It's getting late in the year, so it's time for predictions in the year ahead. Not to be outdone by anyone, our friends at Gartner have already released their top predictions for information technology for the year 2013 and beyond. Many of the predictions are broad strokes for the IT scene, but there is plenty for insurance industry IT leaders to stop and think about.

1) By 2015, “Big Data” demand will reach 4.4 million jobs globally, but only one-third of those jobs will be filled. This is already impacting many insurance industry operations, which find Big Data to be a strategic competitive weapon, but requires the skillsets to make it happen. “Jobs that are filled will result in real financial and competitive benefits for organizations,” Gartner points out. Skills that will matter include “data management, analytics and business expertise and nontraditional skills necessary for extracting the value of big data, as well as artists and designers for data visualization.”The question is, are insurance companies ready to compete with a lot of companies outside the industry—such as tech startups, financial services firms, and government agencies – for this talent?

2) By 2014, IT hiring in major Western markets will come predominantly from Asian-headquartered companies enjoying double-digit growth. This has implications for North American insurance companies who will need to compete with these companies for IT and Big Data talent (see “Big Data demand,” above).

3) By 2017, 40 percent of enterprise contact information will have leaked into Facebook via employees' increased use of mobile device collaboration applications. This is something to be greatly concerned about in an industry such as insurance that deals with so much sensitive personally identifiable information. This carries over from the “Bring Your Devices” (BYOD trend – since Facebook is one of the top five applications installed on smartphones and tablets. “There has been little discussion about the underlying technologies that permit transfer of information between legitimate enterprise-controlled applications and consumer applications,” Gartner says. Time to start that discussion – and since the

technologies to control this information leakage is more difficult to build, deploy and manage, communication, training and education are the best strategies.

4) Through 2014, employee-owned devices will be compromised by malware at more than double the rate of corporate-owned devices. Gartner makes this observation: look at how universities and colleges have learned to handle the BYOD problem. These networks “were the original BYOD environments, Gartner observes. “Because colleges and universities lack control over students' devices, they focus on protecting their networks by enforcing policies that govern network access. Corporate administrators are urged to adopt a similar approach to block or restrict access for those devices that are not compliant with corporate policies. Plus, the consultancy advises establishing “clear policies that outline which employee-owned devices will be allowed and which will be banned. In the BYOD era.”

5) Through 2015, 90 percent of enterprises will bypass broad-scale deployment of Windows 8. M Microsoft just released the latest version of its operating system, but don't everyone jump in at once. Gartner makes the point that most corporate IT systems aren't ready to move their large networks of employees off of previous versions of Windows. It should be noted that a lot of enterprises still run Windows XP—first released in the fall of 2001. For decades, Windows has been the defacto desktop and laptop operating system for most insurance companies. Now, with the rise of tablet computers, there are now two major competitors on the scene—Android and Apple's iOS.

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

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