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Staying a step ahead in IT strategy

Oct. 21, 2011
“Expectations continue to rise dramatically for the IT function to support new technologies, such as mobile devices and social media platforms that can be integrated with existing corporate systems, as well as the pervasive accumulation of sensitive ...

Expectations continue to rise dramatically for the IT [information technology] function to support new technologies, such as mobile devices and social media platforms that can be integrated with existing corporate systems, as well as the pervasive accumulation of sensitive data at multiple locations worldwide.” –Kurt Underwood, managing director and head of global consulting firm Protiviti's IT practice

You know, even as the trucking industry attempts to grapple with a variety of challenges – regulatory changes, equipment changes, shortage of drivers, flat lining freight volumes, etc. – there’s one in particular that’s going to be felt in almost every corner of a motor carrier’s daily life: the evolution information technology (IT).

Take regulations, for starters. The ongoing effort by the Feds to reform hours-of-service (HOS) rules includes a technological component, in the form of electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) or so-called “black boxes.” Such IT functionality opens up quite a “Pandora’s box” of issues: law enforcement access to such data, usage in a courtroom, 100% accuracy and infallibility, etc.

On the equipment side, fleets are trying to manage maintenance, up-time, route adherence, and fuel consumption electronically via sensors tied by wireless and satellite communication pathways back to their operation centers – again, an example of IT at work.

And of course, with so much data flying around electronically, security becomes a much hotter topic, too – especially as electronic information concerning freight shipments is now becoming the preferred fulcrum of contact between shippers and truckers as well as customs agents and border security personnel.

“New and complex IT risks and changing business priorities are a challenge,” noted Kurt Underwood, managing director and head of global consulting firm Protiviti's IT practice.

He added that a survey the company recently revealed six areas of priority for CIOs and their organizations: information security and privacy; "virtualization" and cloud computing; social media integration; data classification and management; regulatory compliance; and vendor management.

More than 200 IT professionals – including chief information officers, chief technology officers, chief security officers, and IT vice presidents, directors and managers – participated in Protiviti's study, and Underwood said the survey found that, with the rapid rise of technology in business operations during the past decade, IT departments have been called upon to deliver a much broader array of services and solutions for their companies.

Also, as social media applications and sites such as Facebook and Twitter exploded in popularity over the past few years, with new social media sites are coming online at a rapid pace, a need for more updated “social media policies” also exists as well.

[Along those lines, check out the short video below made for the staff of the Department of Justice in Victoria, Australia, explaining the key elements of their social media policy.]

Monitoring and achieving legal and regulatory compliance ranks high among IT leaders as an area in need of improvement, Protiviti’s research found.

“The volume and pace of regulatory change has been significant in recent years, and there are a number of regulatory issues that require IT involvement, including Dodd-Frank, Sarbanes-Oxley, Basel II, Solvency II and PCI-DSS,” noted Underwood (seen below at left). “IT must be an active part of compliance management, which typically involves developing, implementing or integrating tools and platforms to achieve active compliance and risk management.”

He added, too, that for every law and regulatory requirement, the company must also ask: What portion of my data does this affect? How do I classify and manage this data in accordance with the law? It also is important to note that, as a byproduct of the proliferation of new and emerging technologies, there are rapidly growing volumes of data being generated daily.

“By ranking, managing and classifying this data as a top ‘need to Improve’ competency, respondents may be saying they and their organizations are having difficulty understanding the increasingly complex regulatory landscape and how to comply with various new laws,” Underwood explained.

With more and more organizations transitioning to virtualized solutions as well as applications and activities in the cloud, external service-level agreements (SLAs) with an array of third-party vendors and other providers are a key concern for IT executives, according to the study.

Similarly, determining a sound strategy and approach for outsourcing and off shoring are another critical area of focus, particularly given that many companies continue to seek innovative ways to save costs. However, many of these organizations lack clarity or direction about how to accomplish this effectively while continuing to deliver a high level of service and maintain compliance with company policies, applicable laws and regulations, Underwood noted.

Finally, because data breaches are costly and affect not just operations but also brand reputation, information security is another top priority for IT executives.

“Key considerations for leaders to consider are: How robust are our information security measures? Is our organization in compliance with industry standards for security and privacy as well as applicable laws and regulations, and do we have efficient systems and processes for tracking compliance? [That’s especially vital due to] the pervasive accumulation of sensitive data at multiple locations worldwide,” Underwood pointed out.

Just some of things to think about as IT continues to keep infiltrating every aspect of the trucking business.

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