IT Risk and Control Solutions Specialists – Why you need them more than ever

Over the years, the capabilities of IT systems have certainly grown by leaps and bounds. But so have the risks that accompany them. Countless threats to IT systems now exist that are capable of seriously disrupting business operations. That’s why companies have to conduct assessments aimed at making sure their systems are still capable of functioning effectively, efficiently, and securely all the time.

If you think you’ve been lucky enough to be spared from these threats, then maybe it’s because you haven’t conducted a risk assessment on your IT system recently. All too often, we hear of CIOs who believed their IT system was in tip-top condition, only to be later caught off-guard by a critical system breakdown that would eventually cripple their business for days or weeks.

More information assets to look after

If, before, you only had to worry about regular office applications, workstations, a LAN and a server, today’s varied and more sophisticated information assets are more challenging to maintain.

In addition to network operating systems, database management systems, content management systems, email systems, virtualization platforms, document management systems, business intelligence applications, and accounting software, a typical enterprise may also have to look after firewalls, intrusion detection systems, storage and backup systems, and data loss prevention systems, to mention a few.

These understandably require the services of experts spanning a wide range of skill sets.

Rising threats to corporate identity and privacy

Individuals are no longer just the ones being preyed upon by identity thieves. Businesses can now be subject to corporate identity theft as well. You could wake up one day finding your business already accused of carrying out illegal activities, a big chunk of your money gone, and your directors? seats already occupied by complete strangers.

To make things worse, corporate threats aren’t just coming from the outside.

Threats to corporate privacy, for instance, can come from within the organisation itself. Sensitive information like trade secrets and financial data are often leaked out (purposely or inadvertently) by employees. This is largely caused by the ever growing number of options for communications and transferring data (e.g. emails, instant messaging, blogs, social networking sites, ftp, P2P, etc.).

Greater challenges in designing, developing, and implementing policies and programs

Laws and regulations like SOX and Solvency II, which have direct impacts on IT, are on the rise. That is why corporate policies and programs now require sweeping changes. You now have to be more deliberate in integrating IT when establishing governance, internal controls, change management, incident management, and performance management.

A solid understanding on widely accepted frameworks and good practices like COBIT, COSO, and CMMI will help you considerably in such undertakings. Using these frameworks as guidelines will not only help you keep your policies and programs attuned to the times, they will also keep you in compliance with regulations.

Increasing demand for disaster recovery and business continuity capabilities

Every time you have a down time, you increase the probability of losing your customers to competitors. The longer the down time, the greater that probability becomes. Therefore, when a major disruption strikes, you should be able to recover at the soonest. If possible, you should be able to deliver products and services as usual.

This of course requires spending to increase your disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) capabilities. Are you ready for it? Migrating your IT infrastructure from traditional systems to the latest technologies that are better equipped for BC/DR requires careful planning and implementation to ensure an optimal return on investment.

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Saving Energy Step 2 ? More Practical Ideas

In my previous blog, we wrote about implementing a management system. This boils down to sharing a common vision up and down and across the organisation, measuring progress, and pinning accountability on individuals. This time, we would like to talk about simple things that organisations can do to shrink their carbon footprints. But first let’s talk about the things that hold us back.

When we take on new clients we sometimes find that they are baffled by what I call energy industry-speak. We blame this partly on government. We understand they need clear definitions in their regulations. It’s just a pity they don’t use ordinary English when they put their ideas across in public forums.

Consultants sometimes seem to take advantage of these terms, when they roll words like audit, assessment, diagnostic, examination, survey and review across their pages. Dare we suggest they are trying to confuse with jargon? We created ecoVaro to demystify the energy business. Our goal is to convert data into formats business people understand. As promised, here are five easy things your staff could do without even going off on training.

