Until recently, most organizations gave little thought to how IT teams could contribute to growth elsewhere in the business as their jobs were seen as focused on response and maintenance.
But that’s beginning to change as departments like sales and marketing drive up IT spending and as digital agility becomes central to any business strategy. With more devices and applications to manage and fierce business pressure to find new efficiencies, a well-planned IT-driven strategy can become an incredible growth lever.
How Information Technology Grows Business
A recent report from the World Bank, Facebook, and the OECD found that nearly a third of small businesses operating during the coronavirus pandemic were generating at least 25 percent of their revenue from digital channels, highlighting the importance of technology adoption among businesses today. Digital sales and customer experiences are undoubtedly part of the new normal, and IT teams are an integral part of delivering a frictionless interaction.
That’s not to say that IT automation should be overlooked or discounted as a viable way for IT to bring value to businesses. Automating time-consuming IT tasks — like patch management, software deployment and new device set-up — can save hundreds of hours in labor costs every month. It can also ensure that those devices run efficiently, are secure against threats like ransomware and employees aren’t interrupted while working. With a well-defined strategy and process for IT automation and management, businesses can help prevent unplanned downtime that can cost as much as $68,000 per hour.
Another major source of value IT teams contribute to businesses is in the alignment, integration and curation of technology. In this case, IT enables employees to work efficiently and keep business data secure. For example, departments like billing or sales may use software that doesn’t integrate well and therefore introduces inefficiencies and errors into record keeping and data management. A fragmented collection of technology may not seem like a big deal, but mismanaged technology makes data leakage or theft much more likely — damaging reputations and opening the door to regulatory fines.
With that, here are three ways to align on IT-driven business goals that will keep your business secure, competitive and efficient.
Enable IT as a Decision Making-Partner
Approaching IT as a decision-making partner is a necessary first step to setting successful IT-driven business goals. Your IT department will help you understand which projects are worth the investment, estimate how long a project could take and ensure it fits with the business’s current tech ecosystem. IT modernization projects are complex and can take months or even years to complete, so without a clear understanding of what you’re getting yourself into, some projects could be overly burdensome on growth in the short and medium term.
For example, moving from legacy software to cloud software or backing up legacy data to the cloud are important IT modernization priorities. But each project carries different investment costs that have to be managed correctly. In the first case, transitioning to cloud software is becoming easier thanks to newer products that emphasize ease of use and customer support enter the market, thus making the cost or risk of downtime relatively low. In the second case, backing up business data could entail transcribing physical records to the cloud or extracting data from out-of-date hardware that requires specialized skills.
With IT driving business decisions, these types of investments can be anticipated and accounted for so the business can remain agile and productive.
Focus on Communication and Transparency
Once you understand what’s possible and what it will take to reach a certain goal, the next best thing you can do is make sure that cross-department collaboration continues and the company as a whole feels IT’s presence. When IT teams are siloed from their colleagues in other departments, communication breakdowns can begin to occur — making it harder to maintain security through proper use of agreed-upon systems.
These breakdowns can result in serious problems. Shadow IT — in the form of unmanaged devices, applications and networks — is an issue nearly every organization experiences, and it can lead to back doors for cybercriminals and reduce employee productivity. In a recent survey on shadow IT, NinjaRMM found that many employees are comfortable going around their organization’s established security policies for reasons as simple as the rules being inconvenient to them. Through frequent communication, IT teams can learn more about the frictions employees experience within the current policies and make it easier to comply with security practices.
An open and transparent policy also makes it easier to identify which employees need more support and work one-on-one with them to solve future problems. Education and frequent interaction can help your IT team stop issues before they arise and keep everyone on the same page when it comes to technology goals.
Stop Thinking of IT as a Cost Center
To make IT-driven business goals successful, you must turn away from the mindset of IT as just a cost center that only handles infrastructure and simply reacts to problems. IT is so ingrained into operations today that it should be considered another cost of doing business, not a separate departmental line item. Today, IT departments are driving efficiencies in every department and are better thought of as the nerve center of many organizations.
The traditional data-center model of IT is quickly being phased out by new tools and public cloud providers that allow IT teams to move quicker and more broadly throughout an organization. On top of that, IT is rapidly becoming the in-house security team as well due to its oversight of applications and devices used by employees carrying sensitive data.
Now is the time for companies to completely rethink their approach to digital technology and build a business that is resilient to future changes. By increasing their investments and elevating the role of IT across the business, leaders can continue to improve worker productivity, make the business more competitive in the digital marketplace and reduce exposure to costly cyberattacks.