By: Stan Sellner and Darryl WatsonIssue: Resource Management Section: Business
The Systems Aren’t the Only Resource
Corporate and organizational technology groups are not typically viewed as a source of supply or support, as it relates to resources. Instead, the information technology (IT) groups in many organizations are seen as very expensive cost centers, a detriment to budgets and even as black holes with a life of their own. However, as companies learn how to foster cooperation and collaboration with the IT department, the likelihood of attaining the company’s goals increases proportionately.
Usually when technology groups are referenced, IT is the first type of group that comes to mind. The reality is that most companies have multiple departments that utilize or have an element of IT within them, making the group the de facto center for defining collaborative solutions. These IT groups also play various key roles in the continued viability of their companies, assisting company leadership by helping to define solutions as they are presented within departments.
As the state of the economy continues to fluctuate, technology groups have been tasked with assisting business leadership in laying out a coherent and actionable strategy that leverages increasingly scarce resources. Therefore, doing more with less has also become a constant challenge for the leadership of every company and the IT groups that support them. And, as this business climate continues to evolve and adapt, leaders will begin to recognize that their technology groups are truly valuable resources that can help the company to achieve better market advantage. To be effective though, the direction and focus of these groups needs to be in alignment with the company’s overarching business strategy and goals. Once specific business goals have been identified, the strategy to attain these goals becomes a joint responsibility across the entire company. This represents a call to action for the technology group to collaborate with others to define the potential business focused technology solutions that support the organization and move the business plan forward. The IT team then becomes a significant resource, helping a company achieve its goals, contributing to its success and creating the intellectual capital to sustain and grow its endeavor.
The New Frontline of Information Technology
Today’s business environment is substantially different than it was 10 years ago. While salary is still a motivator, it is job satisfaction, team successes, and a stimulating working environment that now figures prominently in growing human capital. The original top-down style of command and control, which presumes that employees are obedient, regimented and focused on their narrow roles, fails to consider the advantages of employees who form collaborative, independent teams. A team that is dynamic, adaptable, and easily re-directed may seem chaotic to the unversed, but this new regimen has proven to be a hallmark of success for pioneering teams.
This type of collaborative environment has become a cornerstone in building the intellectual capital needed to deliver innovative solutions that separate one company from another within the marketplace. No matter how much is invested in technology, the greatest influence on the effectiveness of any IT resources is its people. Managers who encourage and foster collaboration between departments tend to build better teams and enhance the ability to use IT as a resource for the organization.
An encouraging byproduct of collaboration is that it has the possibility to uncover disparate talents and hobbies that each of its team members possess that may not fall within the realm of their daily responsibilities. These talents can also be leveraged to help provide support for the business' goals. By fostering a culture of innovative ideas, efficient work processes, honest communications, team collaboration, realistic expectations, and an ethic of high quality, a company has the ability to maximize the effectiveness and contributions of its technology teams. Concurrently, these same employees can then develop a sense of ownership to the overarching business objectives of the company by providing their own unique contribution to successfully accomplish those goals.
Within most organizations, managers have traditionally viewed IT’s hardware, software and personnel as overhead or expenses rather than as key assets or resources. While systems are expensive to acquire, customize, develop, implement and maintain properly, they become even more expensive, wasting valuable resources when they do not help fulfill a stated company goal or strategy. When the IT group is engaged in building and deploying the best value solution to align with a company’s defined business requirements, it leverages the IT systems investment as a resource.
As companies assess their businesses processes, it is important to take a structured approach that will allow the IT group to understand what the individual system’s needs really are. This is vital because the proper system's solution leads to business intelligence insights that help foster collaboration across the organization, which in turn shortens the feedback and correction lifecycle that results in a more nimble and successful company.
But in many cases, once a solution has been deployed, companies make the erroneous assumption that it will run unattended. As automation continues to grow and businesses rely more heavily on IT, the proper tuning and systems adjustments are essential to the life of the business if they intend to remain focused on their goals. A nimble IT platform that can function as a delivery resource necessary to help meet a business' next market challenge is the product of a collaborative and engaged technology team.
As the costs of data acquisition and retention continue to fall, IT departments end up holding and managing vast amounts of uncategorized data. And as the emerging business intelligence sector has demonstrated, this data can be used both to measure past successes as well as to drive new activities. Therefore, information such as customer needs, preferences and location gathered via a company’s business system is another major asset housed within the IT arena.
While much of the data is relevant to the current business environment, it can also be relevant for future business initiatives. Collaboration and sharing business objectives between the business units and IT can result in capturing previously untapped business intelligence from the collection of information. Additionally, the data collected can be retained to provide insights about product successes and to refine the business strategy and goals.
As with any endeavor that first maps out its direction, strategy and goals before deciding on a technology solution set, companies that are in a better position to achieve success are using technology as a resource to actively leverage their full potential.