How to run IT like a business

With technology supporting every role within an organization, from marketing to sales to administration, there has never been a more exciting time to be in IT. Technology is now a key enabler for every employee. To support this change, the traditional role of IT as a reactive resource needs to evolve to a more proactive, strategic one that aligns with the objectives of the business.

Like any evolution, there are multiple steps that need to occur to complete the transformation. I’ve worked closely with a number of organizations that have reinvented their IT operations, with the goal of aligning themselves with the wider business. Throughout this I’ve noticed a number of common tactics that have been used to create a value-adding IT organization, all done without any disruption to key operations.

The path to change

Before diving into specific tactics, we have to evaluate where an IT organization sits between being reactive and adding strategic value. A reactive organization will often demonstrate a skill base that contains tactical commodities, waiting for and conducting triage, and providing technical advice and expertise only when it’s requested of them. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a business-driven IT organization is defined by their ability to proactively identify the overall business processes impacted by IT. This involves planning and creating customer maps, isolating key components, organizational partnering, and most importantly, good communication all handled through an IT Service Management (ITSM) solution that proactively monitors and informs all key stakeholders.

It’s time to do business

Align IT strategy with the business

Track your operations against other top-line goals, for example increasing sales conversions. When IT begins to speak the same language as the rest of the business, the culture and mindset of the IT team will change and the entire organization will view IT as strategic stakeholder in the success of the business.

Consolidate IT infrastructure

If IT is truly going to support the objectives of the business, then they must do so as efficiently as possible. Employing multiple solutions to address security, management, and services simply impairs the ability of IT to oversee and respond rapidly to the business when required. A unified infrastructure will allow IT to perform multiple tasks from a single console, a model that can be extended to other departments within the organization. This involves the removal of redundant systems. A good ITSM solution will integrate customer support with bug tracking, change, release, project and knowledge management to name but a few. Asset Management, remote control, forums and application management are also available from some vendors now.

Get mobile - break the IT desk chain

This isn’t a new idea, we have been talking about the mobile workforce for years. Providing employees with the technology to do their job anytime, anywhere, increases productivity and employee satisfaction. So why wouldn’t you provide the same opportunity to IT? Unfortunately, many IT solutions can only be accessed from an onsite console. This limits the ability of IT to access key information and input important updates on the go. Instead, you should implement asset management or IT service management solutions that provide a mobile component so that IT can access information remotely and provide faster and more effective support.

Collaborate, share, learn

Gone are the days when the IT department is hidden away from the rest of the organization. Today IT needs to interact with all levels of the organization so they can learn firsthand about pain points, share solutions, and understand the business from the perspective of other internal stakeholders. By listening and working together, IT can determine the best solution for the business versus reactively applying a one-off solution for an isolated incident.

Track performance

Knowing what is (and isn’t) working is key to improving the business and every department within it. Whether it’s a dysfunctional piece of business infrastructure, an underperforming employee or a reoccurring issue, IT should be able to proactively assess and identify points of weakness. This will allow the business to make immediate decisions that can positively impact productivity and profit.

Running IT like a business will not only improve IT, it will strengthen the entire organization. By stepping back and recognizing the overall goals of the business, IT can be an instrumental partner and positive participant in the bottom line. Money and time will be saved, and that – ultimately – is what smart business is all about. 

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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