Business needs set Asian tech agenda

Security, wireless and systems availability top the list of tech priorities of Asian companies, a survey reveals.

perspective What are the key priorities for Asia's IT chiefs in 2005? How will they change over the next 18 months?

Security is an immediate concern but over the next few years, Asian IT managers see communications and networking infrastructures as their highest priority. Security will remain important, but it will fall within the scope of broader connectivity issues.

Application development is also a major concern, as enterprises look to extend e-commerce and related applications to take advantage of maturing communications infrastructures.

These were some of the findings from ZDNet Asia's latest IT Priorities survey which drew more than 200 responses from 13 countries across the Asia-Pacific. ZDNet Asia regularly conducts this survey to determine the top tech priorities of IT managers and CIOs.

Current top priorities
The most widely mentioned current priority for enterprises is security and availability. Many organizations reported backup and disaster recovery systems, as well as systems availability as key focus areas. Antivirus measures and firewalls are also strong areas of interest.

Many respondents are also as concerned about issues relating to the management of technology as they are with the technology itself. IT governance has become very important, as companies seek increased compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Basel II, and other local and international regulations and practices.

Cost containment remains a perennial concern. Other management issues include outsourcing and ensuring closer alignment between IT and the business. IT managers are also concerned about applications and applications development, particularly the development and enhancement of ERP (enterprise resource planning), CRM (customer relationship management) and e-commerce systems.

The survey also revealed that people realize e-commerce is here to stay, and they are looking to improve their communications and networking infrastructures. Investment is highest in the implementation of broadband and wireless infrastructure. Related to this is the increased importance of content management and Web-site development, as well as the underlying DBMS (database management systems) and collaboration tools.

Many respondents indicated plans to invest in hardware infrastructure, particularly in storage, servers and systems infrastructure. There was little mention of desktop and laptop upgrades, indicating longer replacement cycles for these machines.

Another key area of investment is in user access and support. The areas include e-mail management and portal access, remote access, and training and call centres. Respondents also indicated plans to improve their software infrastructure, such as applications integration and operating system upgrades, and to adopt open-source software.

Planned initiatives
At the top of the list of planned initiatives are communications and networking technologies, in particular, wireless. VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) is also high on the priority list, as is the implementation of broadband and VPNs (virtual private networks).

On the application side, ERP upgrades, e-commerce and CRM are important. Also rated highly is the development of Web services-based applications. Many organizations are also looking at RFID (radio frequency identification) for improved supply chain management.

Security also topped the list. As with current initiatives, backup and recovery, improved antivirus, firewalls and other aspects of Internet security are key focus areas. Support for mobile computing is becoming more important, as is spam filtering and other e-mail management tools. Portals remain popular and training continues to be important to companies. In terms of operating systems, respondents indicated plans for migration, often to open source.

Key technology trends
Overall, communications and networking are the key technologies likely to affect investment over the next 18 to 24 months. The biggest focus will be on all aspects of wireless communication, as well as VoIP.

Many respondents also mentioned enhancements to applications. Emphasis will be in Web services and applications delivered through a service-oriented architecture. RFID is also seen as a very important technology in supply chain management.

Key investment areas will be in mobile computing and new user devices. Security will remain an important issue, but it will be increasingly integrated with other technologies. There will be continued emphasis on storage upgrades, as well as Linux and other open-source software. Many respondents indicated that their biggest challenges will come from changing business conditions, rather than technology.


Graeme Philipson is a writer and analyst specializing in IT industry trends. He has more than 20 years of industry experience. He helped ZDNet Asia analyze the results of the IT Priorities survey conducted in May 2005.