Why your IT team should help make big business decisions
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Hidden somewhere in shadows of your office space, in a dimly lit room near the closet full of old computer parts, is a team of employees that could be doing much more to help your organization grow. Their knowledge and skills are underutilized. Their contribution is a fraction of what it could be. They’re simply not doing enough. And it might be your fault.
I’m talking about your IT organization. And if yours is like most businesses, you don’t get the value from this team that you could be getting.
It’s not that your IT team isn’t working hard; they are. In fact, they’re probably working harder than any other team in your organization. They’re solving difficult problems and keeping critical systems running smoothly. But given their skills and systems knowledge, this isn’t enough.
IT teams need to do more than solve problems. They need to innovate.
Most organizations rely on their IT teams to keep things running. After the business objectives are decided and the specifications are outlined, management hands projects over to the technology specialists to build and support. And most technology teams do this very well.
But what if your company took a different approach? Imagine what might happen if your IT department collaborated with other business units in your organization to identify the opportunities where technology can create operational efficiencies, financial efficiencies and empower the rest of the company to do more with less.
What would happen if you asked IT to work and think at a higher level?
Imagine a scenario where your organization is looking to expand into international markets. If you include IT in the initial discussions (rather than just asking them to implement the expansion plan), they may suggest money-saving technologies to use or time saving applications that can be customized to work in those new environments. They may find implementation flaws in the plan that give the company a more realistic expectation for cost and time, which could change the strategy entirely.
An example of this very situation is Target’s attempt to expand into Canada. It was a massive undertaking that unfortunately failed. One reason for the failure was the IT systems didn’t support the distribution and inventory challenges that the move into Canada brought. Better involvement with the technical team during the initial decision-making process may have led to a better understanding of the potential pitfalls expansion would bring. You never want to be in a position where you are saying: It’s just IT, they’ll figure it out and make it happen.
An even better example of how IT can innovate and help businesses grow is the change we see happening in FinTech. Consider new banking solutions like Simple, where everything is online and driven by software. Their products aren’t anywhere near as robust as Chase or Bank of America. But because IT is involved in all business decisions, Simple is able to deploy new products more quickly than traditional banks. They’re still governed by the same regulations, but Simple’s systems and support are built around the technology, rather than the other way around. This allows them to adapt more quickly and operate at a lower cost, and in turn, provide an enriching customer experience for banking.
It’s not just startups that should get more from IT. Companies that have been around for decades or more can use technology to make business run more smoothly when they bring IT into important business discussions.
IT must innovate effective solutions to internal challenges
It’s obvious how this can impact customer-facing operations, but the effect on many backend business operations is also important. What if you involved IT in discussions about how to make your human resources department better? An innovative IT team can help improve everything from the onboarding process to an employee’s last day at a company. How do you make sure that employees are easily getting the tools that they need? How can the paycheck process be improved? What can we do to simplify all of that paperwork? There are so many different ways the IT team can improve an employee's experience with a company. But almost no one is saying: Hey, can you guys help us make this a better experience?
So how do you get there? It starts with a paradigm shift at the top of the organization with the C-Level executives. These leaders need to make sure the technology team is included in the strategic discussions about the future of the business and isn’t only seen and used as a support function. When IT is included in an organization’s planning and business decisions, they can contribute ideas for innovating the business. They can also help other business leaders understand new technologies’ capabilities (as well as limits) and exactly how they can be implemented to achieve business goals.
Of course, some of the responsibility lies with the IT team. Technologists need to listen with a bias for alignment of team and company goals. It can’t just be technology for technology’s sake. They need to ask questions to understand business challenges and not just say: Oh, you can’t do that because of ________. They need to learn about the problems other teams are trying to solve, and apply their expertise to finding the answers. They need to be enabling, easy to work with, supportive and collaborative.
When the two sides come together, businesses are better able to increase productivity, deploy new solutions and improve outcomes. But it won’t happen, until you bring the IT team into your most important discussions to empower the organization as a whole.
Start empowering your IT team with our guide.