In my opinion, the AICPA got it right. Information security is the top issue for 2004. The threats and vulnerabilities are very real and losses have occurred. Organizations that handle confidential customer information, such as financial institutions, health care, government, and the defense industry, are especially focused on security.
Michael Burlew, CPA
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My opinion is that XML is the technology for 2004. It will be applied to everything from databases to Word documents to games to the operating system. The technology behind Web Skins is XML. Virtually the entire presentation layer in Longhorn is XML-based. Office files interact using XML. Of course, Web Services are all XML-dependent and industries are creating their own specific versions of XML. If a company isn't utilizing XML in its environment by the end of 2004, it will find itself one step removed from the tools that will be coming out in 2005.
Our clients must address many other bigger-picture technology management issues to ensure profitability and control risks. These include making sure that business applications are aligned to business needs (many aren't), that users are effective users of available technology (often they are not), and that general and application controls are effectively designed and operational. Our firm believes "technology management" is the key issue. Security, while critical, is just a subset.
Dan Schroeder, CPA, CISA, MBA
Amper, Politziner, and Mattia
This may be the top technology issue for Reader's Digest or Coca-Cola, but for the average business in Seattle, the top question is how to spend what little budget they have and how to keep up with technology in these tough economic times.
We feel that companies are realizing that security holes, hackers, and viruses are destroying infrastructure. Information security is definitely the No. 1 issue for 2004.
Yeo & Yeo Computer Consulting
We are seeing Sarbanes-Oxley as the top technology issue for our mid-market public clients. For our smaller clients, the top technology issue remains upgrading older applications and infrastructure. The past several years have left many clients with underpowered and inadequate hardware, including workstations, software. Updating infrastructure and replacing older applications, including financial and mission-critical systems, are critical needs.
Security is sure a great need, but I think the top technology would be a smarter, easier, and faster integration of inter-applications like Web Services to allow different applications under different platforms and operating systems to communicate seamlessly and reliably.
In the advent of sweeping reform for the accounting profession and business reporting in general, clearly secure systems are a top issue. More specifically [the issue] is the secure implementation of internal control structures into critical business systems. The ability to effectively and efficiently evaluate internal control compliance will be the critical technology issue in 2004.
Ron Rand, CPA
The Rand Group
After having our Visa merchant number stolen this past summer and having to explain to hundreds of consumers that we were a victim just as they were, I'd concur that information security is indeed the top technology issue. Each of the credit cards that were charged using our merchant number [were only charged] $100, so even though there were hundreds of them, they didn't add up to enough to have the authorities pursue the bad guys. We had a session at our end-user conference this year on protecting yourselves and your networks, and it was well attended.
Bennett/Porter & Associates