  1. Right-size equipment? outsource peak production in busy periods, rather than wasting energy on a system that is running at half capacity mostly.
  2. Re-Install equipment to OEM specifications ? individual pieces of equipment need accurate interfacing with larger systems, to ensure that every ounce of energy delivers on its promise.
  3. Maintain to specification ? make sure machine tools are within limits, and that equipment is well-lubricated, optimally adjusted and running smoothly.
  4. Adjust HVAC to demand ? Engineers design heating and ventilation systems to cope with maximum requirements, and not all are set up to adapt to quieter periods. Try turning off a few units and see what happens.
  5. Recover Heat ? Heat around machines is energy wasted. Find creative ways to recycle it. If you can’t, then insulate the equipment from the rest of the work space, and spend less money cooling the place down.

Well that wasn’t rocket science, was it? There are many more things that we can do to streamline energy use, and coax our profits up. This is as true in a factory as in the office and at home. The power we use is largely non-renewable. Small savings help, and banknotes pile up quickly.

Spreadsheet Reporting – No Room in Your Company in an Age of Business Intelligence

It doesn’t take a genius to understand why spreadsheet reporting still pervades the enterprise despite the rise of a complex but highly effective IT solution known to big shot CIOs as Business Intelligence or BI.

If you’re still in the dark as to what BI is, don’t worry because we?ll enlighten you shortly.

Business decisions from disparate data sources

In the meantime, let’s talk about how you make business decisions. If you’re a top executive, then you make decisions based largely on reports submitted to you by your managers, department heads, and so on. They in turn obtain information from different sources, like the company ERP and CRM as well as other external sources (e.g. market surveys).

Now, before their reports ever reach your desk, a lot of data is extracted, shared, filtered, analysed, consolidated, and summarised so that they become actionable information. In all these activities, one software tool gets to take part in most of the action – the spreadsheet.

The problem with spreadsheet reporting

The problem with spreadsheets is that they have very poor built-in controls. Thus, they are susceptible to human errors and are vulnerable to fraud. What’s more, collecting data and manually consolidating them into spreadsheets can be very laborious and time consuming.

If you don’t get accurate, reliable information, your judgement will be fuzzy and your business decisions compromised. In addition, if you don’t receive the information you need on time, your business will constantly be at risk of breaching critical thresholds, which may even force it to spin out of control.

Business Intelligence – actionable information on time

This is mainly the reason why large companies implement Business Intelligence systems. BI systems are equipped with built-in features like reports, dashboards, and alerts.

Reports consolidate data and present them in a consistent format composed of intuitive text, graphs, and charts. The main purpose of having a consistent format is so that you will know what kind of information to expect and how the information is arranged. That way, you don’t waste time searching or making heads or tails out of the data in front of you.

Dashboards, on the other hand, present information through visual representations composed of graphs and gauges that are aimed at tracking your business metrics and goals. The main function of dashboards is to feed you with actionable information at a glance.

Finally, alerts keep you informed when certain conditions are met or critical thresholds are breached. Because their main purpose is to prompt you at the soonest possible time wherever you are, a typical alert can come in the form of an SMS message or an email.

As you can see, all three features are designed to get you making well-informed decisions as quickly as possible.

The problem with Business Intelligence and the alternative solution

The usual problem with full BI systems is that they can be very costly. Hence, if your organisation does end up implementing one, chances are, not everyone under you will be able to access it. As a result, some departments will be forced to go back to using spreadsheets.

If your company cannot afford a full BI system, then that probably means you don’t need one. What you need is a more affordable alternative. There are actually Software as a Service (SaaS) Business Intelligence solutions that may not be as comprehensive as a full BI system, but which may suffice for small and mid-sized businesses.

The disadvantages of spreadsheets are more damaging than you could have ever expected. Be free of it now.

 

More Spreadsheet Blogs

 

Spreadsheet Risks in Banks

 

Top 10 Disadvantages of Spreadsheets

 

Disadvantages of Spreadsheets – obstacles to compliance in the Healthcare Industry

 

How Internal Auditors can win the War against Spreadsheet Fraud

 

Spreadsheet Reporting – No Room in your company in an age of Business Intelligence

 

Still looking for a Way to Consolidate Excel Spreadsheets?

