IT Is Changing: Businesses That Don’t Support Evolution Will Be Vulnerable

IT is fundamentally changing. A recent study carried out with 100 IT managers from large UK-based organisations showed that 95 per cent believe the IT role has transformed over the past twelve months, most notably into a more strategic role.

Because of this, skill sets are shifting and IT staff now spend less time working with and supporting in-house systems. However, the change in strategic focus has shown that 40 per cent of IT managers no longer have sufficient resources available to support business-critical systems, or to undertake the host of software projects that business requirements necessitate; which can be both resource intense and complex.

With IT taking centre stage and the demands on the department increasing, this strain has left IT teams at breaking point – and there does not look to be any let up in sight. Businesses are facing a faster pace of technology change than ever before, due in no small part to the ever-shifting landscape, and this is placing further pressure on departments to keep abreast of developments.

To maintain competitive advantage, firms must embrace new IT strategies to meet the long-term objectives of the business, whilst ensuring that the department is not spreading itself too thin. Businesses need an assertive approach to IT in 2013. Here are my tips for how organisations can empower the department over the coming year.

Flexible resourcing

In 2013, I foresee the need for organisations to adopt a fresh strategic approach to resourcing, such as ‘body shopping’, where a business loans the technical expertise of an organisation’s employee on a short or longer-term basis. This can enable a business to meet staffing requirements and ease the pressure of skills shortages, while keeping costs to a minimum.

Fit for purpose systems

From the research, 98 per cent of IT managers are not convinced that IT systems are matched to their business needs or fit for purpose, and this must change in 2013. More businesses need to undertake technical audits, such as software health checks, to assess the current status of business critical systems. This will be a necessary change to establish whether systems really are fit for purpose and meet the evolving needs of the business.

Renewed investment in technology

Investment in new, innovative business-critical systems has fallen significantly, with 45 per cent of businesses choosing not to invest in IT. This is an incredible statistic, especially when compared with the transformation in technology in the last year. I believe more business will wake up to the importance of renewed IT investment next year, because without new investment in projects, technologies and the resource to support these developments, no new wave of productivity improvements is possible. Without investment, there is little chance that IT will be able to deliver its developing strategic role effectively.

Outsourcing IT technical tasks

More firms must consider outsourcing IT next year, to meet the long-term objectives of the business. This strategic change presents one of the key ways of introducing change into business culture through outside innovation. Contracting IT enables a company’s in-house team to focus on their core activities, but also brings dedicated, and in some cases more experienced, hands on board to act as an extension of the team.

Acceptance of the importance of IT

For too long, businesses have been content to shift IT into a supporting role where it is not most effective. As IT becomes more strategic, there must be greater acceptance from the board of the importance IT holds in the wider business. While this seems obvious, it’s a critical and important change in mind set if IT is to receive the on-going support in terms of resource and investment that it needs to meet the long-term objectives of the business.

As IT becomes more strategic, organisations must support the team with adequate resource, and robust IT systems which are fit for purpose and a commitment to on-going investment. This is the only way firms can enable technology to meet the long-term objectives of the business, whilst ensuring that the department is not spreading itself too thin – leaving the wider organisation vulnerable in the process.

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Thomas Coles co-founded MSM in 1998 and is the largest shareholder with 44.7%. His key achievements so far include growth from 2 to 40 FTE; high levels of customer satisfaction and retention, as well as surviving the sector downturn from 2001-2003 and growing the business in the 2008-2009 recession. Thomas’ business acumen was apparent from a young age. As a child (aged 8) he was already budgeting his pocket money on a spreadsheet. His passion for technology was also evident, as, aged 10 he was writing programmes for his Amstrad. Thomas started the MSM business soon after graduating with his father, who remains a non-executive director today. A strong believer in applying common sense to any situation, Thomas says his objective is to continue to be criticised for being too honest. Away from the office Thomas enjoys family life with his wife and three children and likes to take part in half marathons, going to the gym and watching Formula 1 motor racing. Thomas is also a trustee of a local charity.