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13 Sep 2016

The changing role of IT: From traditional operator to business value creator

Lauren Timmer-Somer Head of Communication Technology Services and Head of Marketing and Brand Communications
Communication Services

How IT will support the workforce and workplace of the future


Businesses today understand the need for customer retention and creating new business, process integration, maximising productivity and profitability, information management, security and cost reduction. C-level executives also want to focus on their core business without distraction by poorly performing processes.

It stands to reason, therefore, that IT’s role must change from a traditional support function to facilitating business.

While customer service is a priority there are also multiple generations in the workforce today, everyone from Baby Boomers to generations X and Z. The newer generations to the workforce, specifically Generation Z, have new ways of working. They expect technology in the workplace to work for them like the technology they have in their personal lives.

IT departments are often reticent to replicate what exists for consumers. It’s easy for one person to buy an iPhone and download any app they find in the store. It’s another thing entirely for IT departments. IT departments will have to support many users likely on many different phones unless your company provides a standardised unit. They’ll need to train support personnel and technicians. And that’s just the beginning. They’ll also need to manage and maintain the devices and secure the information they contain, consume, and create.

But it’s what the business, via employees such as salespeople, customer service personnel, field technicians, demands. Salespeople want to check stock availability while they sit in front of customers, field technicians need to access customer requests logged in job tickets and also access any devices remotely to fault find so they can depart with the necessary spares and tools to complete the job, and customer service personnel need to access all relevant customer information so they can be effective at rapidly helping customers resolve queries.

IT has always played a business support role and it’s always been seen as a cost centre. Even when businesses require IT systems to operate IT departments are seen as a necessary evil kept apart. Yet the new way of working makes technology an aspect of businesses so fundamental that it’s integration into daily operations must be a seamless and fluid service.

It stands to reason that the role of IT departments must therefore change. IT is no longer a division separate to the business and distant from the boardroom. IT has to connect with its customers, the employees, and it has to become an integral pillar of the company strategy so that it can feed systems and services to business people propelling the organisation toward the future.

The modern workforce is opinionated and comes to work knowing what it needs to get the job done. The modern workforce knows how it wants to work. IT’s role is no longer to supply business systems that support traditional operational processes. It’s to understand the users (business employees) and give them a user experience that facilitates their lives and not the strict adherence to traditional protocols and procedures of the past.

In fact, the change should be so profound at a grass roots level that companies no longer run IT projects – they run business projects with IT as just another participant in achieving a successful outcome. For that IT must occupy a seat in the boardroom. If not it will suffer but so too will the entire business.

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