects by offering access via a web browser rather than a mobile app, which cuts down on a common worry about supporting multiple mobile operating systems.

Security. “Security’s an area of huge concern,” McKendrick said. “We had it as a separate section in the survey, but it was also woven through the discussion in the other areas as a key barrier to faster progress.”

Only 24% of Oracle user group respondents described their company as having strong security. Nearly three quarters worry about their company’s ability to stop external hackers, and almost half worry about security breaches by way of vendors and internal employees.

What to do: Create and enforce consistent internal security policies, and increase user security training. McKendrick told of one CIO who sent a phishing-style email to employees with a clickable URL. Those who opened the link triggered a humorous video from the CIO, warning them of the dangers of phishing and malware. “There’s a real need to keep that awareness pervasive across the organization,” he said. “If people aren’t up to speed on how to handle security, it’s all for naught.”

Carol Hildebrand is a Boston-based writer who has been chronicling business and technology innovation for more than 15 years.

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