 

Disadvantages of Spreadsheets

 

Spreadsheet woes – ill equipped for an Agile Business Environment

 

Spreadsheet Fraud

 

Spreadsheet Woes – Limited features for easy adoption of a control framework

 

Spreadsheet woes – Burden in SOX Compliance and other Regulations

 

Spreadsheet Risk Issues

 

Server Application Solutions – Don’t let Spreadsheets hold your Business back

 

Why Spreadsheets can send the pillars of Solvency II crashing down

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What GDPR Means in Practice for Irish Business

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a European directive aimed at ring-fencing consumer data against illegal or unnecessary access. There is nothing to discuss or debate with local politicians, or the Irish Data Protection Commissioner for that matter. As a European directive, it has over-riding power. To obtain an English version, please visit this link, and select ?EN? from the table of languages.

As you reach for your tea, coffee or Guinness after sighting it, you will be glad to know the Irish Data Protection Commissioner has the lead in turning this into business English we understand. The following diagram should assist you to obtain a quick overview of the process we all have to go through. In this article, we briefly describe what is inside Boxes 1 to 12. The regulation comes into force on 25 May 2018 so we have less than a year to get ready.

The 12 Essential Steps to Implementing the General Data Protection Act

1. Create awareness among your people of what is coming their way. The GDPR has given our regulator discretion to dish out fines up to ?20,000,000 (or 4% of total annual global turnover, whichever is greater) so there is determination to make this happen.

2. Become accountable by understanding the consumer data you hold. Why are you retaining it, how did you obtain it, and why did you originally collect it. Now you know it is there, how much longer will you still need it? How secure is it in your hands, have you ever shared it?

3. Open a communication channel with your staff, your customers, and anyone else using the data. Share how you feel about how accountable you have been with the information in the past. Explain how you plan to comply with the GDPR in future, and what needs to change.

4. Understand the personal privacy entitlement of the subjects of the information. They have rights to access it, correct mistakes, remove information, restrict its use, decline direct marketing, and copy it to their own files. What needs to change in your systems to assure these rights?

5. Issue a policy for allowing consumers access to their information you hold. You must process requests within a month, and you may not charge for the service unless your cost is excessive. You may decline unfounded or excessive demands within your policy guidelines.

6. Adapt to the requirement that you must have a legal basis for everything you do with, and to consumer data. You need to be in a position to justify your actions to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner in the event of a complaint. Having a legitimate interest is no longer sufficient.

7. Ensure that consumer consent to collect, use, and distribute their data is ?freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous.? From 25 May 2018 onward, this consent will be your only ground to do so. You cannot force consent. Your benchmark becomes what the GDPR says.

8. Issue rules for managing data of underage subjects. This is currently under review and we are awaiting results. Put systems in place to verify age. Set triggers for where guardians must give consent. Make sure age is verifiable. Use language young people understand.

9. Introduce a culture of openness and honesty, whereby breaches of the GDPR are detected, reported, investigated, and resolved. You will have a duty to file a GDPR report with the Data Protection Commissioner within 72 hours, thus it is important to fast track the process.

10. Introduce a policy of conducting a privacy assessment before taking new initiatives. The GDPR calls for ?privacy by deign?, and we need to engineer it in. This may be the right time to appoint a data controller in your company, and start implementing the GDPR while you have time.

11. You may also need to appoint a data protection officer depending on the size of your business. Alternatively, you need to add managing data protection compliance to an employee?s duties, or appoint an external data-protection compliance consultant.

12. Finally, and you will be glad to know this is the end of the list, the GDPR has an international flavour in that multinational organisations will report into the EU Lead Supervisory Authority. This will manage the process centrally while consulting national data authorities.

The GDPR is a project we all need to complete. If we are out of line, it is in our interests to get things straightened out. Once everything is in place, the task should not be too onerous. Getting there could be the pain.

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