How big data is affecting individuals working in information systems

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Organizations across myriad sectors have embraced the big data revolution. Enterprise analytics spending is expected to increase more than 12 percent to $150.8 billion this year alone, according to research from International Data Corporation. Why? These tools produce demonstrable results, lending users the scalability needed to effectively navigate the ever-changing modern marketplace. Of course, the development of big data has catalyzed a chain reaction as businesses modify internal practices to support the collection, evaluation and deployment of actionable operational information.

Staff members on the front lines bear the brunt of this transformation, especially those working in the information systems field. These professionals have traditionally performed key data management and evaluation tasks. However, information systems workers should expect to see their roles change as big data picks up further steam. How? Here are some of the key enterprise analytics developments affecting information systems specialists:

 Information systems staff are taking on new duties as big data develops.

The growth of devops

Those in the information systems field have long collaborated with stakeholders in other departments to design data-based business strategies. Most stick firmly in the operations arena, rarely getting involved in the development of the applications they manage. The complexity of new enterprise networking infrastructure associated with big data has eroded this divide between implementers and administrators, leading to the rise of an information technology subfield called devops.

With this approach, administrators and internal system developers work together to create backend solutions that not only meet company technical qualifications but also deploy quickly within everyday workflows, according to research from Deloitte published in The Wall Street Journal. Enterprises that subscribe to this methodology can produce applications on tight timelines that agree with overarching business goals, resulting in fewer costs and maintenance or usage headaches.

Back in 2014, at the dawn of the trend, the Research Services division for the International Data Group surveyed 110 early and prospective adopters from across the globe, almost half of which recorded gross revenues of more than $1 billion. Over 90 percent of respondents had experienced or expected to see cost savings and efficiency gains post adoption.

With devops in play, information administrators are forced to operate outside of their established internal circles and collaborate with IT peers to create data-backed systems that function in real-world operational environments. This could mean advising developers on how system data should flow throughout the business or offering insights into interface use during the user-experience design phase. While these additional responsibilities may seem tedious, they ultimately make life easier for information systems personnel, who have the opportunity to engage with solutions that can withstand the grind of day-to-day use and fall in line with production goals and other performance metrics.

The rise of automation

Organizations often engage with big data in an effort to introduce automated workflows. These processes optimize operational efficiency, allowing workers to focus on mission-critical tasks rather than simple background functions. Automated systems, while advantageous from a business perspective, are disrupting the information systems field. Why?

These professionals have long spent their time collecting and crunching numbers via backend databases, activities modern software can perform with ease. Some solutions even come with robust business intelligence engines, capable of spitting out operational recommendations that, in the past, came from information systems specialists.

Currently, an estimated 35 percent of enterprises utilize automated systems, according to research from Deloitte. However, that figure is expected to increase to 74 percent by 2026, meaning adoption is likely to pickup as technology firms perfect their offerings and more automation success stories come to the fore.

Consequently, many in the domain are taking on top-down duties that address the different variables that go into automated workflows, according to Information Age. For example, modern information systems personnel often spend considerable time evaluating the validity of disparate data sources. This might involve evaluating key software such as customer relationship management platforms or enterprise resource planning portals to make sure the data stored in these solutions is valid and actionable. Those in the field may also work with developers to ensure applications tasked with collecting essential operational information are functioning properly. Additionally, information systems professionals block off time to review vendor agreements to make sure that costs remain low and key support services are active.

The diversification of data sources

Modern enterprises deploy a variety of specialized internal systems to track operational activity and collect useable information. This approach, a result of the big data revolution, complicates already complex business processes, most notably those that fall into the information systems realm. Instead of monitoring a few easy-to-distinguish platforms, personnel in the field oversee vast networks of cross-functional integrated solutions, each with varying data streams.

Additionally, most organizations now invest serious resources in cultivating external sources, as these provide real-time insight into customer habits, the Harvard Business Review reported. This means information systems specialists are not only managing internal data but also information from outside the company, most of which is collected via social media and website tracking tools. Many must now handle large amounts of unstructured data as well, according to TechRepublic. Devices associated with the Internet of Things normally aggregate these insights, which IT staff can evaluate using indexing software and other tools. Firms have also added dark data to the mix. Personnel cull this information from long-forgotten company assets such as old paper-based files or archived digital assets.

This widespread thirst for business intelligence presents new challenges for information systems professionals, most of whom are responsible for evaluating, storing, managing and deploying this data. Centralized portals and easy-to-integrate systems and technology firms will continue to create and release new solutions that can streamline this process. They will certainly garner considerable demand, especially as IoT technology matures and more enterprise mobile products enter the workplace. Last year, 6.4 billion portable networking devices connected to the internet, according to research from Gartner. That number is expected to balloon to 20.8 billion by 2020, opening up even more new data sources to organizations looking to better understand the processes, employees and customers.

The proliferation of cyberattacks

Data security has become a top priority for organizations in most industries. Why? The number of cyberattacks has increased dramatically in recent years due to the growth of big data. Hackers executed 980 major data breaches and stole more than 35.2 million sensitive files in 2016, according to research from the Identity Theft Resource Center. These attacks not only crippled internal applications and risked the privacy of both customers and employees but also bottomed out balance sheets. The average company pays $4 million in mitigation costs per breach, according to data from IBM and the Ponemon Institute. On top of this, hacks can damage reputations, catalyze mass customer exoduses and create long-term revenue stream issues.

Unfortunately, most analysts believe such strikes will happen more often, as nefarious programmers code more of the destructive yet easy-to-use vectors that currently cycle secret online trading posts. With this in mind, enterprises are beefing up internal security protocols, a shift that directly impacts information systems personnel. Now, these professionals must carefully monitor the systems they manage and work with internal IT teams and external security firms to ensure the data that flows through on-premises or cloud-based servers is protected. This requires an immense amount of coordination – another essential duty added to an already lengthening task list. Luckily, most will not have to supervise threat detection solutions, as this work often falls to internal security specialists or external resources.

However, many organizations are adding platforms to track employee networking behavior, especially those with bring-your-own-device programs in place. Hackers often exploit user apathy to infiltrate systems, bombarding employees with malware-infested email or deploying password decryption devices capable of decoding hastily drafted credentials. Companies counter such attacks by monitoring users to make sure they are following internal security protocols. Information systems specialists may be involved in managing networking usage data as it’s culled from various applications. Of course, they might also take a more hands-on approach, overseeing information security management systems that not only address cyber threats but also include business continuity and disaster recovery features, according to TechTarget.

Information systems workers represent the first line of defense when it comes to keeping precious internal information safe. In this new era of data security threats, they will likely face more external foes than ever before.

Continue your education with UAB

Big data offers nearly endless possibilities, giving organizations the power to exercise immense operational visibility and connect with target markets via sophisticated customer engagement tools. While this development may create new challenges for those in the information systems field, it also opens up new opportunities, allowing these professionals to delve into exciting new tasks. Here at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, we offer a Master of Science in Management Information Systems online degree program that prepares students for the post big-data IT environment. With us, you can get the cutting-edge skills you need to navigate this space, all while maintaining your existing responsibilities.

Connect with us today to learn more about earning a Master of Science in Management Information Systems online degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.