5 tips to maximize your IT department’s value

EducationSummary: As technology continues to evolve and play a larger role in business, more pressure gets placed on IT. However, many IT departments are already overworked. How can IT departments meet these growing demands with their current resources? How can businesses get more out of their existing IT department? In this article, we explore a few ways to accomplish these goals.

photo credit: BenjaminNelan via pixabay cc

photo credit: BenjaminNelan via pixabay cc

It’s amazing how much business technology has changed over the past decade. Just think back 10 years ago. The first iPhone was just announced. Mobile apps weren’t a thing. The idea of “cloud computing” had just been introduced.

Since that time, technology has evolved dramatically. It’s become faster and more accessible. It’s changing the way businesses operate.

With all of these changes, the IT department’s role is transforming. These days, keeping the lights on is no longer good enough. Business leaders now expect more value out of their IT departments. The modern IT department must innovate and drive the business forward.

The big problem: IT departments across the globe are already understaffed and overworked. To make things worse, many companies can’t afford to expand their existing IT team. How can they possibly provide more value when they’re already stretched so thin?

Today, let’s focus on those questions. How can your IT department deliver more value with your current resources? Here are 5 tips to help you reach this goal:

1. Don’t work in a vacuum

photo credit: blueMix via pixabay cc

photo credit: PublicdomainPictures via pixabay cc

Does it ever feel like there’s a barrier between your users and your IT department? It’s almost as if they don’t speak the same language. Sometimes…they don’t speak at all! This barrier slows down the IT department and limits their effectiveness.

The problem is, this barrier is often created by the business. The IT department and business are viewed as two separate entities. They sit in different areas, and don’t interact with each other that often.

If you want to maximize your IT department’s value, this is a great place to start. Integrate the IT team with the business. As explained below, this helps IT better understand the business user’s needs.

“Many of the problems I see are caused by the IT department working in a vacuum,” explains Nic Grange, CTO of Retriever Communications. “IT departments need to be integrated into the business as much as possible. This can be achieved through where they sit, the way the organization is structured or just by having a process that regularly exposes IT staff to front-line problems. They need to have a deep understanding of what the business does and how it does it.”

2. Offload some tasks to the end users

photo credit: OpenClips via pixabay cc

photo credit: OpenClips via pixabay cc

IT departments get unfairly labeled as bottlenecks because they often have too many responsibilities. They’re supporting the users, putting out fires, delivering new solutions, and much more.

The problem is, many IT departments have more responsibilities than they should. In fact, many still handle tasks that end users could easily do themselves.

For instance, tasks like reporting, BI, and basic application development are still handled by IT departments in many businesses. As this demand increases, IT departments can’t keep up.

How bad is it? Gartner shared this surprising statistic at their recent Application Strategies & Solutions Summit: “Through 2021 market demand for app development will grow at least 5x faster than IT capacity to deliver it.”

How can you address this challenge? Offload these tasks to the end users. With the rise of no-code/low-code development platforms and self-service analytic platforms, business users can easily create reports and basic applications. These tools let IT control data and user access, while giving users the ability to create their own solutions.

It’s a win-win for all involved. IT departments get more time to focus on mission-critical tasks, and end users don’t need to wait around for IT.

3. Don’t try to do everything yourself

photo credit: ClkerFreeVectorImages via pixabay cc

photo credit: ClkerFreeVectorImages via pixabay cc

Now, I realize you can’t offload everything to the end users. Even after giving end users their own self-service tools, IT departments will still have a lot on their plates.

How can your IT department handle all of these tasks, keep the lights on, put out fires…and still provide business value?

Let me ask you a question: What are the most valuable projects your IT department could be working on? What projects will really push the needle for your business?

Or, here’s a related question: What menial projects slow down your IT department?

Once you’ve answered those questions, try to outsource as many menial tasks as possible. As explained below, outsourcing certain tasks makes your team more productive and lets them focus on higher-value work.

“It all starts with being more strategic in how work gets done,” explains Kyle Brost, MBA, Principal at The Choice Group. “This can be done by becoming masters of outsourcing. Far too many IT departments try to be everything to everyone in the organization, so they underutilize the vast community of contractors who can perform adhoc and one-off projects. This not only forces higher paid employees to do low value work, but it give the greater organization the impression that they can do everything; it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy where IT feels they are overworked and they are overworked because they pile every possible project onto an employee.”

4. Adopt a proactive mindset

In his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey explains why proactivity lies at the foundation of every other habit. Those who aren’t proactive spend their time reacting to outside circumstances, rather than taking charge. They’re so focused on fixing problems, they can’t move forward.

Is your IT department in a reactive mode? Here are a few signs:

  • You feel like you’re always in fire-fighting mode–jumping from problem to problem
  • Your systems are full of bandaid solutions that were put in place to fix an urgent problem
  • The focus is never on the future, but resolving past issues

Does any of this sound familiar? Not only is a reactive mindset inefficient, it wastes resources. As explained below, a reactive approach is more expensive than setting up preventative measures.

“IT needs to become proactive, not reactive,” explains David Bourgeois, President & CEO of My IT. “Too many IT professionals spend all day “fighting fires” and never work on preventing those fires from happening. Those fires (outages, delays, people not working) cost the company more money than it would cost to prevent the issues.”

5. Become technology enablers

photo credit: PublicDomainPictures via pixabay cc

photo credit: PublicDomainPictures via pixabay cc

Over the years, many IT departments have developed a “culture of no.” End users feel like they’re more likely to shoot down requests than offer solutions.

Now, I’m not suggesting that IT departments give the users everything they want. After all, they can’t approve every solution the users request. They can’t let end users adopt whatever technology they want. It would be a security nightmare.

The problem is, some IT departments reject user’s requests without trying to solve their problem in a secure way. They shoot down the request without providing an alternative.

When this happens, IT gets viewed as a hindrance rather than a help. As a result, end users start bypassing IT departments and adopting their own solutions–a problem known as “Shadow IT.”

This puts even more pressure on IT. They’re now tasked with securing technology that they can’t control. Now, they must find and eliminate unauthorized solutions. As you can imagine, this is not the best use of an IT department’s limited resources.

What’s the answer? While it’s a topic I’ve covered in more detail in other articles, today let’s focus on one way to combat Shadow IT while improving IT’s value: Give users approved solutions they can access on their own. Become technology enablers, rather than roadblocks.

Now, this requires upfront communication. The IT department must sit down with the users and understand what they’re trying to accomplish. What tools do they need?

Once they answer that question, they can identify secure solutions and make them available to end users. This approach helps all involved. The end users get the solutions they need, and IT reduces security risks.

“Markets for enterprise technology are becoming increasingly consumerized as technology users become more involved in the purchasing and adoption of new technologies,” says Tom Feltham, Marketing Operations Director, ExploreWMS. “This consumerization has created friction between IT and other departments as IT teams are seen as policing the consumption of new technology and software. If this policing does occur, the efficiency of the IT team and departments they work with can drop as IT becomes a barrier to adoption rather than an enabler.

IT teams which enable and optimize their colleagues’ consumption of technology lead to faster and more secure adoption which, in turn, leads to competitive advantages being capitalized upon and a reduced risk of IT failures.”

Summary

Now, these are just 5 tips to maximizing your IT department’s value, but the list could be much longer. Would you add anything to this list? If so, feel free to share in the comments.

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