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Agents of Change. The Evolving Role of IT.

Innovation Executive Forum | Posted on January 14, 2019 by Karen Bader

Remember when only “tech” companies sold or dealt with, technology? Thanks to digital transformation, those days are long in the past. Today, it doesn’t matter if you’re selling healthcare, laptops, oil & gas or blue jeans, every company can be considered a tech company.

Recently, we gathered a group of Seattle-based senior IT leaders for an in-depth discussion on where digital transformation is headed, and some key strategies on how to make the most of your IT dollar.

Over the course of the discussion, what became clear is the notion that as IT professionals, we are all agents of change. Our mission, if we want our companies to thrive, is to facilitate business and make end-user adoption a priority.

Priorities

The evening’s discussion began with an exploration of the top priorities and challenges faced by businesses today. As you may have guessed, it turns out EVERYTHING is a priority.

Security mentorship – mitigating security threats

As companies collect more and more data, nefarious attempts to control that data are increasing in complexity. Even internal communications like messages between CEO and CFO are increasingly fraught with risk.

Education on threats like phishing attacks is key. Speaking of phishing, an attendee pointed out that without education, “for 99.92 of my population, that’s a completely genuine email, so that represents a new threat to us.”

Managing data

It’s no longer enough to simply collect data and hope an idea will appear. The role of the Data Scientist is becoming an essential component of any business growth strategy.

One attendee spelled out the need for this role saying, “We just hired our first data scientist, because we’re really all about being data-driven for what we do…for whatever the marketplace might hold.”

Driving adoption and shifting the culture

We also saw that digital transformation means more than buying new hardware and software. For companies that have been operating in a traditional manner (sometimes for decades), it may take an entire cultural shift to turn the ship – whether that’s within your company, or from elsewhere in your industry.

One attendee, an IT leader in the healthcare field, noted that the issues her company faces don’t just come from the inside, but from healthcare regulatory bodies.

She explained, “Physicians are risk averse, they’re taking people’s lives in their hands. Telemedicine technology wasn’t always reliable, and the regulatory space is archaic. We’ve broken down those barriers by selecting strong providers to provide our services remotely via technology.”

Solutions

Once we’d laid out the priority issues facing companies undergoing digital transformation, our attendees began discussing how to address the issues. Chiefly, this comes down to boosting end-user productivity. Across the board, speed and the need to act now, not later, was the name of the game.

Here are some of the solutions we uncovered.

1. Planned, internal phishing attacks

For one of our attendees, planned, internal phishing attacks are carried out periodically as a way to educate employees in a non-punitive fashion. He found that in addition to beefing up security at work, these “attacks” were having a net positive effect by driving behavioural change in employees’ personal lives as well. Win/win.

2. Standardizing the onboarding of new hires

With the goal of decreasing or even eliminating downtime, companies are finding success by connecting HR with IT to effectively “turn on” new hires, or “turn off” employees that leave the company.

According to one attendee, standardizing onboarding has streamlined the process,  “We have a global onboarding process in every office, no matter where you are in the world. We have a step-by-step process and someone from IT meets with them on day one.

3. Using IT to protect your brand

When every company is a technology company, protecting your brand can mean more than simple issues of copyright. Cyber-attacking has moved from random hacker attacks to an industry – from hackers in a living room, to boiler rooms or teams of people overseas watching and waiting to make their move.

Empowering IT to protect your brand is key. Do they have the tools they need to shut down nefarious attacks that could damage your reputation? They better. As one attendee noted, “Whether IT or front desk, we all have to pitch in.”

Building on lessons learned

The role of Managed Services

Now that we’d heard about some of the ways companies are managing change, we talked resourcing. We discussed the fact that Managed Services can play a central role in facilitating digital transformation and help keep companies on track as they evolve and grow.

When implementing a Managed Services solution, our attendees outlined a few key points to keep in mind. These include:

1. Determining what you want to buy or build

As one attendee pointed out, it doesn’t always make sense to build everything on your own anymore. A better strategy is to determine what you need, then leverage lessons learned by others, i.e., Managed Service providers, who have been there and done that. “If there are commodities out there that I can buy,” an attendee explained, “that I can snap into our offering, I’m gonna buy.”

2. Focus internal resources on revenue generating roles

Evolve your IT department toward a revenue-generating function and outsource the rest. Companies are having success finding partners with better skills than their own and looking to Managed Services as a source of on-demand talent. As one attendee noted, “Always ask yourself, is this a core skill of ours? Or can someone else do it better?”

3. Harmonize spend and the impact on productivity

An issue raised by another attendee was the fact that MSP consultants might do a great job on selling ROI to the CEO – without taking productivity into account. To mitigate the risk of a lack of engagement, companies should employ data-driven productivity metrics that includes salary, to help identify business cases for outsourcing/partnering with an MSP.

Closing thoughts

IT leaders need to recognize that more than just functioning as support, every member of today’s most effective IT departments need to view themselves as agents of change – poised and ready for whatever the future might throw at them.

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