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Are CIOs condemned to 'interesting' times in 2016?

Register roundtable looks into... the future

Pile them high and sell them for a loss

Getting it is not the same as making money. Several of this month’s CTOs were in retail and shared details of the money pit that is online shopping. Depending who you speak to, each delivery loses between £10 and £17, with no obvious end game where they break through to profitability. Indeed, earlier that week a nice lady from Waitrose gave me a voucher to have 30 quid off my next online shop for the privilege of losing money on my own future shopping.

On top of the madness are a few things that the IT execs felt sort of nearly made sense. These include Wal-Mart’s quixotic attempt to promote an open source alternative to Amazon Web Services, while the shining jewel in the crown is disruption from Uber-like services being used for same day deliveries which give even tiny nice startup retailers delivery capability. This may disrupt the arch disruptor, Amazon, whose vertical integration from taking the order, credit care to warehouse and deliver is either a nuclear weapon or a lead weight.

What is the role of the calibre of CTO that gets invited to Register Roundtables in this clusterfuss?

At this point we ought to have some cunning innovation for you or maybe even a career breaking ethical stance on behalf of shareholders whose value is being destroyed. Nope, sorry, as a CTO, even your boss is usually just an employee.

Just as a developer will be told to use a Waterfall methodology despite it being discredited before she was born, you have to do the job and deliver. The trick is to have your CV up to date for the inevitable "refocus" and "rightsizing" especially if you’re in a firm where IT is still called a "cost centre". Judging from the remarks of our ITExecs, that won’t matter for long because they won’t survive long.

Are we at Peak Security?

No, nowhere near it. I was laughed at for even asking the question. As one ITExec put it, he can achieve adequate security against hackers and internal threats but every attempt to make systems idiot proof just means the idiots get upgraded. Firms are ever more connected to each other and the general outside world.

So in 2016 we will see even more service firms accidentally sending critical information belonging to Client A to Client B in the same industry. Meanwhile, DropBox is holding more and more of many firms’ most valuable data like client lists than the secure inhouse servers. Above all 2016 is going to see a lot more firms having their reputations scorched by incompetence fuelled security screw-ups.

On top of the standard security problems is that apps like Skype are very hard to manage and/or block. This forces our IT execs into an expensive arms race, buying tools to limit Microsoft's apparent desire to turn corporate PCs into large smartphones for teenagers who have no sense of privacy.

The Teetering Tower of Tech what one of our ITExecs called the "architecture" of firms which start with the "gateway drug" of Office 365 (which is why we never publish names). 2016 will see a lot more work in trying to manage services that simply aren’t designed to work together or even be managed, more than one of the group felt that the lack of interoperability was actually by design. We heard that this will be a growing source of work for Reg readers in 2016, forcing the ever increasing number of Whatever-As-A-Service cloud systems to play nicely together with their existing, sometimes very old systems as well as dealing with the fan being hit when a "minor" upgrade to the Amazon API causes your retail system to freeze at Christmas.

The Big Story of 2016

…is going to be analytics and Big Data, yes I’ve told you so and now it’s true.

But security is also growing, to the extent that a joke doing the rounds of ITExecs doing interviews is “if you’re a decent security bod, why do you need to look for a job”.

Cloud spend is heading for the sky, going from basically zero to a good pecentage of the whole IT spend.

And yes, if you want IT to survive and prosper, you’re going to have to look cooler. ®

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