The 21st-century business landscape

22 Dec 2010

MJ Flood Technology managing director James Finglas talks about the technology trends impacting Irish businesses.

The technology world is transforming business at a breadth-taking pace and for MJ Flood’s James Finglas there is a clear need to ensure that Irish businesses, in particular, are up to date on the latest trends like cloud computing, disaster recovery and mobility.

“We cover the three markets of SME, mid-market and large enterprise. At the heart of what we do is aligning a consultant to a business whose role is to identify the businesses’ needs as opposed to the technology needs.”

Finglas is making a good point. Technology investment should only be embarked upon to meet critical business objectives, especially in these tough economic times.

“It is not about driving a particular technology into a company but to assess their technological needs and find the right mix that suits that business.”

Fifteen years ago, when MJ Flood was installing networks in firms for the first time, email was the biggest revolution. Today, email is just another line of business application. “There’s been a seismic shift, if you like, in business today. We’re on the cusp of another major shift in cloud technology and businesses are struggling to get their heads around the concept.

“The next five years will be very interesting in terms of technologies like Office 365 arriving.”

I ask Finglas if Irish firms are making sufficient use of the online opportunities that abound. He believes many are still struggling to take in all the information that’s available and make the right decisions. “There’s a huge education piece that’s required for Irish businesses. Traditionally, they are slow adopters of new technology, so they need to be encouraged and feel comfortable with it.”

Cloud computing is perhaps the biggest step change of them all. Although Irish firms may be slow to adopt new technologies, he accepts that cloud infrastructure will become mainstream in the next few years.

Public or private cloud?

“Again there’s an education piece around that, you talk about cloud but what are people’s understanding of it, private cloud versus public cloud?

“There’s probably a balance to be struck. You’ll end up with a hybrid-type model. It’s not one size fits all. Again, this comes back to the strategy of working with a business, finding out what business imperatives are and designing hybrid-type solutions between legacy and cloud.

“There are certain technologies that fit quite well in the cloud – email and CRM, for example –  and I think those concepts are being adapted. It will become mainstream.

A recent survey of 117 Irish businesses by MJ Flood found that nearly half of organisations in Ireland have no disaster recovery (DR) in place, while a quarter store media in a location that is not fireproof, a new study has revealed. Almost one-third of respondents said they have never performed a test restore on their data, and 39pc acknowledge problems trying to retrieve and restore data from backup.

Finglas says there is a confusion in the business world between what is disaster recovery and then what is business continuity. “There’s a massive difference between the two technologies. In the current challenging economy, disaster recovery tends to be left on the long finger. Every company knows they need it to ensure that people continue to be productive, but it tends to sit on the to-do list of a lot of companies.”

Finglas believes this could change as cloud computing enables firms to shift from capital spending on new IT equipment and service to an operational spending pattern that is better suited to this economy.

Paradigm shift in IT spending

“Spending on IT through an open model is much more helpful to IT directors in this climate,” Finglas adds.

With the proliferation of mobile computing devices, from laptops to smartphones and iPads, Finglas says the one thing that should never change is security. “The actual considerations of businesses are the same, whether a staff member is using a BlackBerry or an Android device or an iPhone.

“Again, it goes back to examining the business, what are its imperatives. Does it need a mobile workforce and if so how do we ensure that having so many devices and workers out and about does not compromise the network itself.”

The economic recession has been an opportunity for firms to re-evaluate themselves and become much more agile, leaner organisations. Finglas says the shift from capex spending to opex is happening whether or not firms take up cloud computing.

“If it is an on-premises solution, the trend tends to be moving that situation to an operational cost.

“For a CIO to go to a finance director in the current environment and look for capex, they will need to prove the return on investment.

“Where the cloud benefits that conversation is in terms of moving that conversation to operational and predictable costs,” Finglas said.

Back to MJ Flood Partner Microsite

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years